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Recent Tasting Notes
This was the free sample of the month when I made my recent order. I love kukicha but never had a roasted kukicha before. Adventure time! I prepared this in a shudei kyusu. Steeping times: 30 seconds, 15, 30, 45, 120.
The dry leaf smells like roasted grains (barley came into mind fast), and the dark leafy veggies char and kale. The wet leaf smells sour and bitter, very much like kale fried with apple cider vinegar.
The liquor is golden brown and full-bodied. The first cup, at first, is broth-like, tasting of grains and nuts (nuts in generally – perhaps cashews?). Very smooth texture. After I become used to this new tea, I begin to discern that it’s actually somewhat sweet. The aftertaste is even sweeter. The second cup and beyond are similar to the first in taste, but they taste even sweeter and feel silky.
I sampled this tea the day before Halloween. I wish didn’t put off writing the review since I like to sample and review on the same day – having the feeling of the tea in mind. I do recall that it tasted and felt like an early autumn tea, when the air is crisply cool, when the leaves are beginning to turn and rot on the ground after they have fallen. This was a good first experience with roasted kukicha. I don’t prefer it to green kukicha, but to houjicha? Perhaps if I didn’t want something so intensely roasted. I liked this one!
Received this as a free sample with my Den’s order a while back. Given that it’s a culinary grade matcha, I wasn’t expecting too much but it makes fantastic matcha lattes and is even pleasant to drink straight.
The matcha powder smells fresh and grassy like a good matcha should. The tea has a sweet vegetative taste with some minty tones and a hint of astringency in the finish. The body is robust enough to hold up to milk and sweeter with great flavor.
This is far above the low grade stuff that passes as culinary matcha. Recommend checking it out if you prefer matcha that’s naturally sweet and less bitter.
Flavors: Grass, Mint, Sweet, Vegetal
Very nice tea I got a sample of as part of Den’s starter kit or whatever. I used the brewing instructions that came with this sample and they worked quite well. The leaf smelled grassy and nutty, like many sencha. The first steep was grassy with a bit of a fruity undertone and slight bitterness. The second and third steeps were a bit more vegetal with a spinach note, little to no bitterness, and a more rounded flavor. The last steep was slightly more watery, but still had some sweet, green flavor going on with it.
Flavors: Fruity, Grass, Nutty, Spinach
I hadn’t had mugicha for almost six years until this summer. When I studied abroad in Kyoto, my host mother brewed a large pot every evening (large tea bags from the grocery store) and then let it refrigerate over night in recycled bottles. My host siblings and I each took a bottle to school each day. Sometimes, instead of ryokucha, my host mother would brew a hot cup of mugicha after dinner. I only remember that it tasted like…barley – simply barley.
In comparison, Den’s mugicha is more roasted and even tastes coffee-like. At first these qualities deterred me from liking it, so I diluted the infusion by more than 50%. The roast used to be a tad heavy and bitter for me. Slowly, I started using the directions more strictly. The cool roasted grain taste was very refreshing during the hotter days and evenings. I just finished the last bag (now being late September). Heating up it up after cold-brewing produces a comforting cup akin to houjicha.
Glad I decided to buy this even though I didn’t have a sample beforehand. Another plus is that it’s affordable.
I’m not a fan of mango tea in general, but this was a free sample in an order. I found it pretty good considering what it was and that it’s not a personal preference. A tiny touch of waxy flavor that’s always present, but it’s overall pleasing and uplifting. The tea bag delivered a strong taste.
Flavors: Fruity, Mango
Sipdown no. 65 of 2016 (no. 276 total).
It really seems like I’ve had more sipdowns than I’ve recorded this year, but I’ve been pretty religious about it so it must just be one of those things that seems different than it is.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Not as juicy as the Maeda-en, but still, in the words of George Harrison, sweet and lovely.
I love the fine leaves of shinchas, like green, fragrant iron filings. They make a chartreuse colored liquor with a sweet, vegetal fragrance like sweet peas. The flavor is similar, though it’s not just a single note, and it dances back and forth a bit between sweet and something just short of bitter but not enough to be unpleasant, with some marine, seaweed notes and some grassy green ones.
Not my favorite of those I’ve had, but still quite good.
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Marine, Peas, Seaweed
It is my pleasure to have the 2016 harvest as my first Hashiri Shincha from Den’s. I had been looking forward to it for months.
Brewed in a ceramic kyusu. Steeping times: 90 seconds, 60, 90, 120. Temperature remained the same.
The most noticeable characteristic is the sweetness. Unexpectedly, the dry leaf smells fruity, of lychee and loganberry. When steeped, the leaf smells more vegetal and ever so slightly buttery. The pale but bright green broth is very thick and medium-bodied. The first cup has a balance of sweet and savory. It is so deliciously sweet! With each following infusion, the savory note strengthens and the sweetness lessens.
There is no bitterness, nor a seaweed note. Straight up sweet and/or savory. It is refreshing and invigorating – a spring delight.
This sample is ancient at this point, but I’m about to receive a shipment of fresh senchas, so I’m really in the mood.
Bitter on the first contact with the tongue, but in a way that amplifies the sweetness later. It feels very creamy for a green tea, but not so far as oily or thick. The sweetness is familiar, like that of dragonwell aftertaste, almost a sugar snap pea cotton candy. Delicious. This tea is only vaguely seaweedish on the mid sip, I hardly even notice it. Definitely not a marine green and very little in the savory department. It is worth buying again, and has kept very well for being probably over a year old at this point!
Flavors: Peas, Sweet
I really enjoyed this one. Did two sessions with it – one with the parameters I normally use for sencha (4g in 150mL with 160 degree water, sometimes going up to 165 a couple steeps in) and one with Den’s Tea’s recommended parameters, which seemed a little weird to me (1st steep, 180 degrees for 60s, second steep boiling water for 15s). I liked it both ways, but I think my normal method was a bit better. These leaves smelled nice. Had the classic roasted nutty grass smell of sencha.
1st Session: 60s, 30s, 45s, 90s
The first steep was the best to me, with just a touch of bitterness, good sweetness with vegetal, grass, and roasty notes and a smooth, almost buttery feel. Next steep had a more pronounced vegetal taste, like spinach, with a bitter finish and sweet aftertaste. After this steep, I pushed the temp up to 170 degrees. The next steep was vegetal with a bitter finish and was noticeably more watery. The final steep was just a light and subtle vegetal sweetnes.
Session 2: 180 degree water for 60s followed by boiling water for 15s.
First steep was a bit more pungent in its flavor with an almost sour bitterness – I think that was the grassy flavor, at the front followed by a very deep roasty vegetal flavor. The next steep had some bitterness with a thick, creamy feel and nice grassy flavor. The taste of the cup got better as it cooled down.
Flavors: Bitter, Creamy, Grass, Roasted, Smooth, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal
So, I’m pretty sure I’ll be scraping myself off the walls later because I’m three steeps in (I’d guess I have 2 more I can get here) and already ready and willing to conquer on the world (which is to say that fantastic hyper aware euphoria that comes with drinking far, far too much tea).
First steep – 60 sec
Second – 60 sec
Third – 90 sec
In short, the 2016 version of this tea is amazing. It’s slightly sweeter than previous years, but still incredibly smooth and vegetal with an overall umami flavor. The second steep introduced a bit of butteriness in taste and texture. Not bitter at all, but there’s a slight drying astringency that builds, but not in a negative way. The aftertaste is asparagus and artichoke.
Definitely worth busting the kyusu out.
It even looks like spring!
This houjicha can change profile depending how aggressive you steep it. Lower leaf (3grams 5oz) I got something lightly roasted, corny and sweet. Steep it 6grams and its rich, more roasty, and tastes bready like an unsalted pretzel. Feel free to go boiling water with this green and oversteep. It doesn’t get too dry other than a bit of a squeaky popcorn texture.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/tencha-kuki-houjicha/
I know I just reviewed this wonderful tea, but I wanted to also note how the experience of drinking this tea invalidates a lot of the thinking about tea types and caffeine. Personally, I’ve always felt that caffeine levels are not a true indicator of how a tea affects someone and that caffeine labels should be taken with a grain of salt. Case in point this shincha which shouldn’t be sending me for a loop based on caffeine alone but clearly has a chemical profile that is making me quite tea drunk! I’ve had many black teas that haven’t affected me nearly as much.
The 2016 version of this is absolutely delicious, incredible, and powerfully energizing. Getting my hands on some of this each spring has become a requirement and I’m not even much of a green tea drinker. But this transcends individual predilections and stands as a tea everyone should taste for its smooth, fresh vegetal taste.
The Greek gods ate ambrosia. . .this essential nectar can’t be too far off.
By the way, I brewed this three times in a Kyusu at 1 minute, 2 minutes and 2.5 minutes and didn’t experience any bitterness and the flavor endured.
A sample of this came from my order. Thank you, Den’s Tea!
Brewed in a tokoname kyusu. This review is based on my tweaked brewing parameters. I tried the recommended parameters, but the increase from 160 to 185 for the second infusion was too much and produced an infusion not to my taste, so I kept the temperature a constant 160. Steeping times: 90, 60, 90, 105, 120.
I haven’t properly evaluated Japanese greens for at least two years. With this sencha, I was brought back to the fact that I have a hard time picking out varying distinctive notes the aroma and liquor. Actually, I’m even pretty bad at evaluating Chinese greens too. It’s a bit frustrating since I love green tea…
The dry leaf smells like, well, sencha. In a more evocative sense: mid-summer leaf sap scent carried by a warm wind. The leaf in the heated kyusu and the wet leaf aroma has a buttery note of zucchini.
The liquor is thick, full, and rounded with strong flavor. The first infusion has a vegetal bitterness, but in the second infusion and onward, this bitterness disappears and the liquor tastes sweeter, retaining the vegetal note. Gradually, the body lightens in flavor and thins in texture. Feels uplifting both in mood and energy.
I had this session outside. Fantastic day!
This might be last year’s harvest (2015), but it still tastes fresh. However, this may be the void in my experience with Japanese greens. I’m happy to be on track with my first love.
Here’s Hoping Traveling Teabox – Round #5 – Tea #51
The first and second steeps were completely different. The first cup was like a light nutty green tea. The second steep was like drinking a cup of matcha! It was too strange. The matcha like quality could be explained by it being the last of the sample. But that doesn’t really explain why the first cup was much different. It’s a unique green with either steep! I think I’m getting burned out on tasting notes but I think they will slow down soon… I’ll be sipping the old favorites again!
This was the last of Den’s $3 sampler. I first sampled this tea as a very new tea drinker, and enjoyed it then.
Now as I return with far more tea experience, I love it even more. It smells much like Genmaicha and tastes somewhat like a roastier Genmaicha. The flavor is warming, toasty, and also just a little savory, just a hint of seaweed that to me makes it all the more interesting and delightful. It also resteeped well, full of flavor for 3 steeps despite being underleafed (rather than the recommended 2g or heaping tsp per 4oz, I had only a scant tsp remaining, and on top of that poured in more than 4oz water). I’m on #4, and this cup is lighter though still lovely.
I have barely explored Japanese teas — in many ways, they seem like their own world. Sure, Genmaicha is an easy bridge tea, and I’ve experienced some Senchas and a Kukichas with delightfully fresh, sweet, grassy flavors, yet haven’t fully embraced the astringency that seems such a key part of the experience of many (most?) Japanese greens.
But this tea is quite accessible. It is not all that different from a roasted oolong, like Harney’s Formosa Oolong, the tea that reminds me of what was served in the Chinese restaurant my family frequented when I was a kid. I was not a tea drinker then, but I’d drink cup after cup of that tea. It needed no adjustment period. Because of the hint of salt in this cup, this tea may be slightly less universally appealing, but I think it’s still very accessible.
No astringency. Easy to brew. Nothing intimidating. A unique combination of the hearty, roasty dominating flavor along with the tease of savory seaweed. This is the first Japanese tea that’s completely hooked me. I’m ready for more.
Of all the teas I’ve tried from Den’s, this is my favorite. It has a nutty flavor with just enough grassiness to make a pleasant compliment to the nuttiness rather than overpower it. This tea is easy on the stomach and palate. It gets a bit bitter if steeped too long, but it has never gotten to the point of being distasteful.
Flavors: Grass, Nutty
I’ve been drinking this every night after dinner for the past week or so. It isn’t my favorite tea, but it works well as an after dinner drink. It has a bright woody taste with a bit of sweetness that is strong enough to not be covered up by any food you may have recently eaten, and it’s much easier on the stomach than some of my other Den’s teas. The lower caffeine content also makes it a nice night time drink if you aren’t prepared to switch tea for something herbal.
Flavors: Sweet, Wood