207 Tasting Notes

94

In the warmed houhin, the leaves glowed in briny ocean and warmed green grasses. The first steep produced an achingly sweet cup, with intense theanine-infused juiciness. What a wonderful texture, supple, sweet, and silky, with a strong bouquet of honeydew melon rind, oyster shell, and grape leaf. Savory and sweet all at once. I was so impressed with the first steep that I decided to hold off on a second session this morning and save my remaining 4g for a re-visit after I’ve tasted the other samples in my lot.

The second and third steeps were appreciably different, with the second exuding a not-bitter astringency that left a parching sensation in the mouth, a quality that played well with continuing sweetness, amplified green melon flavors, and persisting ocean brine. The third, however, was fairly plain and empty, but I was okay with that considering the shining impression that the first two steeps left. In many ways, this tea set a new bar for my limited experience with shincha.

Full blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=74

Auggy

I have this in my pantry but haven’t opened it yet. This log? Makes me want to open it now!

the_skua

I thought it was marvelous, but again, it was only my third shincha…although, I have a had a few other gyokuros and senchas with similar flavor profiles.

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79

Part of 2010 Official TeaChat TeaTasting Initiative Round 1 – Shincha.

Initially, I was surprised by the overall lightness of the first steep. Maybe this tea could endure hotter water or a longer initial steep. But, in the second session, the first steep revealed this tea’s true complexity, loaded with cooked pumpkin flesh and skin, fresh cut carnation stem, and young maple tree shoots. The second steep opens up some of the more briny and oceanic characters with detectable fresh, firm littleneck clam meat and brown seaweeds. The third steep was rather flat.

This tea can be defined by a raw, buddy green stem character that’s complex and not harsh, but floral and perfumed, like rose buds. Most of the green kelpy and chlorophyll heavy notes were reserved for the wet leaves. I went searching for a bit more sweetness and came up with little. This is a dry tea. The theanine glow is moderate to low and soft. Enjoyable, but perhaps a little quiet, yet maybe one to seek for its complex savory and stemmy flavors that dominate the first steep of this tea.

Blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=59

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55

At higher temps, this tea exudes bright tangerine, but I still find the puffed rice a little overbearing.

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64

I was pleased by the spicy smoke character that reminded me immediately of an Episcopalian Easter Vigil service bedecked with a thurifer belching clouds of frankincense. I was also pleased to find, that unlike the multitude of sheng pu’er samples I’ve fought with, the leaves released themselves from this cake willingly. After a rinse and a lightning quick first steep, the spicy, resinous pine-like smoke aroma jumped out of the cup. Unfortunately, that was the last time I was impressed by this tea.

In the cup was an overly subtle, simple, and rather limp soup. The texture was not satisfying, there was nary much kuwei and I kept digging for complexity and brightness. Instead, this tea proved safe. The orangeness was not detracting in that the tea had a cooked or hongcha-like flavor, it just yielded a mild, safe blend without much punch or power. Briefly, I considered that a 4 year old cake may exhibit signs of softening or slight age-induced oxidation to produce the orange-edge, but upon inspection of the leaves, that proved to be a faulty suspicion.

The flavors were not bad or offensive, never any cigarette and only the faintest hint of sourness six or seven steeps in. Instead, it just didn’t have any capturing essence, any piquant uniqueness that made me want to love it and revisit it. I took the steeps out into the tens of minutes, but ended up with an overly thin and grassy cup, proving a lack of endurance.

Blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=45

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79

The tea had a strong, clean and fresh aroma both dry and rinsed. Floral, but not overly heavy on the lilac-character. It opened relatively slowly with repeated quick steeps and released a nice, if painstakingly subtle flavor and texture. At a year old, the bouquet of floral qualities had already faded a good bit, but the tea had matured, married, and become refined and ethereal. Extremely delicate, subtle and never overly strong in any particular flavor element. I’m not sure my mind had been quieted enough to fully appreciate this tea, so I look forward to revisiting it in a more conscious state.

Most remarkable were this tea’s clarity and texture. The soup spilled out of the gaiwan and into the gongdaobei as an electrically crystal clear liquid, vibrant and beaming, which made for a visually impressive session. In terms of texture, the tea had a strong cooling quality, with a crisp drying sensation and an overall lifting of the palate. Very enjoyable. Despite these qualities, the tea did little for me in terms of qi or energy. Finally, and it’s not obvious in any of the photos I posted, this tea was impressively stemmy, with lengths reaching about three inches on many leaves.

Blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=36

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82

In terms of flavor, this tea was clean and delicious, if a bit one-dimensional. It had friendly vegetal greenness, a faint bit of brine, and some distant tangerine leaves. The viscosity of the brew was enjoyable, with a long, lingering thick sweetness, dappled with near-savory umami. I did think, though, that the proportion of near-dust was rather high and may have contributed to my initial bitter brew.

What this tea did remarkably well was load me up with a massive theanine glow. It was nearly immediate, strong, and beautiful. A sensation of heaviness came over me, and I just sat on the patio, smiled, and watched the Sunday morning open with high clouds, a gentle breeze through the garden, and the cheerful song of goldfinches dance across the yard.

Blog post: http://tea.theskua.com/?p=21

Maeda-en

glad you liked it! our shin-cha are given a quick “deep steam” so it is a little more crumblier than other brands. this year’s shin-cha has been very very good.

the_skua

I forgot that fukamushi teas produce a smaller particle.

It’s clear that you source quality leaves. Many of your teas withstood high water temperatures and multiple steeps, which I always find to be a good sign for japanese greens.

Thanks for indulging me.

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68

Full disclosure: this tea was sent to me as a free sample by the vendor. However, there was no expectation that I would provide a review.

Gyokuro is probably my most preferred Japanese style tea, so I’m eager to see how this tea-bag example show.

160F water for about 2 minutes. Clean bright lime green soup. Flavors and textures are hearty and satisfying, if a touch light. The flavors are clean and enjoyable, though, with bits of orange-like citrus, a faint glow of pine, and some sweet grasses. Nice lingering sweet silkiness on the finish.

This was a bit light for my tastes and I might have brewed it a little longer with less water next time, but for a tea bag, I thought this was decent brew. Nice clean flavors.

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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50

Full disclosure: this tea was sent to me as a free sample by the vendor. However, there was no expectation that I would provide a review.

May as well move on to my other genmai-cha sample. This one a bit dustier and without so much rice.

Flavors are toasty but swing towards a sweet greenness quickly. Lingering glutamates from the rice stick on the palate. Still pretty rice heavy, but with more leaf and more kelpiness. Enjoyable, but simple.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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55

Full disclosure: this tea was sent to me as a free sample by the vendor. However, there was no expectation that I would provide a review.

Spent some time on the porch this morning and tried this tea out in further preparation for the full on shin-cha experience.

I must say I’m a little skeptical of shin-cha mixed with toasted rice and coated in matcha. Can the base leaf itself really be that good if there’s this much other stuff going on? Maybe this is the best use of shin-cha this year, considering the variable and broadly poor harvest.

The first steep is viscous, but largely tastes of strongly toasted rice. Maybe the first 6g of tea that tapped out of the bag had an inordinate amount of rice kernels, but this is one toasty cup of green tea. Dark emerald green soup. In the flashy finish quick glimses of tangerine citrus and umami-forward theanine sweetness. This tea has a real savory edge to it, hinting at sesame and green onion. Mild and a little heavy on the rice.

The second steep was completely empty. This tea does not steep more than once.

Flickr photo at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_skua/4668561111/

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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40

Full disclosure: this tea was sent to me as a free sample by the vendor. However, there was no expectation that I would provide a review.

Still at work, so let’s keep drinking tea. I’ve had enough caffeine today, so I’ll start to mellow out with something without. I must say I have mixed emotions about houji-cha as a style of tea in the first place. The concept of taking poor quality green tea and roasting it to produce something light, caffeine-free and easy to brew is, in my mind, not something to get all worked up about. On the other hand, it has a nice roasted flavor that’s rare in the tea world outside of a handful of oolongs.

At 200F and 90 seconds this brew comes through a little lighter and littered with dust (again). The flavors are bit coarse and charred. Faint bits of espresso, some tannic, dried autumn leaves and a touch of dark caramel. The body of this tea seems surprisingly thin and really parches out the tongue. I believe I’ve had deeper and fuller examples of the style, so I’ll go ahead and say this isn’t particularly exemplary in my mind.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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Bio

Exploring the world of fine Chinese and Japanese teas, my favorites include: sheng pu’er, moderately roasted oolongs, gyokuro, shincha, and high quality, artisanal whites and greens. I don’t subscribe to any particular style of brewing, but incorporate elements from traditional techniques to brew the best tea possible. I also seek to share the joy that tea brings me with others, but am really rather introverted.

Location

Peace Dale, Rhode Island

Website

http://tea.theskua.com

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