40 Tasting Notes
I reviewed this tea a month or so ago, but I’ve still been trying to get it to stand out past the third steeping. This time, I used a small (~100ml) banko houhin with a heaping tablespoon of leaf to help try and stretch it across 4 or 5 steepings.
First (140*/ 120 secs): What a rush of flavor! As I take the first sip, I’m smacked in the mouth with vegetal sweetness and a soft mouthfeel that sticks around while you’re waiting for the next cup to brew. Since it’s lightly steamed, the color is far more yellow than green. A fun, balanced cup.
Second (165*/ 90 secs): As the tea transitions from a greenish yellow to a more grassy green, the astringency starts to show. Sadly, that also means the flavor is starting to wane, but it still has that freshness and plum-y afternotes that seems to be typical of Shizuoka shincha this year. A little bitter towards the end, but that usually comes out more in the next infusions…
Third: (185/ 120 secs): A pale, bitter yellow brew. I get hints of spinach and plum, but on a whole, it tastes like all the “good stuff” has already been sucked out of this tea. I know that Banko pottery tends to mellow out stronger teas, but I’m hardly getting anything out of this infusion.
Fourth (Boiled): So it goes.
I had high expectations for this tea in my houhin, but it seems like I’ve still yet to nail the perfect brewing parameters. The first two cups are some of the best I’ve had, but it falls utterly flat afterwards — I’d have to give the nod to the Houryoku in my shincha taste tests!
O-Cha’s Chiran Sencha (which I’m drinking here in Shincha form) is a deep steamed Fukamushi tea that’s made of fresh leaves from the Yutaka Midori bush. It’s an easy brewer that tastes great extra-strong, but for this review I did a “proper” brew of 4g to 4oz water in my tiny Banko houhin.
First (155*/ 90 secs): Bold aroma — I just love how fragrant and flavorful this tea is from the get-go! I taste a tiny bit of bitterness up front, but it finishes so sweet and softly, it’s hardly even noticeable until the cup cools. Even better is it’s slightly fruity, mostly umami aftertaste that really comes out nicely at lower temperatures.
Second (175*/ 60 secs): What a beautiful cup! The second infusion of this sencha is a deep, enchanting jade that is a joy to behold. The taste holds up great, too — mellow, vegetal, and a more astringent than the first cup. Oddly enough, I taste less bitterness and more fruity notes this time around. Hmm!
Third (185*/ 90 secs): I used a little less water for this infusion, and the higher temperature/low water ratio seems to have brought the bitterness out. Still, even though it’s a thicker brew than the other cups, it still has good flavor for a third steeping. I love how much “good stuff” you can extract from a nice Fukamushi!
Fourth (Boiled/ Until I got thirsty): Surprisingly good! I went ahead and iced this one (as I usually do with my last infusion), and stayed very “green” despite being watered down. I think I’d really enjoy a liter of this iced.
In summation, O-Cha’s Chiran sencha is a killer tea for the price. Not only does it have a great balance of vegetal flavors, a building bitterness, and a hint of sweetness that comes out nicely at lower temperatures, but it holds up well to stronger brewing ratios (2:1) and multiple infusions. Would definitely buy again!
I’ve been drinking Den’s Tencha-Kuki Houjicha before bed (or whenever I need to unwind) for the last couple weeks now, and I’ve grown incredibly fond of its subtle brew. Unlike Den’s traditional Kuki Houjicha — which has a darker, more robust roast — the Tencha Kuki Houjicha is lightly roasted and produces a more delicate, golden liquor.
Other reviewers on Steepster have mentioned the natural honey-like sweetness of these stems, and I have to agree. It still has that vegetal, “fresh green beans” taste that I remember from the green kukicha, but it’s much more “woodsy” thanks to the light roasting these stems undergo. Out of all the “green” teas I’ve tasted, this is probably the most “white.”
On the package for this tea, it comes with a single suggestion: “Brew casually.” After trying various states of boiling water and different leaf ratios, I have to agree. Throw a couple scoops of tea in your pot and add some boiling water — I’ve yet to mess this one up. It might not knock you off your feet at first, but there’s something immediately soothing about the Tencha-Kuki Houjicha
This tea is a beauty all the way around. A lighter steamed sencha, the 2011 108th Nights Shincha from Denshiro Shirakata Shoten has such long, gorgeous needles that I could hardly scoop it up with my teaspoon. My first experience with this tea was a bit more subtle and built up nicely, but this time it exploded from the get-go. Both times I used a preheated (~7oz) kyusu,
First Steeping (145/90 secs) — A wonderful balance of sweetness and fruity notes. The tea glides across my tongue effortlessly; leaving a silky smooth mouthfeel behind, with a teensy bit of bitterness towards the back if you focus hard on it. I notice very little astringency — afterwards, you’re left with a smooth tongue, and lingering citrus/plum notes. Very nice umami.
Second (160/45 secs): “Mellow Yellow.” This cup tastes like a natural continuation of the first cup — smooth, soft, but somewhat unremarkable aside from the bitterness that is now present “up front.” I think I should have gone with a slightly higher temperature (closer to 170) for around a minute — we’ll see how the third session goes!
Third (185/2 mins): Now, the bitterness is really shining through. I think I may have gone a little overboard with the temperature here (or sapped out all the tasty subtleties earlier), as I’m not getting much more than that “overdone sencha” taste.
Fourth (Boiling/4+ mins): Since I obviously screwed this session up, I went ahead and brewed this last infusion strong and tossed it over ice with a pinch of sugar. What surprised me here was how little bitterness/astringency came through, and how it still gave me that silky mouthfeel I tasted earlier. A nice way to finish a botched session!
In summary: this is a tea you have to keep your eye on. The first time I brewed it, I used a little less leaf at a slightly higher temperature, and it held up a bit better through multiple infusions. This time, I had an incredible start, and it fell flat afterwards. I think I’ll try less leaf in my houhin next time, and see how things go!
(Thanks again to Shinobicha for the help ordering this tea direct!)
I’m in the middle of wrapping up my last little houhin of this stuff, and I had to chime in one more time to say how delightful it is. Using my 100ml houhin, I can get away with using a little less leaf (around 3/3.5g) and still get four/five solid steeps here — a great way to pick up the middle (or end) of the day.
I’ll be getting some Houryoku directly from Denshiro Shirakata Shoten here soon (thanks, Shinobicha!), so I’ll let you know how those delicious apricot notes hold up over time. As it stands, this stuff has such a fruity aroma and delightful taste/mouthful that I can’t help but call it my favorite tea I’ve tried thus far.
Den’s Gyokuro Kin was my eye-opening introduction to what “real” green tea could be. After I finished my first 50g a couple months back, I waited for my houhin to arrive before I broke into my new packages. I’m still working on getting my timing and leaf ratio correct, but it’s a great choice for anyone looking for an affordable “daily gyokuro.”
First steep (145*; 90secs): Delightful! Even though it soaked for a good minute and a half, the tea has a light, grassy emerald color and a lot of sweetness. Love the umami, the taste of freshly steamed vegetables, and the smooth mouthfeel afterwards. The flavor lingers slightly, but is usually gone by the time I finish brewing up the next cup.
Second (165*; 60 secs): A gorgeous color that’s closer to the jade you might find in a fukamushi sencha, but with a lot more umami and very little astringency. This is my favorite cup — slightly buttery, wholly vegetal, and a joy to sip and “take in.” There wasn’t as much of that smooth mouthfeel I get from the first one, but I love the flavor of this cup!
Third (175/ 2+ mins): A little longer than I usually steep it for, but it still turned out OK. By now, the bright umami flavor is starting to get a bit diluted, but I can still taste what I liked about the last two cups with a burst of astringency.
Fourth (Boiling; 5+ mins): Final steep this time. Still green, but more bitter up front/astringent in its finish. Very little of that vegetal umami taste remains, but it has more of that “bitter freshness” I enjoy in sencha. I could never get four cups out of my kyusu, but the smaller size of the houhin seems to “stretch it out” a lot.
In summation: not as varied and nuanced as higher-end gyokuro, but a tasty alternative to Karigane blends for the price.
Ah, the delightful aroma of Sakura!
O-Cha’s Sakura Sencha is a wonderful tea to have in the cupboard when you want a little something to cleanse your palate, or for those times when you’d like to taste that intoxicating smell of “cherry” blossoms. It’s a proprietary blend of sencha, sakura leaf, and stems that’s pretty mild on the tongue (thanks to the abundance of kukicha), but heavenly in aroma.
It’s hard to stretch this past 3 steeps but it’s such a forgiving (and affordable) tea, you never have to worrying about making an undrinkable cup. A little bland towards the end, perhaps; but the smell and subtle taste of the first couple infusions more than make up for it. My preferred way of making this is to brew the first cup a little hot (around 180* for 80 secs), and then boil the water and make a strong cup to pour over ice and sweeten. A great spring/summer tea!