382 Tasting Notes
I am really starting to think that I like the Iyemon lineup from suntory the best out all of the bottled teas. Perhaps it is their association with “an authentic tea company” (that is seriously in the company’s description of the tea) but these teas seem to just have so much more character than a lot of the other bottled teas. What’s more, the character they have is much more sophisticated than a lot of the stronger teas who seem to be relying on a philosophy of “RAR TASTE THE STRENGTH OF MY TEA”
Which, in a brilliant and smooth segue that I have just ruined by pointing it out, leads me to today’s tea, which is brewed deliberately strong because apparently that is how the Japanese did it in olden times. The difference from their other green teas is obvious just from the color, which is much darker than their other teas. From the color, you could be forgiven for assuming that it was an oolong tea, although it is not quite dark enough for a mugicha. The taste is similarly quite strong and, while I like it all right, I found it a bit too bitter. I also found myself missing the taste of the matcha that the other Iyemon teas have…still, I prefer it to the hojicha…
Ito En is, I think, the only company to be brave enough to attempt to expand their tea market to the States. I haven’t tried many of the Teas’ Teas because, as far as bottled drinks go, they are not too cheap, but when I am taken with a feeling of nostalgia, I will often give in and buy one.
In Japan, the Oi Ocha series, which I am going to go ahead and say corresponds to the Teas’ Tea series because I enjoy making claims that I can’t back up and have no basis for, costs a buck fitty, which is to say, exactly as much as any other bottled tea, so it was inevitable that I would get to them eventually. Today, I was in the mood for something different so I grabbed me some hoji-cha, which, I guess is roasted green tea.
I haven’t had hoji-cha in a while, so I have no idea whether this is a problem with this particular tea or with hoji-cha in general, but there is something massively off in the the immediate aftertaste of this tea (although it resolves itself after a bit). Basically, I get resin out of it, which is…not very tasty. Otherwise, it’s definitely got a roasted aroma to it, actually, on greater thought it basically ONLY has the roasted aroma to it, with the resin coming in at the end. All in all, I am not impressed with this stuff.Still, as I said, i don’t know whether that’s because this hoji-cha in particular is shoddy or whether I simply do not like hoji-cha. An intelligent person, a person possessing common sense, would take note of the plethora of other kinds of tea available to them and simply play it safe by refraining from trying other hoji-chas. I, however, am neither of those kinds of people! Moreover, I have a MISSION to catalog the bottled iced teas of Japan and no matter how HARD or UNTASTY it gets, Steeples, I will PERSEVERE. Because that is the TRUE MEANING of Christmas.
Another black tea that professes to be unsweetened, this time from Kirin. Thankfully, it does not explain that the tea’s deliciousness derives from tea fairies harvesting the final “golden drops” of tea from teapots in order to make the tea, which, to be fair, coca-cola didn’t EXACTLY say either (but they may as well have). It also didn’t proceed to list sweeteners in its ingredients so I had a good feeling!
The tea is, indeed, unsweetened, although it has a certain very faint sweetness about it that is faint enough to not make me suspicious. I don’t know if its the low temperature steep that did it, but there is an interesting air about this tea, a tiny hint of astringency that never quite comes to fruition. I quite like it, and it’s nice to finally find an iced black tea that isn’t sweetened instead of just pretending to not be sweetened. AND it was on sale, which, unfortunately in a combini means that it’s not been selling particularly well and they are trying to get rid of the last bit they have so they can replace it wish something else. Probably extremely sweet royal milk tea. Or Yet Another Green Tea.
It’s kind of weird to me that the Japanese would be so adamant about sweetening their black teas, when their desserts/cookies/that type of thing are often much less sweet than ones in the US. Ah well, cultural differences!
As promised, more Iyemon tea! This time in the form of genmaicha. I’ve seen genmaicha referred to as popcorny, and this stuff is indeed quite popcorny, both in the taste and in the aftertaste. It’s also slightly sweet, at least initially, which I found interesting, although the sweetness went away as it warmed up. Eventually the sweetness fades to a bitter finish that, combined with the popcorn taste makes for a rather odd aftertaste that I can’t really say I’m overly fond of.
The taste of the underlying tea is kind of similar to the oolong I had earlier this week. Kind of woodsy, skirting along the edges of bitterness/smokiness without never quite making it over the threshold. There is, however, no traces of the matcha that was supposedly iri’d at some point in the creation of this tea. This is not one of my favorites.
I have a feeling that this is not, in fact, the exact same tea as the one described, but I am too lazy to make a new entry and this IS a jasmine tea by Ito En so…oh well!
What I’m drinking is actually called “Natural Jasmine Tea” and gives no indication that it has a green tea base, although that seems to be the most common so it probably does. It’s big thing is that it doesn’t us anything except actual jasmine flowers to induce the jasmine aroma and taste (hence the “natural”). I didn’t really pay that much attention to the other jasmine tea that I’ve tried so far, but the implication is that all the other ones use artificial means in order to strengthen the impression of jasmine. I guess.
The jasmine aroma/taste DOES seem to be fairly subtle here. The aroma definitely is lighter than it was in the other jasmine tea, but I think I preferred it that way. The more this tea warms up the more the base green seems to overwhelm the jasmine within it and I quite LIKE the taste of jasmine. That is, in fact, in fact the reason why I BOUGHT jasmine tea and not green tea. The bottle also tells me that there isn’t much caffeine in the tea, which makes me wonder if it isn’t quite lightly brewed (thereby deepening the “naturally scented” image they’re shooting for). Thus, this is not my favorite jasmine tea, although it’s not really bad, either.
Yay, another day of avoiding coca-cola products! Why do I want to avoid coca-cola products? I guess I don’t really know, except for the sneaking suspicion that if anyone can find a way to sneak high fructose corn syrup into green/barley/whatever tea without telling anyone, it’s coca-cola.
Suntory has several of these “Iyemon” teas, so it’s a name that should pop up a good number of times in these reviews after this. I have to say I am quite taken with this one, though. The taste of the matcha is really noticeable and it gives the tea a nice smooth finish while still managing to be quite refreshing. It is definitely a tea with personality where, I think, a lot of these teas will end up being classified by me as “Yet Another Green Tea.”
This is only a limited edition run so probably once summer ends you won’t be able to get these anymore, which is pretty standard really. The same happens to a lot of the hot drinks after winter is over. The question is, whether it’s a limited run and will be back next year, OR whether this is IT, because if so, I should definitely drink more of it since it’s so tasty. There are still a lot of teas to go though, so I’ll try to control myself.
So apparently this is also Singaporean canned tea, but they sell it in bottles here in Japan so I’m just going to stick it in this entry.
Oolong tea is, I think, kind of the “default” tea in Japan. It’s what people get when they’re in restaurants – quite often it’s free, AND in bottle form it is 30 yen (a little over 30 cents) cheaper than other teas.
This particular one is interesting for its presentation. It’s description on the bottle is written in “chinese style” which means, basically, all kanji. In the description on the back of the bottle they make a big deal out of the fact that they use tea leaves from China for it.
The taste is basically what I associate with oolong tea in japan. It’s quite strong, as most of these teas are since they’re mostly chilled and it’s got that…I dunno, sort of wood-ish? taste to it that I basically classify in my head as “oolong.” Weirdly this is the first oolong I’ve had this trip. But definitely not the last. Pretty standard, all told.
I was in the grocery and had settled on “Namacha” from Kirin, when this caught my eye. With a name like TeaO, I HAD to try it. Apparently, Asahi had ceased sale of this in 2004 and was now reviving it, aiming it towards men in their twenties and thirties. The appeal is not immediately obvious to me, but I am A. Not male and B. not Japanese, so what do I know?
This tea’s “thing” is that it tastes sweet but doesn’t contain any sweeteners. Instead the sweetness comes from something they call the “golden drop” which seems to refer to, from what I understand although admittedly I didn’t put THAT much effort into it, the deliciousness of the last drop of tea in the pot. So…I guess they collected all of those drops and made it into tea? What did they do with the rest of the tea?
The ingredients, however, pretty clearly list sweeteners as the second entry, so I have no idea what that’s about. Is it because the “no sweeteners” on the front label uses a different kanji compound than the one in the ingredients? The one on the front can also mean “saccharides” while the one in the ingredients is “sweetening materials” and includes three words, the first two I have no idea on (oh wait no, one is xylitol. can’t think how I didn’t immediately get that from kishiritooru), but the last on is sucrose. So yeah. Asahi advertising scandal blown WIDE OPEN, you saw it here first, steeples!
The taste is interesting. It’s only very lightly sweet and the sweetness has an interesting quality to it that I could totally be fooled into thinking was a property of the tea itself if I didn’t instinctively mistrust everything that advertisements tell me. The tea itself is lightly perfumed – I’m almost getting a hint of rose here (are you SURE you’re marketing this to dudes, Asahi?), light in color, and fairly light in terms of the black tea taste as well, although definitely present.
If you absolutely MUST sweeten all your black teas, Japan, I guess this is the way to do it, although your weird marketing ploy seems a tad dishonest, not to mention lazy since you don’t even try to conceal the ingredients. Or maybe the fact that you don’t bother hiding them circles it around back to honest? I don’t know. Still, it mars my enjoyment of this tea and that makes me sad because it was quite enjoyable.
You don’t see these in vending machines very often, so I tend to get them when I see them, even though they go against my personal rule of not sweetening my teas. Despite the fact that it is totally too sweet I still drink it because the apple flavor has been blended really well with the black tea. It tastes super appley and delicious, while the black tea is still present and if it wasn’t sweetened it would probably be my favorite tea ever. But alas! It is and I’m afraid that means at LEAST 10 points docked because A. it impinges on it’s effectiveness as a quencher of thirst and B. too sweet! bleh.
Jasmine teas are probably my favorites within the range of Japanese bottled iced teas. Weirdly though, they are not available year ’round. From what I can recall, they show up in the summer and then once fall starts disappear again. This saddens me.
I have no idea what the base tea here is, I assume it’s green, but the bottle doesn’t actually say and and ingredients only list “jasmine tea” and, interestingly, vitamin C. Not sure what’s up with that.
This tea was great! Very refreshing and strongly scented. The low temperature did not conceal the jasmine-ness at all, giving it a noticeable character without having to rely on the bitterness of the tea. Great for a day of walking around Yokohama. And finally something that’s not a coca-cola product!