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Recent Tasting Notes
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Gyokuro Premium from Hibiki-An is great as an introduction to gyokuro teas. While it is not the highest quality gyokuro offered by the company, it is (like all their teas) a great value, providing the classic rich flavors of good gyokuro at a fraction of the typical cost. The tea does retain some bitterness, but this is counteracted by the inherent cream and vegetal notes. It is best brewed following the instructions on the bag, changing only brew time which should be 1 minute maximum rather than the suggested 1.5 / 2.
Gyokuro means “jade dew” and – disregarding matcha, which should be considered in a different category – is known as the highest class of Japanese green tea. It is distinguished from other Japanese teas such as sencha, hojicha, etc. by a shading period just before picking. The tea plants are blocked from direct sunlight for 20 days, forcing them to compensate for the lack of light by producing more chlorophyll (the chemical responsible for carrying out photosynthesis, and also what gives plants their green color). This enhances the sweetness of the tea and hence gives gyokuro its singular taste.
For reference, Hibiki-An offers four levels of quality for their teas, which – from lowest to highest – are: “superior”, “premium”, “super premium”, and “pinnacle”. They occasionally offer a fifth grade that is even better than “pinnacle” called “competition-grade pinnacle.”
Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Grass, Umami
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Firstly, it is important to remember that this is a “house” matcha, or rather a lower-end, budget matcha intended for daily consumption. That said, Hibiki-an’s House Matcha is an incredible value. Priced at a very reasonable $24 / 80g ($0.40 per bowl if prepared in the proper method) or at a bulk price of $60 / 240g ($0.33 per bowl), this house matcha has no shortage of flavor, and does not taste dull, or stale in any way. It is perhaps slightly more bitter and tannic than higher quality matchas, but you will not find a better daily matcha on the market. Great value, impressive taste for the price. Also great as a cooking matcha for use in frosting, cake, lattes, etc.
Flavors: Cream, Nutty, Umami, Vegetal
I bought this when I bought Hibiki-An’s house matcha to use for cold shaken in the mornings. I wanted to try a few grades to see what would work best. The house matcha ended up being perfect.
The superior matcha is ground so fine it is way beyond dust consistency. There is strong green tea vegetal aroma, but still sweet. It smells delicious. It barely needed to be sifted and does not clump too much. The colour of the matcha is dark, rich, uniform green.
I have tried this one two ways so far.
My usual recipe of 1 heaping tsp (prolly 1.5tsp) in 8 oz water, with a pinch of white sugar. It is actually quite good. However, I think the house matcha is better than the superior grade for cold shaken. The superior grade is much more vegetal but is still smooth and quite creamy. It dissolves very well and doesn’t clump at the bottom of my shaking glass.
1.5 tsp, matcha, 1/2 tsp white sugar, approx. 6 oz frothed warm milk. Dissolves excellent. There is not a lot of sediment. The taste is creamy, light matcha, slightly vegetal. It is perfect for a latte.
I think this superior grade is much better as a hot matcha. The house blend is much better cold (which I find funny because you would think the higher the grade the better it would be for everything). That makes me happy. The house blend is cheaper and I don’t drink a whole lot of hot/traditional prepared matcha. This superior matcha is probably the best tasting matcha [made at home] that I have had.
I still have another box of the houseblend to get through but I am getting excited to make another order with Hibiki.
Ok so this is more of a cooking with tea review. But it was a-matcha-azing!!!
I made matcha chocolate using this recipe:
http://www.justonecookbook.com/recipes/green-tea-chocolate/ (this site is totally my new favorite recipe site!!)
I tweaked the recipe just a little bit.
My recipe was:
400g of swiss white chocolate wafers, chopped into small pieces as the wafers were quite large
2TB matcha plus 1 tsp to sprinkle
1/2 cup whipping cream.
Heat the cream over medium heat, once hot but not boiling turn down heat to low and slowly add the chocolate stirring constantly. Then add the butter and continue stirring constantly until fully melted together. Remove from heat and immediately add the 2TB matcha slowly (I sifted it in 1/2 TB at a time), and continue stirring until fully mixed and smooth. Pour in a parchment paper lined pan (I used a bread pan because that is all I had that was small enough). Lightly bang pan on the counter to remove any air pockets. Put in fridge to cool. Once cooled, cut into pieces and sprinkle 1 tsp matcha over top (I again sifted it through a mesh strainer).
This was so absolutely delicious. It was quite sweet, there was subtle smooth white chocolate flavour, the matcha was also smooth but provided a moderate matcha/green tea flavour. There was no bitterness at all. Slightly vegetal. The white chocolate made the matcha so creamy and smooth. Next time I think I would use less butter because this came out more soft than I would have liked (it was almost a soft-type fudge consistency). I would like to try to find some good white chocolate that is also a bit less sweet.
The only draw back it is getting late where I am, I am sure I will be up all night now because of the matcha. #sensitive sleeper. But I want to eat so much more :)
Ok this should be my last review on this matcha, for now anyway. I have now tried it cold shaken so I think I have done my due diligence in reviewing this one.
I used 1/2 tsp for approx. 6 oz water, I added 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of white sugar. It took a little more shaking than usual to get it to fully dissolve, which is ok, I am pretending that was part of my exercise routine for today :) It frothed up very nice and was a dark but still bright green colour.
It tasted very smooth, no bitterness or astringency at all, it was slightly sweet vegetal. It could have used a bit more matcha, I will have to play around with it to get the right proportions,
I am super happy with this matcha, which is pretty obvious by my raving, ha ha. I think for a cold shaken, I would not need to use this specific brand name of matcha, but it is the best I have found so far in regards to versatility with a good price point and excellent quality. I also like how I can determine how much sweetener, etc, to mix in with it versus using a pre-mixed sweetened blend.
Made this one as a latte. Sooooo good! Ha ha.
I used 1 heaping tsp of matcha and about 1/2 tsp white sugar. I dissolved that in a little bit of warm water from the kettle. I then frothed up about 3/4 cup of 2% milk and added it to the matcha.It made a delicious emerald green foam. It pretty much tastes like a sweet, slightly vegetal, smooth green tea/matcha latte. No bitterness at all (even when I let it sit for longer than 3 minutes – see my previous review). There is a bit of matcha sediment gathered at the bottom of the cup but I would say that is normal for any latte.
So I have been looking for a new supplier of matcha. I found I was having trouble getting the quality for the price point I wanted. So a supremely long time ago, back when I first joined steepster, some old steepsterites who do not seem to be around anymore, used to recommend Hibiki-an. So I thought I would give it a try. (And I was not disappointed by the company at all).
Please see my post from the official what did you get in the mail thread cut and pasted here: “As many of you know I am a total sucker for “the tea experience”. It doesn’t matter what kind of experience, just any experience will do. All a company needs is cheeky marketing or to send me a toy or button with my tea (Hello A&D) and I am totally sold. OK so I just had to come here and rant and rave about my recent purchase from Hibiki-an that just arrived today. I ordered some new matcha’s to try. First of all, quick shipping from Japan, and it was free. The package arrived as a very thick and sturdy green paper bag (will be super easy to recycle). It was sealed perfectly, not to little tape and not so much you can’t open it without a chain saw. It was supremely labelled in both English and Japanese and the customs declaration was very clear, and as a result it was not opened and violated by customs officials. So I open the outer green package and inside there is a beautiful colour patterned paper bag that is sealed with a decorative sticker. Inside that bag (which was also very easy to open so I didn’t have to wreck the cute paper bag) were little boxes which contained vacuum sealed packages of matcha. They didn’t need to be additionally packaged in little boxes, as far as I’m concerned matcha isn’t really ruined by squishing. I also got a beautiful post card and an English pamphlet on how to create traditional style of matcha. Super impressed :) I am sure I will be ordering more from them, I really want to try their tea treats.”
I ordered the house matcha and also the superior grade, just to try. I mostly use matcha as cold shaken in the mornings, mostly due to ease of use.
When I first opened the vacuum sealed package, the sweet slightly vegetal smell wafted up to my nose. It was delicious. I was surprised at the remarkable emerald green colour. I had some other matcha I bought from local store. But even as cold shaken it was so very bitter. It at one time appeared green to my eyes. But when I compare the colour of that one to the Hibiki-an matcha, there is no comparison. The local matcha almost looks dreary muddy brown-green. I very carefully cut open the Hibiki-an package and then when I tried to dump it into my matcha canister the fine emerald green powder sprayed all over my counter and floor. I really didn’t lose a lot of the matcha but it was a pain in the you know what to clean up.
I thought I should try this one hot. The recommendations that came from the company were 2 chasen (1tsp) whisked in 70 ml of 170F water. I mixed 1tsp in an estimated 70 ml of water. The recommendations are to drink it within 3 minutes or it will get bitter. My problem is that it was still too hot. I am sensitive to hot temperatures and often have to let my tea sit quite a while before I drink it. So on first sips it was so super delicious, but way to hot for my mouth and tongue. Nice and smooth, slightly vegetal, and just the right amount of sweetness. It did get quite bitter towards the end but only because I was unable to drink it as fast as recommended. I will have to make a smaller amount next time so it will not feel so hot. I will mostly be drinking this as cold shaken anyway, the review will come in time :) , but I will also probably try a latte as well.
If this is just the house matcha, I am quite excited to try the superior grade!
low caffeine level.
lighter, yellowish color compared to the bright green of sencha.
Fresh, vibrant dry leaf, as usual with hibiki-an.
I used fairly precise temperature, leaf weight, water volume and steep time during this sessions, using thermometer, timer and scale.
First infusion minral-umami, sweetness and a touch of pleasant bitterness, very thick ‘soupish’ tea liqud.
second infusion onwards: thinner than first. a faint almost tart floral fruity aroma detectable on exhale after sip.
I love this tea. Been looking for a low caffeine option and this is the answer.
Brewed according to vendor instructions, guessing a bit since I had no scale/thermometer.
Flavors/aromas, in progressive order across the 3 infusions:
chicken soup (umami)
freshly sliced delicate cucumber
subtle, almost but not exactly floral-fruity tangy aroma that is unique to this tea and very pleasant.
This tea is fresh and sweet. The best infusion was perhaps the second, though the first had the most concentrated mineral-umami flavor.
Enjoyable fresh clear feeling with no caffeine jolt, racing thoughts, restlessness, or other side effects that may result from drinking puer and oolongs especially with 7+ cups in a gong fu session.
Flavors: Cucumber, Tangy, Umami
This is the first time I’ve consciously had Gyokuro Konacha. From some casual reading, I understand that it is sometimes served at sushi restaurants.
So far I’ve tried it two ways–first, an eyeball amount of Konacha (probably a tablespoon), and about 16oz of hot water (probably around 170(f)). This proved to be overwhelmingly strong, and unfortunately reminded me of a typical grocery store bagged green tea (the saw dust stuff) that might make you queasy from tannic bitterness and seemingly oxidized from a complete surface area air exposure (because the tea granularity is so small).
Having feared I bungled it, I followed Hibiki-an’s directions precisely. I added 7g of Konacha to 200mL of 149 degree(f) water. Then steeped for precisely 45 seconds. The result was thick and strong. I suppose I had no idea how little 200mL was. It’s less than 8oz(1 cup). I am not used to drinking tea this way.
After two methods that did not work out well, I may try a more diluted solution in cooler water. I tasted the leaves, and they are actually quite fresh and delicious, kind of a smooth, woody and chlorophyllic (the way good standard gyokuru often tastes).
I recommend this tea because it is educationally interesting how a “fine dust” version of gyokuro can be so temperamental and, if harshly prepared, can be so unforgiving. Also, I’ve tried two other Hibiki-an teas, and they are absolutely without a doubt some of the best quality and value teas that I have ever had. If you haven’t tried their Karigane, it is amazing and honestly a super great value.
Flavors: Grass, Iodine, Pine, Plant Stems, Tannin, Wood
I saved the best for last. :) I have had my eye on this tea for a while, like around 6 months I think. Houjicha is one of my favorite teas, so I’m really looking forward to trying this one from a new-to-me tea company. This is grown right in Japan! It doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you to Sil for sharing this sample!
Ohhhh, yes! The brewed tea aroma is intoxicating and instantly made my mouth water. The taste is a perfect roasted green tea flavor. It’s roasty toasty and delicious! I’ve had several different types of houjicha, and this one is particularly buttery. I don’t think I’ve encountered a buttery houjicha before. It’s really interesting and complements the roasted notes nicer than I would have thought.
I love the description of this tea: “Houjicha is a source of health for farmers, and Japanese farmers are well-known for their good health.” LOL! I didn’t know that! :P If you’ve never tried houjicha before, this is an excellent one to try. Its buttery notes are unique, but it still maintains the prefect roasted flavor that I would expect.
Houjicha is nothing like unroasted green tea (sencha, matcha, gunpowder, dragonwell, etc). It’s not grassy at all and instead can be quite nutty. I think this particular tea is less nutty because of the added buttery notes. Nevertheless, it’s a great representation of what roasted green tea has to offer: a tasty warming cuppa!
This is truly a delicious and special tea. I’m savoring every sip. Mmmm, yum! And now I know that Hibiki-an offers excellent quality teas. I’ll have to check them out further, and I’ll probably pick up more of this while I’m at it. ;) Thanks again, Sil!!!
I am pretty new to genmaicha. Have only had one other one, which was tasty but not organic. I’m very interested in the organic teas now, after learning about so many pesticides on conventional grown ones. Anyway, I just opened my packet of tea, that I received a week after ordering (pretty good from Japan!), brewed it up according to Hibikis directions. It is a beautiful green with a lovely fragrance. I can smell the tea and the rice. The flavor is outstanding, I am drinking it as I write this. I am becoming quite addicted to gemaicha and love being able to order it direct from the farm.
this was sent to me by Halieod a long while ago and it appears as though i haven’t had a chance to log it until now. I’ve had a number of cups of this, though its not always the first thing i reach for. What i like about this is that it’s a roasty taste, without being an oolong ;) I’m glad that i’ve had this one to try! Thanks Halieod!
This is a seasonal offering, so I assume it varies somewhat from year to year, and from what I gather, it’s best to grab it as soon as it comes available in the fall. So this review will only be truly accurate for the 2013 batch.
This particular tea is brewed with more leaves, and at a much lower temperature than most other teas. For a truly mellow cup, you can go as low as 130F. The suggested serving size is 1.5 TABLESPOONS (not teaspoons) for 200ml (about 6.5 oz) of water. Even though you can get three to four good steeps, that still makes for a very pricey cup. According to the tea’s producer, this tea will never get bitter no matter how long it is steeped, although the recommended time is 1.5-2 minutes at higher temperatures, and 2-2.5 minutes at lower temperatures.
For my cups, I chose a moderate 140F, for two minutes. As I have to pour the water from the kettle into a measuring container first, the actual steep temperature is probably closer to 135F. The first cup was strong enough to have a yellow, milky appearance. Despite that, it was not very fragrant. But what an umami punch! As promised, all that goodness dissipated with no bitter finish, only a silky smooth aftertaste.
The second cup was no longer translucent, but yellow and clear. Still only a mild aroma. The taste was definitely fuller, but less umami and more like a regular sencha. There was a slight hint of bitterness but it didn’t stay in the aftertaste. It was not unpleasant as it actually lent some body to the tea. The flavor lingered much longer from the second cup.
Third cup clear and just slightly paler, I noticed that it’s almost a yellow-green. There’s hardly any aroma. The flavor has definitely diminished from the first to the last, which is probably for the best, considering I’m practically having heart palpitations at this stage. I feel like I’ve been drinking matcha. Three steeps is all that is recommended unless you are brewing with the optional extra tea leaves, and I can see why. If I had brewed it at this strength initially, I could probably enjoy the subtle flavor, but after two mind-blowing cups, it tastes weak by comparison. There is still a mellow bite at the end which is rather nice. I feel like I’m cleansing my palate and easing my way slowly out of a tea frenzy.
That wasn’t a cuppa, that was a whole adventure.