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Recent Tasting Notes
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. >_
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!
Hibiki-an Gyokuro Premium – 100g, $31
1.5 Tbl – 7.5 oz of filtered water at 140 degrees – 3 full flavored steeps
Dry leaf: Consistent medium to dark green colors and fairly consistant size and shape. Very low to no stem in the leafs. The smell is a dark almost grass/hay aroma.
Wet leaf: Leafs turn from the dark grass/hay to a lighter still grassy vegetal aroma. Think of fresh asparagus or spinach.
Liquor: A beautiful light greenish yellow. Not a lot of aroma from the liquor.
Taste: A wonderful balanced tasting tea. Light forward vegetal flavors of asparagus and steamed spinach with a hint of sweet fresh cut grass. It has a light sweetness to the flavor with a very hydrating mouthfeel. This tea also has a very, very long finish to it. As I write this I can still taste and feel the Gyokuro as if I just sipped some (it has been over an hour since I last tasted it)!
— Although this has been my first experience with Gyokuro, I am now hooked! I don’t know about other Gyokuros, there might be better ones out there but Hibiki-an has really created a fantastic Gyokuro! If you are looking to get into Gyokuro, this is a great place to start!
Since I became interested in Japanese green tea around 12 years ago, I have been searching for competition grade tea from Japan, but it has always been impossible to find here in the United States. I’ve seen competition grade tea from China, but never Japan. So when this became available a few weeks ago, I jumped at the opportunity.
Compared with other matcha, Hibiki-an’s Competition Grade Matcha Pinnacle is much brighter in color: pure green with no brown undertones. If the green color is somewhat brown, then it is lower grade and gets exponentially more so as one goes down the scale of quality. As you can imagine, this tea has no detectable brown tones. It is pure green, like a perfect pistachio. Matcha color directly correlates with flavor, and the flavor of this tea is perfect as well: fresh, smooth and creamy with no bitterness.
Before this tea, the best matcha I sampled was Hibiki-an’s Matcha Pinnacle. It is vastly superior to other matcha due to the ideal color, fresh and creamy flavor with no bitterness, and the fact that it dissolves so purely and evenly when whisked. Both the flavor and texture can be described as soft, smooth and creamy. I fortunately had the opportunity to sample Matcha Pinnacle and Competition Grade Matcha Pinnacle side-by-side. As I had hoped for, the Competition Grade matcha exceeded my expectations and again raised the bar. Both are excellent and amazing teas in a whole league of their own, but the Competition Grade does outshine the regular Matcha Pinnacle in terms of pure green color and smooth, creamy taste and texture.
This is not an everyday tea, but should be seen as a rare opportunity to try something usually only reserved for a select few within the Japanese tea industry. Thanks to Atsushi and Keiko at Hibiki-an for the opportunity to try this special tea. It is truly amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Japanese tea.
I recommend a ratio of 2 to 1 when it comes to leaf and water. 4g leaf, 2 oz water.
It was pretty strong—not overwhelmingly so—but overall AWESOME!
I made sure everything was pre-warmed with very hot water, to control the temps and make sure the tea was actually warm when it was ready to drink! (The teapot had boiled water sitting in it up to the moment I was ready to add the leaf and the cooled water for the tea).
This is REALLY good.
It was the perfect amount of sweetness, smooth umami and marine notes, and ended with a very very slight vegetal/melon flavor that was perhaps (pleasingly) astringent. It was mellow and had an underlying, delicious grain flavor as well.
The best words I could use to describe this are mellow or refined. It tastes like a perfect gyokuro that is toned down and improved. I am surprised I like this so much more than their “pinnacle” version (this is machine cut, their pinnacle is hand picked!). Perhaps I used a better amount of leaf. Or maybe I am simply used to the Yabukita species of leaf…
Either way, I was very impressed by this. I can tell it has been aged (but has improved over time!), which I am surprised about.
That last note, that I described as vegetal/melon/almost astringent was hard for me to describe, but it was really delicious and rounded it off very nicely.
After these 2 steepings, I would say it’s definitely one I’d get again. My impression could change with time, but this is a fun and delicious variety of green worth trying.
I wonder if this went bad? There are hardly any flavors (especially sweetness, which I assumed gyokuros were known for) present…except a strange starchyness.
The first infusion was almost really good; it had hints of very refined sweetness (like I’ve tasted in the ice brewings), kind of like a shincha or something. I enjoyed the first infusion, at least the first few sips. I was excited because I thought perhaps I had figured out a better way to brew it (heaping tsp (2+g) 2 oz water, 2.5 mins)…. unfortunately not.
I want this tea to be good, but it simply didn’t meet my expectations, nor was it worth the cost. What a contrast to their Kuradashi Gyokuro Premium! (That’s their normal, aged gyokuro, which was very very good).