Shirakata Denshiro Shoten
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Recent Tasting Notes
My second go at this oolong.
This time i tried 9g for my 180ml kyusu.
Added boiling water for 1:30.
The result was interesting.
First i notice som viscosity, pretty smooth.
Then i notice a strong flavor of cinnamon that soon turns to astringency and a bit bitter aftertaste.
Usually in japanese blacks with little astringency i tend to try using quite alot of leaf to bring out the flavor. 8-10g / 180ml. But for this tea it was slightly to much. Next time i either use 7-8g leaf or lover time to 1:15.
Second infusion for 1min / boiling. A bit to short it seems. Cinnamon still there but a bit more fruity and much lighter then the first cup.
Let this be a lesson… how you brew a tea matters!
I’ve tried experimenting and brewing this tea multiple ways, how I would expect to brew an oolong. Boiling water for 2-4 minutes. Gongfu style, boiling water, starting at 10 seconds and increasing by a little each infusion, etc. etc. I even tried brewing it like a gyokuro; 140F for 2minutes; this probably yielded the best results. (Also, each time I tried to use a 1g/1oz water ratio.) I kept feeling like I wasn’t getting the whole picture. Most of the time, it tasted overcooked or weak.
So I finally contacted them to ask how best to brew it (since the information was not on the website). The answer I got back was simple… boiling water for 1 minute, 30 seconds. Ok… I hadn’t tried that yet, why not?!
So yesterday evening, I used 3g of leaf (of the last 6g, out of the total 1oz), put it in the pre-warmed kyusu and followed the suggestion, not really expecting a significantly different result. I also let the tea cool off a bit once I had decanted; I thought that I’d probably been drinking it too quickly, so it was hot enough to (likely) limit the aroma/flavors I could detect. And the result?
I was blown away by the result. Each sip was incredible and I felt so excited to have my expectations so turned on their head. I’ve haven’t had a moment with a tea like this in a while!
It started, as I said on the previous note, similar to sencha; slightly bitter and sweet at the beginning. In the middle it became rounder and creamier, and had a heaviness similar to gyokuro. I’m not exactly sure why it reminded me of gyokuro— probably the presence of umami. Finally, it finished very sweet and fruity, like cooked fruit or apricots or peaches. It was a flavor that very much reminded me of the fruit you might get from phoenix oolong (the limited experience I’ve had with these).
The combination of the bitter/sweet qualities of sencha and the creaminess of a milk oolong and the fruit of a phoenix oolong was amazing. This tea went from being interesting and glad to have at least learned something to being… uh oh, I am really going to have to buy more at some point. I just wish it was easier to obtain!
The only reason this isn’t getting a higher rating is because it is quite picky, and the incredible first infusion really is the best one. The subsequent ones were still quite good, but I could tell it is still a delicate tea, and could easily become overcooked or weak. However, a jump from 68 to 94 is something I never expected to experience, and it was quite fun!
I have had the hardest time figuring this tea out!
My first expectation was that it would be similar to a phoenix oolong or another dark oolong. However, it is more like a dark green oolong, in that the liquor is a light greenish-yellow (rather than amber, red, or gold); but like a darker oolong, there is little sweetness nor floral notes present.
The leaves are rolled (mostly) lengthwise, so they are still somewhat long (not rolled up like a ball, but more like phoenix oolong). They aren’t completely black or dark either, there is a slight hunter green hint to them. And they open huge, so it is clearly a hand-picked tea.
There isn’t a strong aroma present, I find mostly the more savory notes you might find from shaded tea, like gyokuro— slightly bitter, very slight marine, and an underlying sweetness that just refuses to come out as much as I’d like. The main flavor the tea leaves in the mouth is strange and unique, like squash or gourd vegetables. Later steeps often taste a bit overcooked, unfortunately.
Like I said, I’ve had a very hard time figuring this tea out; not only what it’s supposed to be like, but how to brew it. However, the more I think of it like a sencha or gyokuro, the more I’ve enjoyed it. I think when I recognized these similarities to other Japanese teas (after drinking and experimenting with most of the ounce I bought!), the more I found redeemable and enjoyable things about it.
That being said, finding a good Japanese oolong is something I’ll still be keeping my eyes open for.
This was like a typical hashiri shincha (first of the first flush).
Like these, it has a very fresh, young bitterness that is delicious, and accompanied by a sweet aftertaste.
Unlike your typical one though, the leaves were perfect… almost all fully intact and beautiful. The look is definitely reflected in the taste… a highlight of this year’s crop!
I think of the two ‘artisan’ shinchas offered by Shirakata Denshiro Shoten, this one slightly edges out the other (Moriuti Yoshio’s shincha), but barely.
Opening the package revealed the most beautiful green needles I’ve ever seen (that weren’t hand rolled ‘temomi’). They were long and uniform, and the package contained very little broken leaves.
I’m just on my 2nd steep, and it is so delicious. It has that fresh bitterness of shincha, but is well balanced – smooth, sweet, thick, nice umami and a little bit of fresh veggies.
After the cup is empty, my throat is still full of sweetness and a tiny hint of the bitterness; such great tea!