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Recent Tasting Notes
5g of leaf, 210ml Bizen Yaki filled with about 180ml of 190F water starting at 30s and climbing in 30s intervals. With longer steep time this tea reminds me of a cross between pickled ginger and rice vinegar. It’s really unique but delicious. It’s strangely addicting and the fermentation process makes this so very different from the roasted Bancha I’ve had in the past. It also has a way of making me hungry as many Japanese greens tend to do. On a side note a little friend decided to visit before the tea session making the choice in teaware that much more special.
This was my last tasting of the Dark Matter 2016 group buy selections. It’s been quite the little tea adventure, filled with variety and I’ve enjoyed them all! Thanks to all the vendors and to Liquid Proust for putting it all together!
Dark Matter 2016, a tastings collage:
This tea comes in small 2g sachets. Directions are to steep 4 minutes at 90C (194F) in one cup. Hard to say if one cup is 8oz, rather doubtful., probably less is better. I used 208F slightly hotter water and brewed for 2 minutes.
Flavor is malty and sweet, rather like a Yunnan black but nowhere near the strength. Adding milk somewhat kills the delicate profile. I only ordered 50g or 25 tea bags for $9.99 and wish I’d ordered the 500g, but then this is really pricey for tea bags. Not exactly economical if you drink two a day. So it’s back to English tea bags, this is carrying me over until my box from England arrives. I’m trying to stay off coffee in the a.m., but I need milk in tea to buffer my a.m. Meds. The good news is, haven’t had a cup of coffee since mid-December of last year.
Still, have to recommend these as a step up from regular tea bags. Wish I was a tiny Japanese woman using an equally tiny tea cup. I’d feel so elegant and Zen instead, but have to accept I wake up Slavic rolling with a heavy mug. Japan all the way in the afternoon though.
I got a sample teabag of this with an order. Used my regular teabag cup, but the teabag has only 2g of tea, less than a usual teabag so admittedly I may have steeped in too much water. The tea has a slightly marine seaweed odor on the first steep, not unpleasant. I get slight flavor of black tea, but otherwise the color of the brew looked normal with almost no taste. Maybe the sample is old, I don’t know.
I did buy an order of black tea bags of another type from Yunomi, along with some loose leaf too. Will compare to see how those are. But otherwise, I prefer a tannin bite when I drink black tea, that savory sharpness.
Flavors: Char, Marine, Wood
From Dark Matter 2016:
I’ve been looking forward to this one! The leaves are latge whole, and brittle. They have a mottled appearance and honestly look more like something you would find outside on the ground than processed tea. The smell is tart and very much like umeboshi. I used the second set of brewing parameters on the package.
The tea isnt sour but does have just a hint of tartness. The umeboshi flavor is there and a bit of a briney taste. It’s defiantly a savory tea, and goes down smooth. I grew a shiso plant once and preserved the leaves in salt, and this tastes much like those leaves once they were rinsed. I got two good steps out of this. When I first saw this added to the group buy I assumed this was a Japanese take on the shou pu erh, but instead this tastes very much like an anaerobic lactic acid fermentation.
This was about the most unique tea I’ve gotten recently. I can see myself getting this again just to have occasionally. This would be lovely in ochazuke. I might pick up some rice and use the rest of my sample to make it.
Had a friend try this. Their verdict: olives!
Flavors: Plums, Salt, Umami
Tried as part of Dark Matter 2016. I will further preface this review by saying that I hate pickles.
This tea, as expected, smelled like pickles. This, I thought, was not a good thing. I was correct. Along with the vinegary pickle note, there was also something else there in the aroma that in my notes I struggled to describe – attempts included “rubber” and “yeasty?” The smell of the wet leaves was a bit different – more of wet autumn leaves covering a pile of pickles. The taste was sharp, but not bitter – quite sour. It did also have woody notes and some of that strange mystery flavor. I noticed a sweet finish as well. I will admit this is the first tea I gave up on very quickly – I got through three steeps, which all tasted rather similar. Made my stomach feel kind of upset and was not very good in my opinion.
I used 3.5 in a 100mL gaiwan with 190 degree water. With most other teas, I would give them a try with different parameters, but I don’t think i have it in me for this one. For the record, I made sure to drink it with my pickle-loving fiance (she’ll sometimes drink pickle juice straight from the jar – yuck), who also did not enjoy it.
Glad I got the opportunity to try something like this with just a 5g sample. Whatever else it is, it’s certainly interesting.
Flavors: Dill, Sour, Sweet, Wood
It’s my time to try the infamous pickle tea. The vinegar smell was obvious upon opening the bag. I was worried it would be overpowering in the cup, but with a steep on the shorter side I found it to be somewhat enjoyable. I don’t think I’d buy more of this tea, but I’ve enjoyed the few cups I had, possibly more due to it’s uniqueness than a particularly pleasant taste.
Have to disagree with LiquidProust on this one, I and three co-workers smelled it and we all thought it smelled (lightly) of dill pickles—which is definitely strange and different but not an awful smell.
We brewed three cups western style, 1 minute, 2 minute, 3 minutes (starting with 3g and adding 1g to each redrew for a total of 5g).
Brewed, it tastes like it smelled, hot tea with a bit of pickle. I love pickles and all things sour so it hit the spot for me. My two coworkers also enjoyed their cups.
This is one I’d throw some in again if I were ordering something else from Yunomi but probably wouldn’t do an order just for it.
Flavors: Dill, Sour
I drink matcha 4x a week and somehow the last stuff I had from Yunomi lasted a few months which was surprising to me. This is the other matcha I bought during Cyber Monday and I think it works well as a morning matcha. Out of all the matcha I’ve had before, this one whisk the easiest. The color is bit brighter than the last stuff I had and the taste has some more depth to it with a sweet after taste. The texture isn’t as thin as the last stuff; not in comparison for how much powder is used, but for the same amount.
Price wise: I think this will be roughly $13 a month if it last two months for me which means I’m at under $1 per session/morning breakfast. I’ll be looking at Azuma for other products because this one seems to be solid. The can it is in is more appealing as well as the plastic top isn’t so flimsy like other products.
From the Herbal TTB. Amount taken is actually 1.5 tsp. There is some left for another 8oz cup if anyone was wants to try.
18 herbs?!? Wowee. Here they are from the website: Barley tea, job’s tears, sicklepod seeds, cat’s whiskers (herb), dokudami (herb), oolong tea, tumeric, guava leaves, biwa (loquat) leaves, mikan (Japanese mandarin) peels, brown rice, pine leaves, ohbako, benibana, persimmon leaves, amachazuru, sarunokoshikake (fungi), cinnamon.
Oolong. OK. This is not a purely herbal blend then. Considering the number of ingredients and that I’m taking them from a sample packet, there wouldn’t be much of each, including the oolong. Still. This is under the herbal section.
That aside, I have never tasted practically every single one of these ingredients. This blend is difficult to evaluate. I thought I smelled and tasted a solid note of juniper berries. No barley – it wasn’t something I grabbed a lot of. That may have been the sicklepod seeds.
Pleasant cup, but I’m not hooked. You might get something else out of this, so go for it. It is something I’ve never seen before.
Thank heavens Andrew sent me a green tea. I’ve had so much oolongs, blacks, and pu-erhs that I’ve started to get a bit overwhelmed. That is especially true this morning. That Wu Yi varietal was starting to give me a massive headache. The astringency started to follow really badly too.
This green goodness saved my palette. Super fresh, green, and yummy. It distinctly tastes like spinach, asparagus, umami, avocado, and sea weed in a really nice way. Plus I’m personally getting a bit of a creamy, almost oily mouth feel. My stomach is starting to settle. That could just be psychological-veggies can have the tendency to do that to me. It’s so GREEN. I especially like the later steeps. All of them were incredibly short, the longest being 30 sec toward the end. 5-10 sec was the average.
Flavors: Asparagus, Green, Pleasantly Sour, Spinach, Umami, Vegetables
Not bad (Certainly won’t complain for the $3 I spent on 100g of it). With quicker steep times the main flavor I get is one of toasted nuts, especially for the first few steeps. The nuttiness drops off after around 3 steeps, replaced by a light corn-like sweetness. The dry leaves smell strangely of the inside of a pumpkin, and the wet leaves smell like roasted pumpkin seeds. At first I thought this tea was roasted, but I now believe that was simply because I was using too hot of water at first. Not really good enough that I’d go and buy any more of it.
Flavors: Roasted nuts, Sweet
Was planning on waiting until I had a chance to gongfu this. I decided to give up waiting and brewed it western style this morning. It’s quite taste with a sweet fruity note off the bat. This looks and tastes like a black tea, ,not on oolong. The sweet note might be described as plums, perhaps cherries. It hard to pin down. There is little in the way of bitterness or astringency here and I detect no malt.
I brewed this one time in a 16oz teavana glass perfect tea maker/gravity steeper withi 7.2g leaf and 190 degree water for 3 min after a 10 second rinse.
At first sip I didn’t like this tea that much. But as I drink it it is improving. The main note is a kind of a burnt note from the brown rice, not sure how else to describe it. There is a secondary note from the green tea, barely perceptible and somewhat grassy. Overall I like this tea.
I steeped this tea one time with 10g leaf and 190 degree water in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper for 1 min. 10g seems like a lot but those were the Yunomi directions.
Well I’m in the reviewing mood today but have no new teas to review. Ho-hum. I did find this sample from Yunomi which was unopened but past its suggested “drink by” date, so I will leave my impressions gingerly.
I haven’t particularly given much love to my beautiful Tokoname-yaki kyusu lately. I really need to sift through old emails and see if I can figure out who made this thing because it is handmade and is easily the most beautiful and precisely-crafted teaware in my collection.
Anyway, these bancha leaves are the big yellowish green leaves I’m used to seeing. The scent of the leaves after the first infusion is mildly floral and nutty with a bit of the scent of prairie grass in late summer. Most people would use the word hay here, but I like the more idyllic descriptor of golden grasses drying out with splashes of living growth and wildflowers in the mix. It’s a distinct smell. If you’ve gotten to visit any tall prairies you know it, and I grew up among them, so I cant depart it from my memory. The scent of the leaves is also slightly herbal and reminds me of the scent of dry matcha.
The flavor is more enjoyable than I expected, especially from expired tea. It tastes like yellow apple peels and walnuts and packs a pretty decent umami for a bancha. It’s very clean and crisp, quite rich in flavor too. There’s a tart black currant kind of note late in the sip and it lingers. There is a hint of bitterness but I think the tartness and the richness of flavor work together pretty well in hiding it. It has a slightly dry finish as well but a bit of lingering sweetness too.
This tea was relaxing. Good by me. :3
EDIT: I found the aforementioned email and it is made by Shoji Umehara. If you see any of his works, I highly recommend them. My kyusu has the most immaculate lid fit I’ve seen on a teaware (zero wiggle room, but can be rotated smoothly), and the shape and glazing of this kyusu are just perfect.
EDIT EDIT: I found the old Amazon page with pictures of it, though this one I ordered from Chado Tea House (they are the ones who were selling it on Amazon too) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CD8NPTU?tag=tystoyboxpair-20
Flavors: Apple Skins, Black Currant, Floral, Sweet, warm grass, Walnut
This is a tasty black tea. There is little malt, bitterness, or astringency. It’s got a nice somewhat sweet, barely perceptible spicy note to it. I’m not sure what to call the sweet note. The website just describes it as mild and fragrant. This is accurate but I’m not sure how to describe the fragrance involved. The dry leaves had an odd smell to them but I didn’t get any of that in the brew.
I brewed this once in a Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 190 degree water for 2 min.
This is an interesting black tea. It’s got something of a spicy note to it that I almost mistook for wet storage taste. But this tea is I think a 2015 black tea so it shouldn’t have any storage taste. The spicy taste has something of a bitter character to it I guess. Not sure if I would buy this one again but it is an interesting tea.
I steeped this tea once in a Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 190 degree water for 3 min.
The third and final tencha sample… so sad to not have any more.
The first one I had was the best by far, the sweet tender taste… so good.
This leaf however would out preform it in regards to being matcha. Why is that? Simple: This leaf keeps the vegetable integrity while having a slight sweetness to it. A combination like that is key for a matcha, but for a loose leaf tea I like my sweets so this ranks in #2. I really like the Yunomi series based teas that are put together. I think I might get suckered into getting the aged green Japanese tea leaf one which is 2014 and 2015 side by side.
I got the best news from my phone today, clearly the weather gods have heard my cries, because guess what is happening on Friday? Yes, snow! It will only be an inch and technically it is a day after my birthday, but whatever, until I move far to the north (or in the mountains) this might be as close as I get to a blizzard on my birthday! If all goes well it will be late at night so I can get my gallivanting done early in the day and then just enjoy the snowy night.
Today’s tea is a bit of an opposite to the weather, here we are on the cusp of winter, and I am talking about one of the iconic spring teas! Yunomi’s Takeo Tea Farm: Limited Organic Shincha (Isecha), #3 “Ume” it is a Shincha, or the earliest harvest, is probably some of the most coveted Sencha, it is immensely fresh and a bit of a pain to get stateside, I am usually lucky to get a sample of it a year, and this is my 2015 Shincha. I got my sample right at the same time that Yunomi switched website, and my only complaint about the new site is the lack of interesting information, it used to be each of the teas would have a lot of details about them, now only some do…and this particular one is sparse on details. The aroma of the leaves is, well, it is also a bit sparse, very faint notes of kelp and spinach with a touch of fresh lettuce, but really this is a faint, faint, Shincha.
Into my tiny kyusu the leaves go for a nice steeping, one day I will have the shiboridashi I ordered, but slow shipping is slow. I love these tiny leaves, but they are a pain to clean out of the screen, so I look forward to a shiboridashi. The aroma of the leaves is still really mild, notes of spinach and kelp with a gentle grassiness at the finish. The liquid has almost no aroma at all, I was beginning to worry my nose had failed me, but after sniffing some familiar things I was sad to admit that this tea just smells like faint grass water.
I admit to some apprehension, see taste is mostly smell, the olfactory system is so intertwined with the sense of taste (the gustatory system) that usually if it is lacking, the food is lacking. One of the reasons I loathe having a stuffy nose, I tend to panic if I can’t smell or taste properly, not sure if that is an offshoot of my sensory disorder or a normal reaction, clearly I need to take a poll! Ok, enough waffling, this tea did not live up to my past experiences with Shincha…and I find myself wondering if I accidentally ordered the 2014 harvest, but since I remember getting the 2015 and my package did not have the harvest date on it I can’t be sure. The taste is like buttery spinach water and a gentle nutty finish, and that is it. I tried for a second steep just to see if a higher temperature would help, but nope, this tea was just not on its game. This is the first time I have been disappointed by a tea from Yunomi, but I didn’t want the rest of my sample to go to waste, I gave it to a friend who absolutely loved it…proving once again, that taste is subjective and there is a tea for everyone out there somewhere.
Green tea season is over for me due to the weather change, but Yunomi had recently put up this spring harvest sencha with the name dragon in it… I’m a sucker for such things so I picked it up with my banchas for the winter.
Here’s the thing: This leaf is small and ugly, but after trying this… I can safely say that the price was worth it. At something like $20 an ounce (for the sample price) that’s steep. This is the second best Japanese green tea I’ve had, behind the Okinawa shincha which was mind blowing good. The long lingering mouth feel is slimely with a taste of vegetable goodness. What confuses me about this tea is it’s overall taste and aftertaste. I’ve used three cups to taste this because each time I get the sensation that I just ate a cooked vegetable. I’m not sure if I like that or not, but it’s pretty dang cool. The leaf once brewed is still small and ugly, but I’m after taste and it is giving me a wonderful taste with an interesting experience.
First, I need to just point out that Yunomi is growing to be something much bigger and better than what it was when I had the group buy earlier this year. Their new site, the new cultivators, and just… everything! I’m impressed and excited to see what is to come.
Anyways, I was very excited when I saw a tencha sampler. A must buy for me :)
This is one very interesting experience. The taste is pure Japanese tea freshness. The odd part though is how it taste like matcha which is probably the way everyone has always tencha, rather than loose leaf. It’s somewhat hard to explain without sounding nasty, but to tencha taste like a non thick version of matcha. Smooth with an ending velvety vegetable taste that lingers briefly. This was the first of the three that I have drank and I have no negative remarks beside the pricing of tencha which is understandable.
I think I have an obsession with Liches (who Ben swears the plural is Lichen, and I am not sure I want to agree with that or not) I just absolutely love them! To me, painting a magical armor wearing or magic slinging skeleton glowing with undead magical energy is just the best thing, I might like painting them more than I do monsters. There are currently more Liches (my blue banshee totally counts) on my tea table then elves and monsters, and I am in the market for more…yep, I totally have an obsession. I blame Tolkien, since I am pretty sure my love for them started with the Nazgul and Barrow Wights…or maybe it came from the creepy Horned King from The Black Cauldron?
Today we are taking a trip to Japan for something beautiful and green, Yunomi’s Obubu #5 Kirameki No Sencha, Shaded Summer Green Tea. From the Kyoto Obubu Tea Farm in, you guessed it, Kyoto, this Sencha is shaded for two weeks before harvesting, giving it a lightness after its strong summer sunlight. The name, Kirameki no Sencha is evocative of shimmering light dancing on water, and that sounds beautiful, and I am a little sad I am drinking this so late in the year, it sounds like the perfect summer drink. Now, before I get into the way these leaves smell, I have to say wow, these are some big leaves! Very large, especially for a Sencha, I was very impressed by their pine needle like appearance and color. Ok, that aside, sniffing time! The leaves are at first nutty and sweet, notes of sesame seeds and a gentle honey sweetness, then it starts to get an umami note of toasted nori which blends really well with the sesame seed notes. The finishing notes are freshly mown grass and a sharp bell pepper greenness which lingers in the nose.
Into my tiny kyusu the leaves go, and the aroma coming of the now wet leaves is quite green! Fresh kelp and toasted nori blended with asparagus and cooked bell peppers. Undertones of fresh grass and a touch of sweet hay cut through the mostly savory notes. The liquid is sweet and warm, like sunlight on a summer day, where it has warmed the grass and hay, blending the aromas of nature. Underneath that is a gentle nuttiness and just the tiniest hint of kelp and sea air.
The first steeping is clean and smooth, the mouthfeel is very light, I can see why this tea is described as one that is good for a summer day, a combination of a lower brewing temperature and lightness would be very refreshing when it is hot. It starts with notes of lettuce and fresh kelp, cut grass and a touch of sea air. Then it moves to gentle sesame seeds and builds to a gentle sweetness that lingers into the aftertaste. The transition between umami and sweet is gradual and not jarring, which I always find quite nice.
Second steeping, the aroma is sweeter, no sea air or kelp to be found, just honey, sesame seeds, and grass. This steeping was smooth like the first, but the mouthfeel is more buttery than light, giving it a bit more depth. It is greener this time around, and not just in color, notes of kelp and spinach with a touch of grass and a finish of sesame seeds at the finish. Usually Sencha makes me feel energized, hilariously right after drinking this one I fell asleep, that was a first!