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2013 Sencha of the Earth:
I purchased the Alfredo and Akky Tea Box from Tealet fairly recently, and today I’ll be looking at the Sencha of the Earth from Obubu Tea. Before I get to the tea itself, I want to talk about the packaging a little. This was my first order from Tealet, even though I’ve known about Tealet for quite some time, I’ve never bought anything before because for the most part Tealet sells their teas by 15g, which is something of a weird increment to sell by when most tea stores sell either 25-28gs or an ounce for the smallest non-sample sized available, but I decided to buy the Alfreddo and Akky Tea Box because it was fairly inexpensive and I had an overwhelming desire to finally try some of their sourced teas. I like the idea and spirit behind Tealet, but I’d be more comfortable buying teas from them in the future if they increased the amount of tea, even if that means raising the price.
The dry leaf had a peppery vegetable smell and had the standard sencha look, mostly unbroken, but there were little bits of shredded leaf; mostly green, but with a little light yellow thrown in. Regardless I started brewing at 175 °F in my houhin for one minute. Immediately I could smell a green bean aroma while the taste was mostly nutty, but I could also distinguish both bark and something sweet, although there was some bitterness as well. I’d like the bitterness to be more pronounced, but this steeping was fine, right now it was sweeter than being bitter and has a pleasant astringency. It had a a very pleasant mouthfeel, a little thicker then what one’d expect for a Japanese tea.
For my next steeping I brewed at 180 °F for one and half minutes. This time the aroma was nutty and maybe a little seaweed. While the taste was drastically different from the last; this time it had a strong nutty taste, a mild seaweed taste and very mild honey notes. This infusion was still sweeter then bitter, but not as sweet as the last. I am starting to like this tea more. Generally I like bitterness in Japanese greens.
For my third steeping I brewed at 185 °F for two minutes. This was my favorite infusion; it had a perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness. The aroma was pretty much gone by now, but it still had a nutty taste, almost like a Long Jing, but a little more grassy this time, it still had a sweetness there, but it was a little muted. While it did not have the same mouthfeel of the first and second infusion, this was by far my favorite steeping
I got three more infusions out of the leaves, but after the third they became very light. Overall I rather enjoyed this tea. I haven’t had much luck with Japanese teas this year, but this is definitely my favorite Sencha that I tried (although I still have two more in the Tealet Tea Box, so who knows if it will still be my favorite afterwards). This Sencha of The Earth revitalized my interest in Japanese greens, and I’ll have to keep my eye on Obubu Tea.
The very last of the Tealet tea boxes! This is a good one to end on. The tea has a really beautiful scent — honey and sweet peas. There’s some raw sweet pea flavor too, but mineral is the dominant flavor, and the pea is kind of an undernote. Right now this one’s vying with Sencha of the Spring Sun for the role of My Favorite Sencha. Spring Sun is smoother and mellower, something I generally look for in tea, but Wind has really interesting flavor. Hmmm, I’ll have to have a few more cups to decide.
The label mentions a combination of sweetness and bitterness — I’m not really getting either. I do get lots of creamy pinenut flavor though. The tea is having a drying effect on my throat — normally I find this comes with astringency, so it seems kind of at odds with such a mellow tea.
Anyway, not crazy about the drying sensation, but love the flavor.
The instructions recommended using 1.5 Tablespoons of this, but I suspect that’s a typo (how could you possibly need 1.5 T of shincha?). This tea gets 5 out of 5 caffeine marks, and remembering how buzzed I got on the last tea that was marked that high, I used a scant teaspoon, and I find it is plenty strong.
I was curious to see whether this tea would really taste like buttered asparagus, as promised on the label, and it does! The stony mineral notes are also there, giving it a little zip, but it is primarily a smooth buttery vegetable tea. Good to focus with, as the caffeine brings plenty of alertness but the flavor is soothing. The steeped leaves are lime green, and the liquor is a pale gold.
Many thanks to AllanK for the steeping tips! This one turned out much better than my previous attempt at pu’er. I did the rinse, then a 30 sec. steep, a 15 sec. steep, and then 30 sec. again., and every time it seemed to gain a bit of flavor, so I’ll probably try a few more steeps later.
The predominant note in this was earthiness; I gather that is a common trait of pu’erhs. It also has a light touch of cloves. A pleasant tea for fall sipping, and far better than the spice bonanza teas I keep getting in the mail as free samples. I guess that’s the hazard you run of ordering tea in autumn.
Hooray, Steepster seems to be up again (at least for now).
There are obvious similarities between this and the Gopaldhara Wonder — they’re both darjeelings with strong muscatel notes. They come from the same farm and, I suspect, the very same plants, but this one is a first flush and the wonder is a second flush.
I guess it’s unsurprising then that this one tastes noticeably “younger.” The liquor looks and tastes greenish. A very spring tea.
After having sampled all the Gopaldhara teas a few times now, I can say that this one is my favorite. I guess I must be a fan of the second flush, because the younger harvests of darjeeling just seem too raw to me. While you still get that distinctive muscatel flavor in this, the overall flavor is richer and more rounded, though still light enough for an afternoon tea.
The card that came with this touts it as an “unparalleled” example of darjeeling. I have to admit that I simply don’t have the darjeeling experience to know if this lives up to the advertising.
But it does have strong muscatel flavor, and the sort of papery teabag flavor that I’ve found in previous darjeelings is happily absent. So high marks for that. I thought that darjeelings usually have just a touch of grape flavor, and I don’t find that in this, so maybe it’s not as common as I thought. It has nice olivey-brown whole leaves, and steeps up quite light for a black tea.
I’ve always avoided pu’ers because they seemed more than my meager tea-making tools could handle (and because I have no idea what to do with those big cakes). But fortunately this one doesn’t seem too daunting. The small clump broke apart easily and the directions said use a teaspoon, so I just steeped it like normal tea.
BUT unfortunately, I accidentally left it for 5 minutes when it was only supposed to get 30 seconds. It’s definitely stronger than it ought to be. Wow. I’ll just have to try this again some time when I’m paying more attention. Fortunately there’s enough for a few more attempts.
This reminds me of the Nepali silver, in that it is an oolong with olive and musk melon notes. This is a smoother, milder take on those flavors though. The leaves are small but whole, slightly bronzed. They look a bit like Russian olive leaves. The liquor is a light golden brown. While this isn’t my favorite style of oolong, it tastes very wholesome and natural, and now and then it makes for a nice change from the floral oolongs.
There’s an unusual amount of natural sweetness in this unflavored black tea. Bold plum and wine notes. Honestly, I was so surprised at how fruity it was that I kept wondering if I had scrubbed the steeper out well enough after previously brewing herbals, but I find the fruit flavor mentioned in several other notes, so it’s not just me. I love fruit, so very pleased with this one!
I got a few dragon wells in a Teavivre sampler and really missed them when they ran out, so I was excited to find some in the Tealet boxes. Definitely tasting similarities between this and Teavivre’s, but while theirs was decidedly savory, this has some sweet and nutty notes along with vegetal flavors. I didn’t know there was such a range. Really nice, can’t wait to try the other dragon wells :)
The wiry leaves in this are so dark I was under the impression it was a black tea until I checked the label. Instructions said to use 2 tsp. and I took my best shot at that — it comes as such a tangled mass that it’s difficult to separate any and impossible to measure.
Dry this smells of citrus and hay. The wet leaves smell like sweet seaweed. It does taste like a green tea, but a very dark robust one. Now I taste the citrus AND the seaweed. It’s astringent, but only mildly. Not unpleasant.
Overall, this is a green tea with a LOT of character. Very interesting. Definitely worth trying.
p.s. It stands up very well to a second steep. No loss of flavor at all.
Eh, this is my first houjicha and I don’t know what to make of it. It looks like miniature wood shavings. It smells like licorice. And boiling water, really? Is that how they’re usually prepared? The flavor reminds me a bit of some of the more mushroomy oolongs I’ve tried – like se chung and wu yi – but it’s not as strong. Loamy and woodsy. I don’t know, I think this one might just not be for me.
Smells like brown sugar. Tastes like it a bit too, and also has some malt and a touch of citrus flavor, just like the label promises. This is another Plucky orange pekoe, and the flavor certainly has a great deal in common with the other pekoes I’ve tried from them, but the differences are noticeable. The OP1s had strong honey notes, while this one leans toward the darker side with the malt and burnt sugar notes. It’s also quite a bit brisker.
Mmm, I could smell the honeysuckle the moment I opened the tin. Now that I’ve had 4 or 5 honeyish oolongs from Taiwan, it’s dawning on me that this is no coincidence, this is the place honey oolongs come from, and my ears perk up now every time I hear the name. Such a great flavor. As The Snooty Tea Person noted, this one also has some interesting seaweed notes, and though it’s not something I’d think would go with the floral side of the tea, it actually tastes quite good.