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Recent Tasting Notes
I am getting more and more fond of gyokuro lately. It might be because I now have become used to the taste, but also because I now have more experience brewing it.
I have really noticed that to fully enjoy a gyokuro, one should make a decent amount time off to enjoy it. The brewing takes a bit more time and due to the small amount of tea from each serving, it should also be enjoyed slowly, making sure to appreciate each little sip. Perfect on a Sunday afternoon!
The taste is wonderful and produces a mellow and slightly sweet taste with a strong and lasting umami. Unfortunately, the second steep is not as delightful as the first one, but personally I feel that this creates a nice opportunity to make a cold brew or more concentrated iced gyokuro, something I did a lot during the summer.
Certainly, a tea for those special tea moments.
It has been a long time since I have written anything here. A certain earthquake in 2011 kept me busy for a while, and afterwards I guess I did not find the motivation to continue logging as much. That is, however, all in the past, and I hope to keep blogging here more often from now.
During the summer holiday, some of my friends and I got the opportunity to visit Hibiki-an in Uji. I had already tasted some of their teas and was very happy to visit them. It was also my first time visiting a tea farm, and the experience was a delightful one!
As they did not charge anything for the trip(!), we were more than happy to buy several of their different teas. I have already finished a few, which I will write about later, but now I will use the opportunity to review one I am currently enjoying: Their houjicha bancha.
As most of you probably already know, the bancha part of this houjicha indicates the quality of the leaves. This is very much an everyday-tea and does not contain as high grade leaves as other houjichas I have reviewed earlier. The score will therefore be lower this time, but that does not mean that it does not fulfill its role as an everyday-tea, because that it does. It has a pale roasty flavour that has a very thirst quenching feel to it. It works well both as a hot and a cold brew. Though I think I will be sticking to the hot version for now, as the autumn cold is slowly closing in.
Good to be back!
Bring water to boil
Bright green in my black tea bowl
Worldly cares vanish
Great matcha that is very soothing with a wonderful balance of bitter and sweet. Pales in comparison to the Pinnacle – much more of a stark contrast between these grades than with this company’s grades of sencha, which are very different but not necessarily “better”. Still, I love this tea and am happy serving it to guests or consuming it on its own or even with food. A nice all-purpose matcha that whisks up nicely with 2g tea to 60-70mL water [Edited – I originally said 100mL… I don’t put that much water in my chawan; I’m just so used to using 100-150mL increments for my gaiwans and teapots and typed it out of habit].
I bring water just up to a boil, pour into a cha hai (I don’t have a bamboo ladle to portion water from an open pot), and transfer into a non-preheated chawan. I rinse with hot water, but with only a bit and it only makes the bowl warm, not hot. This seems to knock down the temperature right to where I like it when using one of my two heavier chawans after I whisk the tea. Comes out a bit too hot both for drinking and for holding the bowl properly in my thinner-walled, summer chawan so I do an extra cha hai transfer when using that one. This particular matcha seems to work better with water heated then cooled rather than brought up to a particular temperature, as I do for nearly all of my teas, leaving me preparing it without the impulse to use timers and thermometers – ultimately making this a far more relaxing tea experience for me than even some of my favorite relaxing teas that I can’t help but want to time or take temperature readings of.
Tasty and balanced with decent shelf life for a matcha. Still needs sifting and cool storage.
great tea, more mellow, because of organic buds, then http://www.palaisdesthes.co.il/products/shiraore-kuki-hojicha, but it’s better after some steeping knowledge trials. all hibiki-an teas are great. 3 tablespoons for 300ml – 1min or a bit more.
Received the tasting set from Hibiki-An today with this tea in it.
First thing that I noticed – the leaves color is really bright. I’d say its as bright(emeraldishy) green as Verdant’s TGY after it unrolled (I know, I know they are totally different in taste :) )
So is the liquid actually – greenish :) never had a chinese tea assume such a color so I guess it’s japanese specialty. The liquid came out a bit opaque as there were some dusty particles in the tea but its ok.
The taste is… well, unlike any other green tea. I guess the process of steaming the leaves used for sencha really makes a difference. A huge one I’d say. Actually, I can feel the steaminess in the taste :) It is watery and bittery and very floral-greenishy but at the same time with a kinda sweet aftertaste that lingers after the liquid went further down.
The second infusion is much smoother in taste in compariosn, the bitterness of first steeping has been tamed and the underlying profile is more discernable.
What’s interesting – the liquid seems thick with taste. As if every bit of it contains tea powder(almost like matcha) that constantly releases more tea particles. This is not the case here ofc, but the feeling is kinda the same.
Overall – very fresh, thick, kinda bitter and sweet and refreshing at the same time. I like it.
P.S. I’d say that the strongest characteristic of this tea is a powerful and long lasting buttery-sweet aftertaste underneath the tongue.
UPD: this tea totally obliterates thirst. I’ve had 2 cups and I have to force myself to drink the third. On one hand – it is just as tasty, on the other – I do not want to drink anything anymore. >_< I am unsure if this is a good or bad thing in this case :)
Wow, did not think this would hold up so long while the Pinnacle has deteriorated so much. Both are still very good, but this still tastes freakin’ awesome.
This has been vacuum-sealed (after flushing with a mix of N2, CO2, and Argon) since June and kept around 13C this whole time with very little temperature flux, so I kinda hoped it would still be good. I opened up the Pinnacle about a month ago (nearly the same storage conditions apart from a wider temp range from 13-21C) and was really disappointed with the quality drop, though I wasn’t surprised. Still good, just not wondrous.
I bought this in May and it has actually changed very little since June – especially considering Hibiki-an makes a point of selling Shincha with slightly higher moisture content. Even after vacuum-sealing, most of ‘em decline sharply around 6 months.
Brewed 7g leaf per 200g 75C water in a non-porous Kyusu with about 2cm headspace. Three back-to-back 1 minute infusions with water 92-89C in the kettle weighed out into a glass Chahai to settle down to 80C for pouring onto the tea, which evenly knocked down to 74-76C in the Kyusu.
This still smells and tastes great. Mellowed out from the potent vibrancy it once had, but it’s more approachable this way. Also, the bitterness is a tad lighter and sweetness a little higher (particularly in third infusion).
Leaves are bright “radioactive” green with stripes of green-yellow and folds closer to hunter green. Looks a lot like strips of grass cut lengthwise into quarter-widths. Somewhat lower percentage of small broken bits than most Senchas… Actually a little less than my bag of Pinnacle, which may be a part of why one staled a bit more.
Dry fragrance is like a watered lawn in spring. Wet leaf aroma is the smell from the mulch bag after mowing that lawn. Liquor aroma is the smell of an overgrown yard after a shower or heavy watering on a warm day (about the same smell from a rice field) and a tinge of hay or the smell that comes off a tatami mat.
Really good body for Sencha. Right at the higher end of what I’d call medium body for the first infusion. Light, crisp acidity and faint astringency are both evocative of Jade Rice. There’s this rich pollen character in the first infusion that drops to coyote bush flower notes in the second and light carnation notes in the third infusion. Very refreshing, lightly grassy-floral with a lingering vegetal sweetness. Second infusion has a light tartness like a bing cherry, but it’s just an accent note. The third infusion’s finish is surprisingly evocative of the finish left by peanut butter on wheat toast… Now that’s a characteristic I’ve never gotten nor expected of a Japanese green! Just a light accent in the third infusion’s aftertaste, but really pleasant and interesting. It sticks around for several minutes, too. Yummy and unexpected.
This is an excellent tea that is a great call-out to spring. It’s kind of uncomfortably warm out today, so I’m in summer-tea mode. Yesterday was 26C out! I guess California’s skipping straight from Autumn to Summer with only a couple weeks of spring-like winter between. As a foul weather outdoorsperson, I’m a little at a loss for my usual birding, hiking and kayaking season, but it is certainly helping me burn through my holdout green teas that are hiding about.
Purchased as an organic replacement to Teavana’s gyokuro. Though it seems irredeemably mainstream to say anything nice about Teavana, their gyokuro has a full, bright, grassy flavor that is proving difficult to match.
I had high hopes for this tea based on the consistently high reviews that Hibiki-an teas receive. This, apparently is not one of their better offerings. The flavor, initially, is more subtle than that of Teavana’s gyokuro but it finishes with a robustly icky flavor reminiscent of a neglected flower vase. The bright grassiness is not there – at all. It’s been replaced with some green veggie you bought, oh, a while ago, on a health kick and avoided until it became a slimy, mushy thing that could be thrown away without remorse.
This is a fantastic and special tea. It is unlike any other sencha I have ever had. The flavors this tea are subtle but never weak. It is sweet, umami, vegetal, and only very slightly astringent. This tea has a very hydrating mouthfeel, almost like it coats your mouth every so slightly. Hibiki-an’s blended sencha also has a long finish. I could taste this tea long after I finished drinking it, and it was wonderful. The best word I can use to describe this tea is balanced, Hibiki-an’s Blended Sencha is the best and most balanced Japanese green tea I have ever tasted. I highly recommend this tea!