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Recent Tasting Notes
Another nice sencha from Yunomi. I’m starting to think I should try all of my sencha with a long first steep (2m), because I almost always prefer the results with that long first steep. This tea had the classic buttery, nutty, grassy sencha aroma. The first steep was thick with buttery grassy notes and a deep umami flavor. In the next steep, that umami tended more towards bitterness, and I also picked up a bit of a vegetal flavor along with the grassiness. A couple subsequent steeps gave me thinner liquid but still decent grassy flavor. I’m finding it quite fun to pound through these sencha :)
Also, I got an instagram now!
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Nutty, Spinach, Toasty, Umami
Another 2016 Yunomi sample! I think this is the first time I’ve disagreed with Yunomi’s recommended brewing parameters. They recommended doing a 30s steep with 160F, followed by steeps of 10s and 40s at 175F. Doing it this way, the first steep was a bit light, while the next two steeps were very bitter! I found it better keeping the water temp low, and doing steeps of 1m, 30s, 1m, 2m all with 160F water.
The first steep was sweet and grassy, a bit buttery, with a very slight underlying bitterness. The aftertaste was a juicy sweet grassiness to me.
The second steep was much the same, with a slightly increased bitterness. The liquid from this steep was an amazingly vibrant green color.
The bitterness did not increase in the third or fourth steeps. The nice grassy flavors did get a little lighter, and I think on the third steep I encountered a bit of a vegetal spinach flavor as well.
Good tea, but I didn’t like it the way Yunomi recommended I brew it this time!
Flavors: Bitter, Butter, Grass, Spinach, Sweet
Oh yay! According to the Accuweather the heat is supposed to be easing up, no more mid to high 90s, low 90s and high 80s with some storms starting tomorrow. Still hotter than I would like, but it is so much more tolerable! I just hope my peeps on the east coast get a break soon, my poor mom is melting. I hope it is cool enough to go back to the zoo soon, I have a $5 coupon for taking a survey and I want a new trinket for my tea desk, specifically a new tea pet.
Today I am looking at Yunomi’s Onocha: Yamaguchi Shincha Green Tea, a 2015 Shincha from the Yamaguchi Prefecture. I goofed a bit, when I was ordering some samples of Shincha I accidentally got some of last years, so I was expecting it to be faded…but a good way to break in my new glorious Shiboridashi. Well, the aroma surprised me, the leaves smelled immensely fresh and crisp! Notes of edamame, fresh cut hat, sesame seeds, and fresh sea air. It balances sweetness from the nutty notes and savory really quite deliciously, I spent the entire time my kettle was heating up with my nose in the leaves.
Into my new shibo the leaves go, and yes that beauty will get its own blog post soon, The aroma of the steeped leaves green! Very green, strong notes of kelp, edamame, spinach, and freshly cut grass waft up with a crisp hay and a light broccoli note as well. If this tea smells so intense being a year old, I can only imagine the intensity of it fresh. The liquid is subtle, gentle notes of hay and cut grass blend with equally delicate notes of edamame and sea air. It smells crisp and refreshing, like a breeze off the coast on a hot day.
The first steep is wonderfully light while being full of flavor. It starts with a note of sweet snap peas and edamame, then moves to freshly cut grass and sweetgrass, with a touch of hay. The finish brings the umami with gentle kelp and sea air, with a subtle starchy rice aftertaste. This tea hit the spot on a hot day, it was so refreshing.
Ah, the second steep is a beautiful shade of rich green, with a sharp grassy, savory spinach, and subtly sweet snap pea note. It starts brisk and grassy, with an accompanying note of hay and spinach. It then gets a slight astringent quality in the middle reminiscent of Brussels sprouts and alfalfa sprouts, this fades pretty quickly to edamame and sesame seed with a kelp finish. It has the right amount of bite and the right amount of sweet making for a very balanced cup.
Got this in a trade with JK7Ray a little way’s back. Pretty good stuff – had a flavor unlike most other sencha I’ve tried. I thought it was best with the method espoused on Yunomi’s site. The warm leaves had the classic sencha aroma with some green, grassy nuttiness. The flavor was grassy with an odd sweet note that I had trouble placing. It was an unusual earthy flavor. At first I thought it might be fruit, buuut decided it wasn’t. It was not sugar, honey, caramel, or anything like that. It was also slightly reminiscent of petrichor. Hard to place. When I did a longer first steep, it was almost too sweet – that weird flavor was kind of overpowering. A pretty decent sencha.
Flavors: Grass, Green, Nutty, petrichor, Sweet
Curse my phone to the bowels of the abyss! I want to join the party and play Pokemon Go! but the blasted phone won’t let me, I am so sad. Granted I don’t leave my house much, but it would have been nice if I could have had fun with it when I did go out and about. I am, of course, being entertained by the internet explosion that it has unleashed, so at least I get the vicarious joy.
Today’s tea is a fun one! Recently a bunch of samples arrived from Japan via my pretty much one stop shop for all things Japanese, Yunomi! Many samples of Shincha, but also some of the more unusual stuff like dark tea and some black teas, like Chakouan: Ureshino Black Tea Leaf Stems. From the Chakouan Tea Shop in Ureshino, this is similar to the green tea Kukicha (as in it being a pile of stems) but is processed as a black tea (or Wakoucha) making for a uniquely pretty tea. What can I say, I am a sucker for teas that use the stems, it seems very efficient. The aroma is light and brisk with a surprising crispness, notes of sandalwood, malt, gentle raw peanuts, and a touch of tomato leaf. It is not a very potent aroma, but what is there is distinct and a little odd, but pleasant.
Into my shiboridashi the stems went, ah I do love this shibo, but I have a new one on the way that is more perfectly suited for Japanese teas and I am so excited. The stems float on top of the water, which looked really quite pretty. The aroma is malty and a bit tomato, usually I find a black tea with tomato notes smells like sun dried or leaf, but this is fresh tomato note. Alongside these notes are sandalwood and a bit of potato starch. The liquid smells very light, crisp and refreshing (not something I associate with black teas usually) with gentle notes of malt and sandalwood with a touch of starch.
The first steep is immensely light, it has the crisp refreshing quality of a green but with none of the green notes. It starts with a gentle woody notes, sandalwood and tea wood, with a touch of fruit wood. There are notes of black pepper and malt with a slightly savory finish. This might be the most refreshing black tea I have ever tasted. I went for another steep, because how could I not? This one was still light but had a bit more complexity of flavor, taking the previous notes and and adding a starchy rice milk note along with a subtle sweetness in the middle. This tea is in a whole different ballpark than the usual hong cha or western style black teas I have had, it is wonderfully light and refreshing, I find myself wondering what it would be like iced.
Naturally, I don’t really know what to expect from this new kind of tea. It might probably taste like mix of green and black or something completely different.
The aroma of tea is completely unique, I haven’t met another tea like this. Malt with cacao, wood and fruits. The aroma is not strong, it’s fairly mellow and soft and reminds me from Assam teas from India. I was waiting for something closer to Darjeeling or Chinese black teas, but this is far from those.
Small 10g package has crushed some leaves for good. Luckily, most of them are fine. Leaves are dark brown with reddish brown stems.
Yunomi suggest to steep 5g in 200-300ml of water, but I don’t own a pot that size. Closest one is my new 145ml Ruyao-teapot, that will have to do. I compensated the size by putting only 3g of tea.
Steeped leaves have extraordinary aroma. I think I can smell some carrot and broccoli. Generally the fragrance is vegetal and sweet. The color of the brew is dark amber.
Yup, the flavour is as weird as the aroma. I haven’t tasted anything like this before. It has some kicking tannins with floral aftertaste. Spicy start with tannins, red berries and vegetal carrots and broccoli. It has also some funky orange zest note.
Really, really weird tea. Not in a negative way though. It is really entertaining tea. It could be compared to a roller coaster, the flavour has a lot of unexpected turns, ups and downs. That is how quickly the flavour chances.
I tried Haruo Ogoses wakoucha as a milder version and to be honest, it was better for my tastes. Taste is the same, but not as crazy and strong. I can suggest trying this tea if you want to try something completely different.
Full review with photos:
Flavors: Berries, Broccoli, Carrot, Floral, Orange Zest, Pepper, Sweet, Tannin, Vegetables, Vegetal
The first time I had this tea was on Liquid Proust’s trunk in the parking lot of a strip mall, because tea time can truly be any time. I think the water was much hotter than today’s brewing. The flavors I got were in the range of bitter, grassy, seaweedy, and cucumber. There was also a bit of buttery flavor. These would appear and disappear based on LP’s steeping times.
I’m kind of amazed at how different this tea tastes today.
I took the kettle to 165 (a little higher than recommended) and had several sessions as it cooled. First couple of steeps were flashed, and then I increased the time up to a minute as the leaf wore out.
The first couple of brews were an almost overwhelming mushroom flavor that lingered on the palate for a while. The buttery taste and creamy mouthfeel came in and blended well with the mellowed mushroom flavor as the kettle cooled and the leaf settled. There was also a “green” sort of taste that I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe, but it was a dark green (yeah, the synesthesia is kicking in).
Every once in a while, there was a slight hint of bitterness or a little drying on the back of the palate, but this would disappear and reappear between steeps.
My thanks to LP for giving me a bit to sample again!
Flavors: Butter, Creamy, Cucumber, Freshly Cut Grass, Green, Mushrooms, Seaweed
This tea, despite being the cheapest tea in my Yunomi order (I think anyways) was quite tasty. The main area where I noticed a difference was longevity. With all the other teas in this box so far, I’ve been able to get at least three really tasty steeps, whereas this one was basically just the first steep. Yes, I drank the next couple after it, but they paled in comparison.
So, that representative first steep: I used 5g with 175F water for 1m as recommended on the package. The brewed leaves smelled grassy and sweet with a touch of astringency. Basically like a sencha but not quite as nutty I think. The flavor was good, but unexpected. I got grassy sweetness with the unmistakable aftertaste of caraway seeds (the little seeds in rye bread). It was weird. I don’t know if it was a trick of the mind and flavor association, but the tea started tasting a little bready about halfway through the cup. This first steep had not detectable astringency. In my second session, I did a longer first steep at 90s. I felt this ruined the tea lol. Failed experiment. With that longer first steep I got a decent bit of astringency and didn’t get the cool caraway flavor.
In both sessions, my subsequent steeps were much flatter in flavor with a pretty prominent bitterness. The second steep did still boast a slightly sweet grassy aftertaste, but it was unremarkable.
I almost wrote that this was a lower tier of tea than the rest of what I’ve been drinking, but corrected myself, remembering that this is a “raw” tea. Having looked that up, it seems to mean unsorted, so there’s still all kinds of stuff like stems and parts of the leaf not usually used in sencha still in there. It’s interesting to be able to drink something at this stage of production. And while it was good, I think that a direct comparison with a finished and/or blended sencha makes it obvious why production usually goes further than the aracha stage.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Grass
This is my first time trying a Houjicha – I enjoyed it :) I used the temperature recommended on the bag – 195F, with steeps of 60s, 30s, then 2m. The aroma of the leaves after the first steep was a bit overwhelming, at first I thought it just smelled like charcoal, then I gave it a second whiff and smelled what seems to me like roasted pumpkin seeds – come to think of it, I had a different roasted Japanese green (wasn’t Houjicha I don’t think), that had a similar aroma. This one smelled better though. The liquor was a beautiful amber color, true to the tea’s name. The first steep was the best in my opinion, that nice and sweet roastiness reminding me of coffee (not in flavor really…just the roastiness).
The roast flavor wasn’t as strong in subsequent steeps, which to some people seems to be nicer, but I really enjoyed the roast in this one, so I found the subsequent steeps to be a bit lacking. Still had a nice burnt sweetness to it – caramel or brown sugar, but not overwhelmingly sweet. Certainly a robust and enjoyable tea to drink. The pumpkin seed flavor was also kind of there throughout – it was the underlying flavor that was sweetened by the roast I suppose.
Flavors: Roasted, Sweet
My first Gyokuro! I tried to do it at least kind of like the “traditional Gyokuro” way I’ve seen in a few places online. First steep used really cool water, probably around 130F for 2 minutes. On this steep, I also used a good deal less water than I normally do (I have an 8 oz kyusu, which I normally fill around halfway to use my 4oz teacup when drinking Japanese greens – I just filled it a bit under halfway on this one). This first steep was kind of outta this world. Super thick, umami vegetal flavors. First time I’ve felt any qi from a non-puerh tea. It was crazy good. After that, I did a steep at 195F for about 12s, as suggested on the bag. That steep was also good – lots of umami and that strong vegetal grassy taste as well, though nowhere near as powerful as the first. After that, I kept the water at 195 and did a few more steeps – I think 20s, 30s, 45s maybe. They all still had some umami which may have started to trend more towards bitterness while still keeping a decently thick texture with a nice and sweet grassy aftertaste. I definitely need to put more Gyokuro on my next Yunomi order – which I’m already working on, having been inspired by this one :)
Flavors: Grass, Umami, Vegetal
Apparently I accidentally ordered the 2015 version of this tea instead of the fresher 2016. Oops! Oh well, drinking it anyways. I could tell this one wasn’t as fresh as the others I’d been drinking. I got much better results with this one keeping temperatures/steep times a bit lower. When I used a longer first steep (2m), the astringency was a little out of control throughout the whole session. With the shorter first steep time of 1m, it was a much more balanced session, as is advertised in the tea’s description. Bitterness and astringency certainly were present, but did not overwhelm the sweeter flavor. Main taste I got in this was grassiness with some vegetal notes – these were not the crisp and fresh vegetable flavors I was tasting in fresher shincha but almost reminded me of some kind of squash I think. Decent, and maybe the 2016 would’ve been better, but this one was a little disappointing.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Grass, Vegetal
Did this one with both a really long first steep and in my more normal method, like I did with my last shincha. I liked this one better. The leaf fragments seemed noticeably larger in this one.
First session: (160F) 2m, (180F) 20s, 45s, (190F) 60s, then one long steep at ~175.
The first steep was certainly bitter, but it was a bitterness which lent the tea such wonderful depth when combined with the thick texture and succulent green floral note that I got out of this. At least that’s what it seemed like to me. I also could’ve been getting some of that umami flavor and struggling to describe it. Second steep had a touch of bitterness left to it, gone by the third. Those two steeps had a sweet vegetal flavor, like peas or green beans with a slight grassiness. This shincha is a lot less grassy than the last one I tried. The last two steeps were notably clearer and had a gentle, sweet vegetal taste.
Second Session: (160F) 1m, 30s (175F) 45s, 1m (158F) a longer steep.
This one definitely had a sweeter first brew with that sweet beany vegetal flavor in the fore. It also had a toasty flavor which reminded me of sweet bread – this is something I didn’t get at all in the last session. The second steep was vegetal with a grassy aftertaste, the strongest I tasted the grassiness in this tea. My next two steeps were grassy/vegetal with a really nice sweet fruity aftertaste, reminding me of melon. Last steep was, like in the previous session, a softer echo of the vegetal flavor I had been getting. This was a pretty nice one.
Flavors: Beany, Bitter, Floral, Grass, Melon, Sweet, Toasty, Vegetal
I’m quite excited for my package from Yunomi – my first decently sized order from them. I have very little experience with Japanese Green tea, but I got a cool starter set from Den’s Tea (just a kyusu really), and figured I’d give some shincha a try this year! So I have about 10-15 different shinchas to try, and this is the first one I randomly pulled out of the box.
I tried two different brewing methods – the one I’ve been using for the few sencha I’ve tried, and then the “Warm water” method recommended on Yunomi’s site. My method is 160 degrees with steep times of 1m, 30s (raise temp to 170), 30-45s, (raise temp to 180 – sometimes), 60s.
The other method was 160 degrees, steep times of 2m (raise temp to 180), 20s, (raise temp to 190), 45s, (raise temp to 212), 60s. This seemed weird to me, especially with the really long first brew and the high temps at the end (granted, the site said to use “hotter” temps on subsequent steeps, only being as specific as 180-212F).
I’m afraid that, as I have little experience with this sort of tea, my reviews may all be similar – It will probably take me time to differentiate the flavors I’m tasting in these teas, just as it did with the puerh tea I’ve been drinking more of. So far though, it seems that Japanese greens as a category (vs. sheng puerh) is a bit more homogenous when it comes to flavor – they all have a decent bit of grassiness, mainly.
So! Onto this tea specifically. As foreshadowed above, both methods produced a nice and yellow-green liquid with strong grassy notes. I believe I preferred the “warm water” method, as the tea had a thicker texture and a more bracing bitterness. It seemed that the first couple steeps in both methods had some bitter notes, but with the longer first steep, the thicker and richer texture seemed almost to mellow out the bitterness. Having trouble discerning much besides grass. In the second or third steep on warmer method, I think I detected some fruitiness in the aftertaste, but that was about it.
I think I’m going to be looking at this shincha box as a crash course in Japanese Greens. I may not get “full enjoyment” out of this tea, like I might if I had more experience with this sub-type of tea, but it will be a good learning experience, and can help inform me on what I like in the future.
Anybody with more expertise than me – how different is this shincha going to be from other senchas and whatnot that are harvested later in the season/year? Thanks!
Flavors: Bitter, Fruity, Grass, Thick
This is a different tea. Usually it’s green tea they add rice too. In this case the rice comes across as a slightly burnt note. The black tea base is nice but it’s hard to get past the burnt note. I don’t know if it is supposed to have a burnt note. Still, I am enjoying it.
I steeped this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 2.5 minutes.
Made this as an iced matcha latte with almond milk and sugar. It is really delicious and chocolaty. I think I went a little heavy on the almond milk but it is really good. With the almond milk the taste of the matcha doesn’t really come through but the chocolate taste does. I brewed approximately three matcha spoons worth of chocolate matcha with approximately five ounces of 175 degree water then whisked it and added sugar and almond milk. This came out really good as an iced latte. For me this will be my last caffeine of the day.
Not at all sure that I got this right. My matcha scoop has disappeared and I had to use a spoon designed for leaf tea. So I’m not sure I got the amount of matcha right. I think is is a little weak tasting. I used nearly a teaspoon of matcha for about four ounces of tea. It tastes quite chocolaty. The matcha is also there. But less so than the chocolate. Despite the fact that this is chocolate matcha it is still green in color. It is good, even if it is a little bit weak.
Very unique tea. I have had other smokey teas, notably Lapsang Souchong, which I didn’t like due to the strength. This one had me worried, because the dry leaf smelled like ridiculously intense campfire. Crazy level stuff. I did Western style with 4g in a 300mL Kyusu and 195 degree water. Steeps of 2m and 2.5m.
It certainly was smokey, but I didn’t find it to be particularly distasteful. It was a very sweet smokiness. In fact, this tea tasted like some sweet bbq sauce to me – like Sweet Baby Ray’s lol. When I think about that flavor in a tea, it sounds revolting, but it worked at least well enough for me here. Not sure I would have been a fan of it all by itself, but a good enough complement with the cheese/fruit platter I was enjoying – Gouda, 2-year aged cheddar, and Balsamic Bella Vitoni with strawberries and Golden Berries. Not complex in flavor, just got that sweet smoky bbq flavor for the most part.
Flavors: Campfire, Smoke, Sweet
Whenever I am faced with entering review notes for a Japanese green tea, I flail about, my mental arms noodling around my head and torso awkwardly.
I have no idea what I’m tasting or why I sometimes like one tea more than another. My phone’s autocorrect wanted “tasting” to be “rafting,” and it seemed somehow appropriate to have my note devolve into nonsense. Fixed it anyway.
So, the tea tastes green and grassy, with some richness and sweetness lingering after the sip. Green beans?
It’s making me smile involuntarily, so it’s got some good theanine content.
I’m enjoying it and I don’t really know why.
This was bought because the owl mentioned it and I was like: What an awesome thing to include in the mystery buy!
A Japanese black tea smoked with whiskey barrel wood? That should have been reason enough, but I didn’t know about it so thanks owl :)
So I approached this like I do with all five of the black Japanese; just brewed it as if it was a roasted oolong. Here’s why I do that: I believe Japanese tea is the most delicate and pure of all the types I’ve had, tasted, ripped apart, ate, and overall evaluated as I drink all the teas possible. I’m quite thankful that I did that with this because the leaf when brewed looks like that of a first flush Darjeeling; you know, that dark seaweed olive color.
90c for 150 second in the large kyusu (western stylin’)
This is among the top 10 most unique teas that I’ve had from the first few sips. When I think of smoked tea I think of lapsang smoke… like, campfire in my mouth smoke. This is something completely different. Immediately I’m reminded of bbq by the aroma; how did I not think of bbq smoke vs campfire smoke vs ashtray smoke as possible for teas? There really is this odd taste which comes somewhat from the aroma of a woodsy roastish liquid… with this underlying cooked vegetable taste. Unfortunately I cannot decipher if this is a roasted or smoked vegetable taste underneath, it’s just too frickin’ weird.
After drinking a decent amount of this I realize it reminds me most of wood chips that were left to the side so you pick it up and get that smoked wood smell on your finger and sneak a smell in every once in awhile because it brings back a good memory of some awesome bbq.
This is pretty good, but it’s just hard to explain because I feel as if it is an experience type of tea and not a taste type of tea… what a unique thing. Maybe I’ll try smoking tea with my barrel one day when it retires :P
Glad that this is in the mystery buy as I know I will thoroughly enjoy reading the thoughts of others :)
I used 4g of this tea with 150mL of 160F water, later increased to 165F. Steeps of 1m, 30s, 45s, 90s, 2.5m. First steep was mostly some sweet grassy taste with a bit of a sour bite. Second steep was a tad bitter with that same grassiness and sour combination. The aftertaste left in the mouth after sipping was a soft and sweet fruit flavor, reminding me of melon. The remaining steeps were grassy and sweet, with the melon notes at times appearing during the sip, but they had faded completely by the last steep. In the last couple steeps it also tasted a bit salty, like vegetable broth. Possibly just a kind of oversteeped or steeped-out flavor. Pretty good Sencha I thought. Just starting to gain some experience with this kind of tea though :)
Flavors: Grass, Melon, Sweet, Vegetable Broth
Backlog 4 March 2016 from Dark Matter 2016
My wife just asked whether I was drinking pickle juice or not….The aroma DOES have that dill pickle smell, as well as the flavor of the tea. However, it’s satisfying. Nice sweet-wood-dill flavors. Fortunately, I like the flavor of this—and I like the flavor of pickles, too. So it works. Not recommended for someone who doesn’t find those flavors appealing.
Flavors: Dill, Wood
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: