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89
drank Gyokuro Pine Breeze by Lupicia
322 tasting notes

Houston is having an atypically long stint of gloom.

I decided to try to brighten it with some of this bright green tea.

The cup has a very thick mouth feel today. Maybe I did a better job preparing it than I did the last time. But the problem with truly fantastic shaded green teas which are steeped correctly is that they’re mild by definition. They’re subtle. There shouldn’t be anything in the cup that leaps out and grabs you by the nose.

Which, while it makes for a very soothing cup of tea, does make it very difficult to get all that excited about any one particular cup.

We have another Japanese green in the house that Liz got while she was in Tokyo, much less high end, and yes, I can taste the difference between the two. But unless I was having a very special meal that required the pairing or I was hosting a very formal gathering, I’m hard pressed to come up with a justification for spending the money on this kind of tea when the “pay back” is so much less obvious than it is in other categories of tea (where the pay off can be enormous in some cases).

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 0 min, 15 sec
TeaBrat

The Lupicia sales guy was trying to sell me on their “Yame” which is more expensive than this one I believe. I loved the gyokuro I had from Arbor tea. definitely worth the extra $ imo

ScottTeaMan

Another New Year resolution is for me to drink more Japanese greens. I love a good sencha….Jim it sounds like you prefer a fuller green.

Amy….how much was the Yame, do you remember?

Jim Marks

Mostly what I prefer is being able to taste what I pay for, and this particular tea, at least at Tokyo prices, goes beyond that point.

I’m not suggesting that just any shaded Japanese green will taste like this one does. There are certainly low end, cheap teas out there. And yes, it is worth spending more to avoid those.

But this one in particular was so much more expensive that it goes beyond the point of simply avoiding bad tea and gets into a price range where I expect something exceptional, and, at least so far, this isn’t exceptional. It is very good. Just not exceptional.

TeaBrat

Scott – I don’t remember exactly but it’s on Lupicia’s website
Jim- I see your point. Perhaps this isn’t such a good gyokuro?

Jim Marks

I’ve had others as well, from TeaG and other places and it seems, to me at least, that there is this tipping point where the rate at which the price is going up from grade of tea to grade of tea becomes very steep while the difference in what ends up in the cup from grade to grade becomes very shallow.

Maybe in this particular case, it was a matter of expectations. I’ve had many people insist that you can only get truly good tea in Japan. That the teas which are exported from Japan to other places, even the very expensive ones, just aren’t that good compared to even the most humble cup in a noodle shop in Osaka. Well, Liz went over there and brought two or three teas back, including this one, and they simply didn’t live up to those kinds of claims. Maybe I just need to get past that set of expectations and then come back to this tea with a clear mind.

TeaBrat

where did you read that from, the Japanese tourism board? ;-)

ScottTeaMan

I think it may be both. Possibly some of the best (or even most of) are kept for the Japanese market. I think it has to do with freshness too. Even the best grades, even vacuum packed, that are exported quite possibly can’t be as fresh as teas harvested & cupped in Japan.

Jim Marks

Not read. People, face to face, have made the argument and insisted on it. Not all of them were even Japanese people, oddly enough.

TeaBrat

sorry to be a skeptic, I work in the field of marketing… :) I’ve never been to Japan so I would not know.

Jim Marks

I was always skeptical of the claim. But there’s always a part of you that wants to believe that if you go there, and spend enough, some magical doorway into “real tea” will open. It is disappointing to learn that’s probably not the case. I have to say probably because we may simply, even at this price point, have not spent enough money to open the door. Although I doubt it.

ScottTeaMan

My friend went to China & had a really good Oolong tea, & brought some home. We sampled it and it was really good, but she said it wasn’t quite as good as the tea she had while in China (the same tea). Preparation has alot to do with it too.

Jim Marks

While true, I think what is really going on has much more to do with cultural elitism coupled with the fact that we’re simply far more likely to enjoy a cup of carefully prepared tea while on a once-in-a-lifetime trip than we are with preparing the exact same leaves at home — no matter how expert we are in tea preparation. People from tea cultivating regions want to be able to insist that tea is best had right there at the source and that Americans buying tea out of shops far from that source simply can’t experience tea the way you can right there next to the bushes. Which, on one level is quite true. But on another level gets less and less true all the time. Mechanisms for tea storage, shipment and distribution are improving all the time. I have had tea that was at most mere days older than if I had been drinking a cup prepared by the master gardener himself. But on another level, this idea that the best can only be had right at the source simply isn’t true. Ultra premium products routinely fetch higher prices on the export market than they do domestically. So it is actually more likely that the best of any one given thing is sold abroad rather than at home. Look at the US fishing industry. The best tuna catches never even touch US soil. Those fish go directly from US owned boats to Japanese owned airplanes — despite a huge domestic market for ultra premium grade seafood. The mark-up is simply better selling it on export. So there’s very little reason to believe that, aside from what might be kept as genuinely priceless (for example the original big red robe bushes) and not sold retail anywhere, one cannot buy “the best” anywhere except on a local market level.

But we’re way, way off the point, here. In the world of pu-erh, you can buy very modest product and it is perfectly drinkable. You can spend a bit more, and you notice the equivalent increase in price. And the more you spend, the better the tea gets right along with that price. Yes, the closer you get to “the top” the more and more important matters of storage, shipment and eventual preparation become to truly unlock all the potential of the leaves. But the potential is there to begin with. Similarly, Darjeeling teas occupy an enormous spectrum of quality and price and in most cases the correlation and contrast is obvious.

All I’m suggesting here is that with shaded green teas, that correlation and contrast is far less obvious as one gets closer and closer to “the top”. Down near the bottom of the spectrum, the contrast is obvious. But as one moves up, the subsequent improvements become harder and harder to discern.

A very narrow, modest assertion.

ScottTeaMan

Good points all around. I think the tea experience in a foreign country heightens expectations, and in some way the brain heightens the experience. I mean I’d rather drink a quality Japanese green tea in Japan, experiencing a tea in its’ homeland, but for me it is not likely. That plays a part too. I haven’t had too many shade grown teas, but I see your point. At what point are we willing to pay that extra money, when the payoff isn’t there?!

TeaBrat

I think you just need to figure out what kind of tea you really love and are willing to spend more money on. The rest of the time an average product is certainly fine. For me personally, I like pu-erhs but I don’t feel the expensive ones are worth the price. I’ll take the gyokuro. ;-)

ScottTeaMan

I agree about the Darjeelings too. I haven’t paid $40+ 1/4 lb for any Darjeeling, but at $25-$30, there is a significant increase in quality, over a $15 per 1/4 lb of tea.

ScottTeaMan

You mean like Mei Li? :)) Amy, Sencha Fukamushi’s can be a great experience. Much lighter than many Senchas out there.

Jim Marks

I think this goes way beyond tea. Our culture has trained us to believe that things are expensive because they are better. A Calvin Klein tee shirt costs five times as much as a tee shirt from Target because it says Calvin Klein on it — but we don’t think that way, we think that designer names somehow equate to actual garment quality (which may have been true in decades and centuries past, but certainly isn’t true anymore). Way “pay for the name” as they say. Oddly, in that case, we pay extra to do free advertising on behalf of the designer.

We go to restaurants and pay $50 a plate for dishes that have 20 ingredients in them most of which are simply the latest “buzz” foods — despite the fact that science tells us all but the highly trained can only taste at most 6 things at a time. We’re paying for the experience of eating buzz foods off a fancy plate when a more modestly prepared version of the dish for less money might actually be “better food”.

The build quality on Mercedes Benz is actually worse than the build quality on a Hyundai right now but we still pay two or three times as much for that fancy German badge on the hood.

My philosophy is always “be willing to pay for what you can appreciate”. If you can tell the difference sufficiently to justify the cost, go for it.

For my palate, the distinction in pu-erhs is profound while the distinction in shaded greens is not. But, at that point, we’re discussing taste, not anything objective.

ScottTeaMan

Bottom line for me is this:

I’m willing to pay more for tea than designer clothes, coffee, an expensive wine, etc.; and I have the receipts to prove it! :))

TeaBrat

I have never bought into the expensive is better philosophy. But sadly that seems to be the way of the world and the world of tea snobs… nice chatting with you both. :)

ScottTeaMan

Sometimes you get what you pay for. For the most part though, I agree Amy. I refuse to wear shirts with names on them…….unless they’re stained with tea! :))
Catch ya both later………….

ScottTeaMan

Sometimes you get what you pay for; but, for the most part, I agree Amy. I refuse to buy clothes with names on them…….unless they’re stained with tea! :)) Catch ya later…….

ScottTeaMan

WWWHHHAAA…..I think I’m seeing double.

Shinobi_cha

How much does this gyo cost? I get the impression that gyo only gets any good (or really begins to be more remarkable) at the $50/gram price range.

Jim Marks

So… just had a conversation with the wife. As it turns out, the problem here all along has been her sense of what “expensive” tea is. She drinks mostly roiboos and flavored teas.

Via the USA distribution, you can get Pine Breeze for $20/50grams. Which is, frankly, very cheap.

I’ve had TeaG’s gyokuro which is $55 for 100grams.

There is no way I would ever pay $50 per gram for a tea. I don’t care if it has gold, sex and God mixed into it, nothing is worth that much money. At that point you’re paying $100-200 per pot of tea!

If one has to go that high to experience “truly great Japanese tea” then they’re welcome to it. I’m more than happy to spend 1/10th that price for aged pu-erh and be more than blown away by what I get.

TeaBrat

there’s no way would I ever spend that much money on a flippin’ tea – just sayin’

Jim Marks

It is nice to know that my tea snobbery has bounds.

ScottTeaMan

I wasn’t sure if Shinobi cha was serious. WOW! I couldn’t stop laughing at your comments Jim…….it just struck me as hilarious! It’s totally absurd to pay $50 /gram for any tea. Just my opinion of course. :))

ScottTeaMan

$200 for a pot of tea…HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Shinobi_cha

Oops! I meant $.50/gram, haha! Looks like Pine Beeze and TeaG’s gyos are about that range… and if you just didn’t love them at that asking price… well that’s fine; tea is after all, not a necessity and so drink what you enjoy.

Jim Marks

Ah. Yes. That makes a lot more sense.

And yes, that has been the point all along. There is a tipping point where what you are paying for may not actually have increased value to the individual.

ScottTeaMan

uMMM….YEAH…tea IS a necessity!:))

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Comments

TeaBrat

The Lupicia sales guy was trying to sell me on their “Yame” which is more expensive than this one I believe. I loved the gyokuro I had from Arbor tea. definitely worth the extra $ imo

ScottTeaMan

Another New Year resolution is for me to drink more Japanese greens. I love a good sencha….Jim it sounds like you prefer a fuller green.

Amy….how much was the Yame, do you remember?

Jim Marks

Mostly what I prefer is being able to taste what I pay for, and this particular tea, at least at Tokyo prices, goes beyond that point.

I’m not suggesting that just any shaded Japanese green will taste like this one does. There are certainly low end, cheap teas out there. And yes, it is worth spending more to avoid those.

But this one in particular was so much more expensive that it goes beyond the point of simply avoiding bad tea and gets into a price range where I expect something exceptional, and, at least so far, this isn’t exceptional. It is very good. Just not exceptional.

TeaBrat

Scott – I don’t remember exactly but it’s on Lupicia’s website
Jim- I see your point. Perhaps this isn’t such a good gyokuro?

Jim Marks

I’ve had others as well, from TeaG and other places and it seems, to me at least, that there is this tipping point where the rate at which the price is going up from grade of tea to grade of tea becomes very steep while the difference in what ends up in the cup from grade to grade becomes very shallow.

Maybe in this particular case, it was a matter of expectations. I’ve had many people insist that you can only get truly good tea in Japan. That the teas which are exported from Japan to other places, even the very expensive ones, just aren’t that good compared to even the most humble cup in a noodle shop in Osaka. Well, Liz went over there and brought two or three teas back, including this one, and they simply didn’t live up to those kinds of claims. Maybe I just need to get past that set of expectations and then come back to this tea with a clear mind.

TeaBrat

where did you read that from, the Japanese tourism board? ;-)

ScottTeaMan

I think it may be both. Possibly some of the best (or even most of) are kept for the Japanese market. I think it has to do with freshness too. Even the best grades, even vacuum packed, that are exported quite possibly can’t be as fresh as teas harvested & cupped in Japan.

Jim Marks

Not read. People, face to face, have made the argument and insisted on it. Not all of them were even Japanese people, oddly enough.

TeaBrat

sorry to be a skeptic, I work in the field of marketing… :) I’ve never been to Japan so I would not know.

Jim Marks

I was always skeptical of the claim. But there’s always a part of you that wants to believe that if you go there, and spend enough, some magical doorway into “real tea” will open. It is disappointing to learn that’s probably not the case. I have to say probably because we may simply, even at this price point, have not spent enough money to open the door. Although I doubt it.

ScottTeaMan

My friend went to China & had a really good Oolong tea, & brought some home. We sampled it and it was really good, but she said it wasn’t quite as good as the tea she had while in China (the same tea). Preparation has alot to do with it too.

Jim Marks

While true, I think what is really going on has much more to do with cultural elitism coupled with the fact that we’re simply far more likely to enjoy a cup of carefully prepared tea while on a once-in-a-lifetime trip than we are with preparing the exact same leaves at home — no matter how expert we are in tea preparation. People from tea cultivating regions want to be able to insist that tea is best had right there at the source and that Americans buying tea out of shops far from that source simply can’t experience tea the way you can right there next to the bushes. Which, on one level is quite true. But on another level gets less and less true all the time. Mechanisms for tea storage, shipment and distribution are improving all the time. I have had tea that was at most mere days older than if I had been drinking a cup prepared by the master gardener himself. But on another level, this idea that the best can only be had right at the source simply isn’t true. Ultra premium products routinely fetch higher prices on the export market than they do domestically. So it is actually more likely that the best of any one given thing is sold abroad rather than at home. Look at the US fishing industry. The best tuna catches never even touch US soil. Those fish go directly from US owned boats to Japanese owned airplanes — despite a huge domestic market for ultra premium grade seafood. The mark-up is simply better selling it on export. So there’s very little reason to believe that, aside from what might be kept as genuinely priceless (for example the original big red robe bushes) and not sold retail anywhere, one cannot buy “the best” anywhere except on a local market level.

But we’re way, way off the point, here. In the world of pu-erh, you can buy very modest product and it is perfectly drinkable. You can spend a bit more, and you notice the equivalent increase in price. And the more you spend, the better the tea gets right along with that price. Yes, the closer you get to “the top” the more and more important matters of storage, shipment and eventual preparation become to truly unlock all the potential of the leaves. But the potential is there to begin with. Similarly, Darjeeling teas occupy an enormous spectrum of quality and price and in most cases the correlation and contrast is obvious.

All I’m suggesting here is that with shaded green teas, that correlation and contrast is far less obvious as one gets closer and closer to “the top”. Down near the bottom of the spectrum, the contrast is obvious. But as one moves up, the subsequent improvements become harder and harder to discern.

A very narrow, modest assertion.

ScottTeaMan

Good points all around. I think the tea experience in a foreign country heightens expectations, and in some way the brain heightens the experience. I mean I’d rather drink a quality Japanese green tea in Japan, experiencing a tea in its’ homeland, but for me it is not likely. That plays a part too. I haven’t had too many shade grown teas, but I see your point. At what point are we willing to pay that extra money, when the payoff isn’t there?!

TeaBrat

I think you just need to figure out what kind of tea you really love and are willing to spend more money on. The rest of the time an average product is certainly fine. For me personally, I like pu-erhs but I don’t feel the expensive ones are worth the price. I’ll take the gyokuro. ;-)

ScottTeaMan

I agree about the Darjeelings too. I haven’t paid $40+ 1/4 lb for any Darjeeling, but at $25-$30, there is a significant increase in quality, over a $15 per 1/4 lb of tea.

ScottTeaMan

You mean like Mei Li? :)) Amy, Sencha Fukamushi’s can be a great experience. Much lighter than many Senchas out there.

Jim Marks

I think this goes way beyond tea. Our culture has trained us to believe that things are expensive because they are better. A Calvin Klein tee shirt costs five times as much as a tee shirt from Target because it says Calvin Klein on it — but we don’t think that way, we think that designer names somehow equate to actual garment quality (which may have been true in decades and centuries past, but certainly isn’t true anymore). Way “pay for the name” as they say. Oddly, in that case, we pay extra to do free advertising on behalf of the designer.

We go to restaurants and pay $50 a plate for dishes that have 20 ingredients in them most of which are simply the latest “buzz” foods — despite the fact that science tells us all but the highly trained can only taste at most 6 things at a time. We’re paying for the experience of eating buzz foods off a fancy plate when a more modestly prepared version of the dish for less money might actually be “better food”.

The build quality on Mercedes Benz is actually worse than the build quality on a Hyundai right now but we still pay two or three times as much for that fancy German badge on the hood.

My philosophy is always “be willing to pay for what you can appreciate”. If you can tell the difference sufficiently to justify the cost, go for it.

For my palate, the distinction in pu-erhs is profound while the distinction in shaded greens is not. But, at that point, we’re discussing taste, not anything objective.

ScottTeaMan

Bottom line for me is this:

I’m willing to pay more for tea than designer clothes, coffee, an expensive wine, etc.; and I have the receipts to prove it! :))

TeaBrat

I have never bought into the expensive is better philosophy. But sadly that seems to be the way of the world and the world of tea snobs… nice chatting with you both. :)

ScottTeaMan

Sometimes you get what you pay for. For the most part though, I agree Amy. I refuse to wear shirts with names on them…….unless they’re stained with tea! :))
Catch ya both later………….

ScottTeaMan

Sometimes you get what you pay for; but, for the most part, I agree Amy. I refuse to buy clothes with names on them…….unless they’re stained with tea! :)) Catch ya later…….

ScottTeaMan

WWWHHHAAA…..I think I’m seeing double.

Shinobi_cha

How much does this gyo cost? I get the impression that gyo only gets any good (or really begins to be more remarkable) at the $50/gram price range.

Jim Marks

So… just had a conversation with the wife. As it turns out, the problem here all along has been her sense of what “expensive” tea is. She drinks mostly roiboos and flavored teas.

Via the USA distribution, you can get Pine Breeze for $20/50grams. Which is, frankly, very cheap.

I’ve had TeaG’s gyokuro which is $55 for 100grams.

There is no way I would ever pay $50 per gram for a tea. I don’t care if it has gold, sex and God mixed into it, nothing is worth that much money. At that point you’re paying $100-200 per pot of tea!

If one has to go that high to experience “truly great Japanese tea” then they’re welcome to it. I’m more than happy to spend 1/10th that price for aged pu-erh and be more than blown away by what I get.

TeaBrat

there’s no way would I ever spend that much money on a flippin’ tea – just sayin’

Jim Marks

It is nice to know that my tea snobbery has bounds.

ScottTeaMan

I wasn’t sure if Shinobi cha was serious. WOW! I couldn’t stop laughing at your comments Jim…….it just struck me as hilarious! It’s totally absurd to pay $50 /gram for any tea. Just my opinion of course. :))

ScottTeaMan

$200 for a pot of tea…HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Shinobi_cha

Oops! I meant $.50/gram, haha! Looks like Pine Beeze and TeaG’s gyos are about that range… and if you just didn’t love them at that asking price… well that’s fine; tea is after all, not a necessity and so drink what you enjoy.

Jim Marks

Ah. Yes. That makes a lot more sense.

And yes, that has been the point all along. There is a tipping point where what you are paying for may not actually have increased value to the individual.

ScottTeaMan

uMMM….YEAH…tea IS a necessity!:))

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Bio

I am rarely, if ever, active here. But I do return from time to time to talk about a very special tea I’ve come across.

You can hear the music I compose here:
http://jimjohnmarks.bandcamp.com

I have a chapter in this book of popular philosophy
http://amzn.com/0812697316

I blog about cooking here https://dungeonsandkitchens.wordpress.com

I blog about composing music and gardening here
http://jimjohnmarks.wordpress.com

Location

Houston, TX

Website

http://jimjohnmarks.wordpress...