8 Tasting Notes
This was my first experience with Bancha, and due to the fact that I thought I had ordered Sencha, I was quite taken aback by the experience.
It took me a while to figure out that it was actually a Bancha, and not some crazy tainted Sencha (as Sencha is the staple of most cafes’ green tea collections). The flavour was almost completely unlike Sencha, as it had a very…wheaty flavour? I would say it was comparable to fermented hay mixed with a curious kind of barley. There was an echo of a lemony tang towards the end of the mouthful which is characteristic of green teas, but it was outspoken by the initial…wheaty bombardment?
It was quite a buttery kind of wheatiness. If you could imagine butter on toast…it wasn’t that. It was like that idea had just broken-up and had started to go their separate ways in my mouth.
I wouldn’t say it was unpleasant – it was a very interesting tea. One that I a) wasn’t expecting and b) had never tried before, and so it was quite fun trying to figure out what I was drinking. I will say however that the wheaty/barley/yeasty flavour was teetering on unpleasant. Just a wee teeter. This could have been due to the temperature the tea was brewed at (it’s difficult to trust Coffee orientated cafes with brewing a tea correctly). Either way, it was what it was.
It had a pretty full mouth-feel to it – albeit it was full of that wheatiness I just described. The aroma was pretty well balanced with the flavour as well; it was just missing that aromatic expression of green tea (like a lemon/grassy fragrance).
Overall, quite a shock! I won’t say I loved it, but I will say that I am curious about it, and would like to try and few more different brands of Bancha to compare, and to allow my palate to habituate to the flavours. I think I could like this tea in the future.
On the plus side, It did get me curious about the different kinds of Green tea in Japan, and I managed to learn some interesting facts:
- Bancha is the product of the 3rd and 4th harvest (Sencha is the 1st and 2nd)
- Kabusencha and Gyokuro differ only in the length of time before harvesting that they are deprived on sunlight (~1 Week and ~3 Weeks respectively)
- Genmaicha is said to have been derived from an attempt to flesh-out what little quantity of tea poor Japanese people possessed. It is said the roasted brown rice was usually added to Bancha leaves.
When I first tried this tea (a few months back), I was quite disappointed with it. I had prepared a double tea tasting session involving a high quality GuanYinWang (unsure as to the brand/location etc.) and this ‘ti kuan yin’ (also written as tieguanyin in Chinese Pin Yin spelling).
I think due to the juxtaposition of the teas I was left severely dissatisfied – almost feeling like I had wasted $13 on 100g of the stuff. As my girlfriend had had the exact same reaction to it, I felt that the tea was of unmistakably poor quality.
I later reconciled myself however, by remembering that each cup of tea is something to learn from.
Some time later I decided to give it another go as there wasn’t much left in the package and I thought I might as well finish it off.
During last night’s tea session I had it in a large metal teapot, using a tablespoon worth of tea brewed with boiling water for about 2.5/3 minutes (pre-rinsed the leaves first of course).
It was surprisingly different to my first impression. It came out quite sweet, like a honey coated buttery flavour. The mouth-feel was quite flat though – I received confirmation from my girlfriend of this fact. She also commented that the sweetness could either be of melon or of honey.
I personally took it to be more of a butter-type, perhaps even popcorn flavour – then it made me wonder whether the aroma had cross-contaminated with the Gen Mai Cha I had purchased from the same place (all packages are in a sealed light proof bag, so I doubt this highly, unless contaminated in-store).
Just to make sure I tried the tea a few more times, and each time it was slightly different (perhaps due to brewing, but as I felt I had kept most of the variables the same, I pinned it on the leaves themselves).
The leaves on the other hand were quite a sad sight. Some of the leaves were nice and fresh, while others seemed to have withered quite miserably (prior to processing). The colour of the leaves was very inconsistent: there were whites, pale greens, pale yellows, dark greens, faded maroon, faded deep purple and forest-floor brown. Some of the leaves were ripped, other appeared similar to images I had seen of tea plants with particular deficiencies (yellow or red around the rim of the leaf).
I don’t know exactly what this means; I will definitely be looking it up. Perhaps some teas are supposed to be comprised of all these bits and pieces. Perhaps not all teas are supposed to be uniform in colour and shape. My impression was the more consistent the tea was in size, shape, tightness of roll, shade of green etc. the better brew it will produce. Is there an exception to this rule?
I want to know what the deal is with cheap Tie Guan Yin. My understanding is that this Iron Goddess of Mercy goes through many different processing steps (I think perhaps even the most of all teas), and as such should it not be of a higher price? Are the cheaper Tie Guan Yin teas merely half-heartedly processed teas?
In conclusion, I’m glad I tried this tea again. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered it, just a bit inconsistent from cup to cup. Just make sure you don’t drink it alongside any top shelf teas.
I was actually given some of this tea by a Japanese woman who works at a cafe I frequent on the way to class. She helps me with my Japanese and I help her with English (not that she needs it). She told me that the tea was produced by some of her family members who work on a tea farm in a place called Yame （八女） which literally translates to 8 women. I was given the impression that it was 8 of her sisters, cousins and aunties producing delicious tea on the island of Kyushu. This is apparently not the case.
Now I’m not actually sure as to what kind of tea it is, as all she had told me was that it was ‘YAMECHA’. After a few cups and a whiff of a Gyokuro at a nearby tea supplier, I surmised that it was in fact a Yame Gyokuro (similar leaf colour and aroma, and apparently about 50% of Gyokuro produced in Japan is from Yame, so the odds are in this assumption’s favour!)
I was very grateful for the tea (she had given me a lot of it), and was eager to figure out how to brew the stuff.
One of my Chinese acquaintances, while we were having a tea session, exclaimed that he knew exactly how to brew it: he took a huge scoop of the tea, ground it down to a powder in a pestle and mortar, and then poured the powder into a tall glass and proceeded to pour boiling hot water over it.
The product was an extremely bitter brew that nobody could finish.
So that’s not how you do it.
I was still curious as to how to brew it, so once I got home from the taste testing I gave it another go, using only my instincts.
I brewed it as you would brew a regular green tea (about 80C for about 1.5 minutes), and it produced a very murky cup of tea. It appeared that due to the varying sizes of tea leaf particles, a good portion of the tea had passed through the strainer and into the cup. In addition, there was a mysterious white foam collecting around the rim of the cup. I thought to myself, “protein?”. Not entirely sure what was going on there. It was a pleasant cup of tea none-the-less.
I decided today to give it a traditional brewing: sitting down with all the bits-and-pieces, my tiny tea gong and my laptop at hand to record the fleeting sensations and the pass through my sensory faculties.
Brewed at 70C for 1.5/2 minutes
This tea has a very warming sweetness, delicate grassiness and faintly nutty flavour. It has a satisfyingly full mouth-feel, and lingers long enough for you to be able to fully appreciate it, as well as time to bid it farewell. The flavour is deeply rich, much like the ‘Pakistan green’ of the leaves (I had to look that colour up; it seems like a slightly awkward descriptor though).
Aroma: Again very warming, deep and rich.
The colour of the liquid is a nice bright green, however I notice that there are particles of varying sizes swirling in my cup, giving it an almost murky appearance. Once they settle it is almost a ‘Paris green’ (again, had to look it up – so many types of green!).
I’m not entire sure what is meant to be done about the particles. Are they an intended feature of the cup? Or perhaps a fine strainer is necessary? I’m not entirely bothered by them, simply curious as to their intentions. Perhaps they add to the mouth-feel that was so satisfyingly bold.
Either way, this is one of my favourite green teas to date, and I intend on making each cup as special as the last.
I bought this tea recently to break my previously formed impression of all LongJing tea (I had had a particularly unpleasant experience with it from a different supplier – the reason presumably was that it had not been stored well at all.
This LongJing from T2 was much more pleasant.
The first tea session’s brew was a little weak (I had only put in 1 1/2 teaspoons for the 600ml pot) and had left it to steep for about 1min 20sec.
The second session I put in a full 2 (Chinese) teaspoons and brewed for ~1.5 minutes.
Although the overall outcome was better, I will try it again brewing to 2 minutes.
Both brews were with water that had been taken off the element as soon as bubbles began breaking the surface (would that be ~75ish degrees Celsius?).
It had a nice rounded mouth-feel that lingered pleasantly. I was impressed with how the tea blended with the water: It was like the two had completely become one (as opposed to other brews I have had that have been quite insipid or unbalanced).
The flavour I could only describe as a nutty grassy taste, perhaps with a bit of a mildly roasted sensation. I’m sure if I had eaten more vegetables and smelt more flowers in my lifetime I would have a better lexicon for this (future goal?). In summary, very nice flavour.
I couldn’t get much from the aroma. There were hints of the lightly roasted nutty flavours I had experienced in the drinking, but only from the pot. When trying to make out the fragrance of the tea in my (tiny Chinese gongfu) cup, I often found myself accidentally dunking my nose in the tea due to lack of fragrance.
Perhaps it can be said of this tea that the fragrance is mild yet compelling?
I was very happy with this tea. Thank you T2 for restoring my faith in the Dragons of the Well.
Rubbery. Just really rubbery.
I really hope that this is not how it’s supposed to taste, because it’s one of China’s top 10 teas.
The aroma was like a new packet of rubber bands wrapped in blutack.
The flavour was pretty much the same. Unpleasant.
I have a feeling the aroma and flavour are a taint, due to storage – perhaps a rubber/plastic container?
I hope someone else has tried this tea and can clarify that it isn’t supposed to taste or smell like this. Disappointed!
Could I have burnt the tea? Does it taste like this if the water is too hot?
This was my girlfriend and I’s go-to tea for a long time, because of its full-bodied flavour and inviting aroma. I still drink this tea often.
The colour of the brewed liquid is a light jade with a yellow tinge.
The aroma is a very inviting, deeply earthy fragrance. It brings to mind the image of fresh green leaves slowly fermenting in a pile under some shade on a warm spring morning (interestingly enough the way tea is processed isn’t much different). I may go so far as to imagine little monkeys with hand-held fans fanning the fragrance toward you.
The flavour is complimented well by the aroma: it starts off nice and crisp, and then mellows out into a deep, buttery/malty flavour that is circumfixed by a pleasantly fermented-taste. The fermentedly-buttery flavour (for lack of a better descriptor) I find is a distinguishable characteristic of the MaLiuQi that is not present in any other teas I’ve tried. Some may liken it to a dirty taste, or perhaps to leaves that have been sweating, but if you can somehow imagine this to be a good thing, you will come near the correct impression of this tea.
Some of my friends have tried it and said they didn’t enjoy it – I think it is the kind of flavour that you work your way up to enjoying, as you would with wine or coffee.
In conclusion, I enjoy this tea quite a lot. It takes you on a pleasantly short ride through a few different flavours that I find juxtapose well and are balanced nicely with the aromatics. One of my preferred teas over the NZD$45 mark.
PS: I recommend drinking it out of a Gaiwan, as it’s easier to appreciated the aroma this way, and the flavour is a lot easier to experience.
For $13NZD for 75g, I’d say this is a pretty average cup of tea.
The colour of the brewed liquid is a pretty standard yellow-green. Not much more to say about it.
The leaves themselves are not particularly uniform: some are broken up into smaller parts, some are soft and smooth while others are rigid and tough. Leaves varied in length from approx. 10mm~20mm, and there were perhaps 2 or 3 leaf-with-bud-attached surprises.
The Aroma is a very crisp, almost sharp grassiness, and I was happy to note that it was reflected well by the taste, which was also a sharp grassiness.
There wasn’t much depth, if any: the flavour lingering on the tongue for only a few seconds.
Overall this was an underwhelming cup of tea, but it was still enjoyable for what it was.
First time I tried this tea, for fear of burning my tongue on the bombilla, I left it to brew for way too long. It was overly astringent, very tannic and unpleasantly overwhelming. A few cups in the intensity had died down and the flavour was much easier to distinguish. It is very herby tisane (as it is a herb, this is conducive); I would liken it to the taste of Silver-beet mixed with boiled hay.
To be perfectly honest the flavour wasn’t that appealing (it was interesting, but only from a research perspective).
The energy boost I received after the 8+ cups was very well received though. I work as a Barista, and compared with coffee the energy was much cleaner, lasted a bit longer and coming down from it wasn’t as bumpy.
I will also note that within the flavours of the cup I noticed a slightly metallic note – I wasn’t sure whether that was a flavour coming from the Yerba Mate itself, or perhaps the bombilla I was drinking it through (this seems more likely). I wonder if anyone else has had this issue before…
Today I had my fourth Yerba Mate session. I have now become accustomed to the flavour, but I wouldn’t say that this is the sort of tea I would sit down for with the sole purpose of cupping.
I find it’s good before a long day at work, or during a study session. Not to be consumed too many days in a row however: the effects diminish over time and are replaced with a sore neck, dehydration, and difficulty concentrating. Use sparingly!
PS: I found that I often burnt my tongue or lip on the bombilla, due to the temperature of the water. To overcome this issue, I found that if you fill the Cup/Mate/Gourd/Vessel just under the brim, and then once the tea is brewed fill the remainder with cold water, the flavour is more enjoyable and the temperature isn’t too high.
I recommend trying it at least twice, and having several cups each session.