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Recent Tasting Notes
Backlog from yesterday, Steepster was acting really slow and would not allow me to do much.
This was a nice houjicha, definitely very roasty and earthy with a slight smoky note. I tried it hot and also over ice, it was good both ways but I wish it was a bit sweeter somehow.
It is certainly summer time now, even if technically the solstice isn’t until tomorrow. We have not had a day below 85 degrees in a few weeks, and I have achieved full melt. I really dislike the heat, you would think growing up in the South would make me used to it, but each summer I seem to hate it just a little bit more. Good thing the basement tea lair stays mostly cool, for now anyway.
Today’s tea is Sencha of the Summer Sun from Obubu Tea Plantations by way of Yunomi.us. This particular Sencha from Kyoto grown on an uncovered west-facing slope and plucked after it has been bathed by the July sun. It is a strong Sencha, perfect for washing down oily BBQ on a summer day, at least that is what the website says and I am inclined to believe it. The aroma of the vibrantly green leaves is sweet, a blend of sweet hay, grass, and spinach. There is a touch of seaweed at the finish giving the tea a bit of that sea-side aroma that I so love in teas. It might be the name playing havoc with my sense, but the aroma really does remind me of summer.
Once the tea has a nice visit with some water in my Kyusu, the aroma of the wet leaves is sweet like fresh hay and just a little bit fruity. There is also a hint of kelp and vegetal, though it is not as strong. The aroma of the liquid almost seems ethereal, there are faint notes of sweet grass and kelp, but they seem ghostly and like a memory.
The first steep is sweet, it starts with a sweet grass taste that fades to fresh cherry. After this initial sweetness, the taste fades to a grassy bitterness and a touch of kale. The finish returns to a gentle sweetness that takes all the bitterness away, the hay sweetness lingers for quite a while.
On the second steeping, the aroma is much more grassy and strong, no more ethereal memories of tea, you can definitely tell you are sniffing a cup of Sencha this time. The taste is also more intense, quite green and grassy that fades to vegetal kale bitter green. Like the first steep after the bitter green taste you are greeted with a nice sweet finish that lingers.
The aroma of the third steep is much grassier and kelpy, it is more savory than sweet this time around. The taste is also quite grassy and fresh, this fades to kelp. Lastly the taste is quite sweet with a fruity aftertaste. This tea I found quite refreshing, I think it actually does go really well with heavy foods, though I did not test it with BBQ, but I am sure it works just fine. I can see people who are not a fan of bitter green tastes not enjoying this Sencha as much, but since I am a fan of it I found it quite enjoyable.
Flavors: Grass, Hay, Kale, Seaweed, Spinach, Sweet
Tea #2 from the Obubu sample pack. I noticed this tea also brews up lightly — it isn’t the same color as the picture on their website. I used a small Japanese teapot that holds about 4 oz of tea and 1/2 the 5 gram sample. I wonder if I should be using the whole thing?
This tea is nice but I am not overly impressed with it. Compared to the"brightness" sencha of yesterday it definitely has a more assertive and bitter aftertaste although the notes up front are marine-y and vegetal.
I steeped the first pot for 2 minutes because I didn’t think it was dark enough after checking out the color. Then the 2nd steep I did for 60 seconds and it was a little bit better but I still didn’t love it. Not sure what I should be doing for better results with this one — or perhaps I just prefer more deeply steamed senchas.
This was my one indulgence for June which just arrived today … YIPPEE! I’ve always wanted to try the Obubu tea sampler pack and now I have the time to try them all and even write tasting notes. :) I love Japanese teas so I can’t imagine I’ll have anything too bad to say about the selections.
I picked this one at random from the sampler pack, I knew I wanted to try a sencha but I wasn’t sure which one. It has such a lovely name. I steeped this for 90 seconds and it has a very light colored infusion, one that I might associate more with Chinese tea than Japanese. The aroma is lightly vegetal and a bit flowery.
For a sencha, this is very mild. The description says this tea is made with more mature leaves so perhaps that is why. Also they claim it is good as an iced tea, so I’ll have to try the rest of my sample that way. For now I’m enjoying it hot. The flavor is very mild and sweet. It has some light grassy notes but also a bit of sweet vegetables like corn. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Japanese tea that’s this mild before, no astringency whatsover. It’s very tasty and soothing, like floating away on a green tea cloud.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Grass
The Leaf: Nice, deep, dark green hue throughout the leaves, with a certain sheen to them. They are rolled very tightly. Each leaf is very thin and long, like a needle, average length is about 3-4cm. Some of the leaves are bent back around themselves making them look almost like tiny hair pins. The scent is deep and grassy, almost with slight nutty undertone.
The Brew: The liquor is a light pale green-yellow. It is clear, but with a large amount of leaf hair suspended making it seem slightly cloudy. The aroma is bright and fresh. The overtone is of fresh cut grass, while I detect an undertone of citrus rind. The taste is fairly astringent with a full, bright, crispness. With this, though, there is an underlying umami flavor, making the full flavor have a certain richness. The mouthfeel is very dry, due to the astringency and possible the high concentration of leaf hair. Long after the flavor is gone, there is a certain tackiness left on the tongue.
Note: I brewed this tea by putting the leaves in a glass carafe along with cold water, then setting it out in the sun for approximately 4 hours. This is known as sun tea. The temperature of the water only becomes warm, probably less than 40 degrees Celsius.
I drink all of my teas cold.
Flavors: Astringent, Grass
The Leaf: Very dark with a mix of both curled and semi-flat leaves. sizes of the broken leaves range from a few degrees above fannings to almost whole intact leaves; quarters and halves. there is a small percentage of stems also present. The scent is fairly strong and bright, with apparent maltiness; nice but flat.
The Brew: The liquor is a nice golden brown, clear, and with very little leaf hair. The aroma is not unlike the scent of the leaves, bright and slightly malty. There is almost an herbal undertone to it as well, but I can’t quite place it. The taste is bright and fairly dry. There is a slight sweetness, but mostly I get brisk, slightly malty, and bitter or sour flavors; almost that of a lemon. The mouthfeel is quite dry leaving a slight feeling on the tongue for a while. The flavor and aroma reminds me most of a Ceylon tea, perhaps Kandy.
I drink all of my teas cold.
Saturday Sipdown #4!
I had just barely enough leaf left for one cup, so I used what I could even though I underleafed it a tad. I also used a lower temperature — 77C instead of 80C.
Oddly enough, I think underleafing it even more works! This time, I detected flavours I hadn’t in the past – I tasted honey in the midsip and stone fruits in the aftertaste, even with the typical sencha flavour in the front.
I’ve really been on an unflavoured-greens kick in the morning lately. And I’m happy to continue reporting that I prefer steeping Yunomi.us’ teas western-style rather than following the style listed on Yunomi’s website.
This is slightly umami, but it’s not bad. Nice and calming, a good follow-up to breakfast.
I had such success with my first sencha today that I decided to brew another variety using similar steeping parameters. Thank goodness that typical western-style brewing works here.
Anyways, this tea was pretty good – a bit more umami than the Sencha of the Spring Sun 2013 that I sipped off this morning. Yay for little samples from Yunomius!
Tried brewing this western style, with just over 3 tsp for 24 oz, steeped for 3.5 min at 79C.
I have to say I like this much better. There’s the savoury flavour, a little bit of sweetness, and some astringency. I think I’m going to brew the rest of my Japanese teas using the same parameters.
Also, this is a sipdown. Woo!
I really think I’m going to have to ignore the steeping instructions on the Yunomi.us website and just steep these sencha teas Western-style. I tried following their instructions this morning, as follows:
- 5 g of leaf
- 3 oz of water (used my gaiwan)
- 1st steep: 2 minutes at 70C
- subsequent steeps: 20s at ~80C
The first steep was a deep golden colour, very umami, rather astringent, and somewhat bitter. The subsequent steeps were also umami, bitter, and astringent at first, but the tea mellowed out around the 4th steep.
However, I really just want these teas to be sweet and light. Will traditional Western style (1 tsp, 80C, 2-3 mins, 8 oz) achieve that? So far, I’ve found that Japanese greens are definitely not meeting my expectations.
Note: I mistakenly applied this tasting note to a different tea. It’s now in it’s right place.
It’s quite windy out, so this tea seemed like the perfect thing to try once I got home.
This is also the first Yunomi.us tea I’ve tried brewing western style (1 tsp, 8 oz, 82C, 3 mins), and I have to say that while it’s weaker in taste, I much prefer it this way – no blast of umami astringency to contend with.
It’s still a bit sharper and “greener” in taste than a Chinese green, but I think I’m going to stick with brewing my other senchas, gyokuros, and houjichas using this method.
I’m going to admit up front that I steeped this incorrectly. The instructions for steeping senchas on Yunomi’s website are as follows:
- 1 tsp (5g) of leaf
- 3 oz of water
- 2 minutes for the first steep
I took a look at those, and thought that the length of time would make the tea irredeemably bitter, so I decided to do something closer to a typical gaiwan brewing.
I should have listened.
I used about 3 tsp of leaf, but considering that was clearly less than half of the 10g sample (so less than the recommended 5g), I probably underleafed it. Then, I only steeped the first steep for about 1.5 minutes.
The result was a lovely light green liquor that was somewhat weak in taste. The astringency and umami flavour was there, but I didn’t detect much of the sweetness that others did, and it had a very thin mouthfeel.
At least now I know those steeping instructions on the site are correct. I’ll see how it goes next time when I use the proper amount of leaf.
I received a sample of this tea from Yunomius, an online marketplace that features small Japanese tea businesses. Thanks for the sample, Yunomius! Mine came months and months ago, so it’s from the 2013 harvest.
I brewed this tea using the company’s suggested “warm water” steeping technique (https://yunomi.us/716/warm-water-steeping-technique/). This was a totally different tea experience from anything I’ve had before.
I made the first steep at 160f for 2 mins in my gaiwan. The tea was thick, almost syrupy. The flavor was sweet, spinachy, and creamy. There was a slightly dry but thick aftertaste.
I made the second steep at 180f for 30 secs. This brew was smoooooth. Still thick, but not as syrupy. There was a vegetal sweetness to it and a slightly astringent aftertaste. It became more savory as it cooled to lukewarm – evocative of simple congee.
I made the third steep at 190f for 50 secs. This was the best yet. Sweet and savory in equal measure. The mouthfeel was absolutely perfect. Smooth and thick without being syrupy.
I made the fourth steep at 200f for 1 min. This one was more savory and vegetal with a slightly dry mouthfeel. What I’d normally expect from a good sencha, basically.
I made this in my gaiwan, but I would not advise it. It just couldn’t quite contain the leaves and bits got through into the tea. Maybe it just takes more finesse with the pour than I currently possess. If I had this tea again, I would brew it in my glass gong fu teapot.
The company suggests making a salad out of the used leaves. So I did! I mixed them up with some soy sauce and chowed down. It was decent. Just tasted like steamed spinach. I bet it would be good over rice.
Overall, this was a really special tea experience and a really special tea. I wouldn’t keep it in my regular rotation only because it’s rather pricey. I would definitely pick this up again as a special treat though. The Obubu website only sells it in 100g bags ($33 US), but yunomi.us has it in quantities as small as 10g ($4 US).
A really tasty Houjicha! I love the roasty-toasty, nutty flavor of this. This is one of the very best Houjicha – if not THE best Houjicha – that I’ve yet to try. This is top-notch!
In addition to the roasted nutty flavor, I also tasted lovely notes of golden caramel and even the slightest floral tone which I found unique about this tea.
Sweet and savory, with a savory note arriving at about mid-sip. It’s that contrast that really makes this an exciting Houjicha for me, usually a houjicha is sweet but only sweet with it’s roasty-toasty nutty flavors … but the slight sharpness that I get from the flowery taste here really perks up the palate when it hits.
Here’s my full-length review: http://sororiteasisters.com/2014/02/22/hoji-cha-gold-houjicha-gold-from-kyoto-obubu-tea-plantations/
Sipdown! I’m kind of proud of myself for clearing out my cupboard so well. Although I probably will make up for it as soon as I get my Obubu shipment.
I’m not sure if my notes are really reflecting this at all but I’ve been on a big Japanese culture kick of late. Literature, food, tea, everything. I decided to do my first tea subscription with Obubu tea just because I’ve bee having so much fun with it all (that and I like that the subscription also has some benefit to the community).
Anyway, this was a free sample with my Sencha order and I’m drinking it in my new DAVIDsTEA double wall glass tumbler (12 oz volume). I steeped up the whole sample since it was around 8 grams and the instructions said to use 5 g for 5 oz. I used the below parameters and no additives.
The dry leaf smell was of an almost burnt sencha. I know I’ve had houjicha before but I am pretty sure it used bancha leaves as I remember huge brown leaves, and not the blade of grass sized leaves that characterize sencha. I’m not a fan of outright burnt or ash tasting teas so I’m hoping this tones it down just to a pleasant toasted rice-esque note once it steeps.
Despite being sencha based, this tastes a lot like the houjicha I remember. Very genmaicha like, really. It is also very smooth and not bitter in the slightest, with discernible hints of seaweed. Sometimes teas take me a while to drink because my brain likes to ruminate over the flavors. But this – I’m not sure how to really explain it other than for a hot tea it is surprisingly refreshing and slides down your throat like water. Maybe its the minerality I’m trying to describe? Because that is a savory/umami quality I really enjoy in tea as well.
Anyway, I like this. I’m excited to see what my spring tea from Obubu will be because I’ve quite enjoyed their offerings so far!
Ever since that yummy encounter with the Obukucha tea I’ve been wanting to see if pickled cherry blossom would be as good as the pickled plum in that green tea.
Unfortunately that’s a no.
I think it’s because the salted, vinegared blossom also has a sweetness to it, and that’s like putting sugar on salt and vinegar chips. Or at least that’s what my tastebuds equated it with, and that is just gross.
Even once its steeped, as gorgeous as the pink flower looks floating in the tea, it just doesn’t ever have a flavor I can stand. Sweetened vinegar is just not my thing. Oh well, I’m really glad I got to try it and see for sure!
Wanted some hot tea with dinner, which, incidentally was bacon and eggs. I’ve heard that green tea is really good with heavier food and I’ve got to say this was true here.
Also, I’m still shocked that boiling water and a 30 second steep doesn’t yield a bitter mess. But it doesn’t – I get a sweet, buttery green taste that really cleanses the palate, and tastes even more refreshing as it cools.
I recently joined Obubu’s tea club and I have to say it was a great decision if most of the teas are going to be like this one!
Flavors: Butter, Grass
Had this for “lunch” at work with some leftover udon stir fry. I brought it in my DAVIDsTEA glass travel tumbler (http://www.davidstea.com/double-wall-travel-mug?&TF=ADA13E5CAE3F&DEID) because I’m really trying to find some system for me to drink tea while I’m at work.
sidenote rant, please skip below if you just want to read the tea review
My work is seriously NOT conducive to tea drinking, guys. First of all, only closed containers allowed out at the nurses station (which makes sense because we don’t need to spill stuff out there and that would definitely happen). Second of all, I’m getting better about managing my time but there are still nights where I do NOT sit down. This is not conducive for fussy teas. Or a tea tumbler that doesn’t hold its heat properly. So…I’m pretty much limited to bagged, non-fussy teas but even then I don’t get to drink the whole thing before it goes ice cold, so I feel like I waste more than I consume.
It’s frustrating because I really think tea would keep me a lot less frazzled at work but there’s just no way to do it well. Welcome to the last… oh… 16 months of my life. Any suggestions on workability would be much appreciated.
Okay. So the tea tumbler worked great. But I definitely oversteeped this guy because holy wow bitter. I probably overleafed too even though I did follow instructions on based on the volume of water and grams of tea leaves.
Oh well, it paired pretty nicely with my lunch, I just don’t think I’d take it to work again since it’s too easy to mess up. One of these days I will find a winning combination of tea + teaware. Or several winning combinations, I guess, since I get bored if I just drink one tea over and over.
I hope that day comes soon…
I am loving the idea of some vegetal greens since the January Steepster select box. I’ve also officially decided that I really like Japanese greens more than Chinese ones. Obubu has a tea club and I have to say that I’m really considering it because fresh Japanese tea every two months? Yes please.
I got this particular sencha because it was described as being the most savory of the sencha offerings. It certainly smells amazing – spinach and seaweed at the same time. I’m definitely going to have to follow the suggestion of putting the leaves in some white sushi rice with soy sauce because once steeped the leaves look like fresh steamed veggies. The fact this is both food and beverage makes me love it that much more.
There is some discernible bitterness here but that changes as it cools. Its got the brothy loveliness that all really good senchas have, and what can best be described as umami since I feel like it alternates between sweet and savory within the same cup.
This was a good choice – sweet and savory, brothy and buttery. Complex and simplicity all rolled in one. I am going to have no trouble putting this away, and I think I’ll join the Obubu club if for no other reason than to see how the flavors of sencha change throughout a year.
Flavors: Butter, Grass
Today was the first day in my 22 years of life that I truly got the experience matcha. I’ve tried matcha before, but it was always as a super sweet latte—which I never really cared for. I bought matcha powder a long time ago-some random brand at a grocery store— it was bitter and I wound up tossing it.
Obubu’s Gokou Matcha has changed everything for the better. I ordered it from Yunomi.us during the Matcha Day sale. It’s slightly sweet and creamy— without having to add cream or sugar. Now I’m sad I only ordered a small bag.
The sky outside is crazy dark, it looks like a massive amount of storms are heading my way. Of course I have no idea if it will storm, but I really hope it does, thunderstorms are my favorite form of weather. It really feels like spring today, which I am sure cannot last, but all the snow melting has made everything into mud, which makes for some happy mold spores. But let us focus on a different time of year today.
Today’s tea is Dark Roast Houjicha from Yunomi.us and grown by Obubu Tea Farms in Kyoto Prefecture. This is the third strongest roast of the Houjicha presented by Obubu Tea Farms, described as having a smoky flavor that is both light and sweet, that sounds like my kind of tea. The aroma of this tea is in one word, yummy. But that is a boring description, the aroma is very roasted and mildly smoky with notes of cedar wood and autumn leaves. It very much so smells like the clean and smoky autumn air in a forest, it makes me nostalgic and full of longing for autumn in the mountains.
Brewing the leaves makes the aroma much richer with stronger notes of cedar and hints of earthiness. The tea leaves smell savory, like dried oak leaves and roasted wood. Again it is very evocative of autumn air. The liquid however is sweeter, like freshly mown hay and roasted nuts. There is still notes of cedar smoke but it is much fainter.
Perhaps tasting this tea will infuse me with the essence of autumn, I have no idea what that would even mean but maybe it will take away the longing for mountains. The taste is richly roasted, intensely so, though not intensely smoky like their Smoky Roast Houjicha. There is a mild hint of cedar smoke that blends well with the roasted tea flavor. The tea starts off savory and roasted and fades to sweetness so it is like a hint of honey by the end of the sip. As the tea cools I notice a woody quality and a hint of astringency. Overall I think I like this one just a little more than the Smoky Roast, but I will have to try the other roast levels before I officially name a favorite.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cedar, Honey
Tea #30 from HHTTB2
Thumbing through the reviews, I was glad to see I wasn’t the only one getting the Sencha flavor still coming through in this cup. It’s definitely a unique experience, as I’m used to that flavor being blitzed away through the roasting and replaced with something wholy different.
In any case, this tastes like heavily roasted veggies with a definite nutty and toasty quality. Vegetal, but warm and savory.
And it made me crave smashed parsnips with rosemary and garlic. Huh.