10 Tasting Notes

80
drank Yuzu Sencha by Samovar
10 tasting notes

I ordered this by accident, thinking it was regular sencha.

I typically avoid “blended teas” – they tend to perfume or mask the tea’s natural flavour. Citrus-based blends especially have not been kind to me. This however was an entirely different experience. It’s a strange balance of “mellow” and “refreshing”. I find myself addicted to this refreshing experience. I ordered more. It’s a nice departure from the usual.

1min 30seconds, 175F 10-14oz of water, 1 teaspoon. Good for multiple steeps, though it tends to lose that fresh edge after the second steep. 4 steeps depending on your palate, though you should start incrementing steep time by 15-30 seconds each subsequent steep.

I have yet to try the “suggested brewing instructions”, which is 2 tablespoons over 16oz of water for 2 minutes. Seems a bit much to me.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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88
drank Four Seasons by Samovar
10 tasting notes

I followed the brewing instructions on samovar’s site (I love how Jesse makes brewing instructional videos). Boiling water, first flush use as a rinse. Then all subsequent infusions with 10-14oz of boiling water for 1min. This oolong favours the more green-side, than black – which is what I prefer. Does not come out as grassy, but a nice sweet oolong with faint smoky vegetal notes. Similar to Hawaiian oolong(more likely Hawaiian is similar to this), I experience an tantalizing sensation on the tip of my tongue in the first couple steeps(something I only experience on the first steep with Hawaiian). It eventually evolves into a mellow apricot, but as “advertised”, “goes the distance” at 10-15 steeps. So far my average is 13.

Now the negatives. This tea is rather expensive when compared on a grams/oz scale – sometimes twice the price. The saving grace however, is the amount of steeps you can get out of it – essentially 2-3x the average of most oolongs. Logically that would balance it out in the end, justifying it as a reasonable priced tea? Well, yes and no. If you “go the distance”, then yes. However it is also a large commitment to use it – basically make it a group tea, or save the leaves for the next day, or prepare to go to the bathroom frequently ;). I personally, like to break it up through-out the day. True the flavour evolves, so your not necessarily experiencing the same flavour you started with, but variety is nice to have too.

Personally, I’m very conflicted. I want to make this my “every day” tea. It has all the things I love in certain oolongs, and none of the negatives, with the exception that its a commitment, or its expense if you give up half-way. Definitely one of my favourite oolongs though.

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec

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78
drank Matcha Miyabi by Den's Tea
10 tasting notes

The green is vibrant, though difficult to discern visually between it and Den’s Matcha Usucha(Matcha Kaze) – which reflects positively on Den’s usucha. Make sure to use a sifter to eliminate clumps. I vary my scoops day-to-day. Den recommends only 1 chashaku scoop, which I do when I’m in a particular rush. Otherwise its 2-3 chashaku scoops for me. 1/3 or 1/4 cup of Water at 175F. Foams up nicely; it could be my imagination, but I could swear his usucha foams up better. Flavour-wise, it is quite good. Den advertises the elimination of bitterness, compared to his usucha. I tend to agree, the small amount that was detectable in his usucha, was faint or non-existent in this koicha. The natural sweetness however isn’t as prominent as I would have liked. Compared to his usucha, I do prefer this. The question is if it worth twice the price of Den’s usucha? Ultimately, that is a personal preference. Compared to other Matcha Koicha’s, it is priced competitively. So definitely worth a shot.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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64
drank Matcha Pinnacle by Teaopia
10 tasting notes

Teaopia typically buys bulk from the lowest bidder, and flowers it up with herbal blends, and sell it to consumers at inflated prices. Ok, I’ll try to stop being a snob on this, after all the practice of tea-blends has been around for over a thousand years, and these tea-chains are help revitalizing the interest in the loose-leaf tea industry. Also, you can’t flower up a matcha.

Brewing instructions: 2 scoops from a chashaku, 1/4 cup of 175F(78-80c) water.

The previous reviewer (chocobubbo), lists this as a Usucha. I tend to disagree. The sweetness is more akin to Koicha, and the price is more in-line with Koicha. Otherwise its a “higher quality usucha” that for the money could be better spent on a higher quality koicha. Clumping is not as much of a problem with this matcha – good if you’re in a rush. The colour is darker, more oxidized, than I would like, but the sweetness is pretty good, despite this obvious indicator of lower quality. So, good if you’re in a pinch, such as you ran out, and need some this very second(since there’s like a billion teaopia stores). Otherwise I would advise serious matcha fans to look elsewhere.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C

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70
drank Matcha Kaze by Den's Tea
10 tasting notes

I had to correct the brewing instructions on here. 2 scoops at 16oz of water?! that’s almost 3x the suggested amount of water, even for a usucha. I seriously doubt that would make a pleasant matcha.

I typically do 2 scoops from my chashaku to 1/3rd cup(2.6oz/80ml) of 175F water. Den recommends only 1 scoop for that amount(Usucha is typically more water/less scoops, while koicha is more scoops/less water). Definitely use a sifter on this matcha, it tends to clump very easily, resulting in an over-powering grassy-bitterness when mixed with water if not sifted.

Likely due to my quantity of scoop, I find that it froths very easily (using a chasen, not a frother) – Not a bad thing, quite good if anything. The matcha “powder” colour is an almost vibrant green, suggesting minimal oxidation exposure (usually indicative of quality – the higher the oxidation (darker the shade of green), the lower the quality and more bitter. The more vibrant-neon green, is the less oxidized, and the higher the quality/taste). The sweet notes is minimal at best, but the bitterness is not high as some lower end bulk-matcha company stuff you get out there from tea-chains or supermarkets. I’ve had much better matcha(koicha), but the price more than makes up for its shortcomings, for your every-day drinker. Not ideally suited for desert-drinks. Den sells a separate “ingredient-grade” matcha for that, it’ll be easier on your wallet to buy that instead.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C

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43
drank Wuyi Dark Roast by Samovar
10 tasting notes

I tried this tea several ways, trying to unlock its secrets. Long steep-lower temps(1min+, 185F), boiling short-steeps(30 seconds), varying quantities of water. I literally have tried everything. None of the attempts jumped out as enjoyable for me. The Barley flavour is overpowering for about 3 steeps (plus rinse). At that point the caramel or raison sweetness start to present itself, with the barley still lingering. The aroma of hay/barley persists up to the fifth steep easily. This might be more suitable for dark-roast or coffee lovers, but for my money, I’d rather spend the few extra dollars and get Samovar’s Monkey Picked, which tends to evolve better with every steep. In Wuyi’s case, its just the same for one too many steeps for me.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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69
drank Sencha Shin-ryoku by Den's Tea
10 tasting notes

Shin-Ryoku is a Shincha or “new tea”/“first flush”, essentially the first harvest of sencha in Japan. If I remember correctly, its traditional to only consume Shincha within the first couple months of harvest, regardless of vacuum-sealed packaging and freezing. But, hey, it was a free sample, so I have no real grounds to complain.

Anyhow, this tea is VERY temperature sensitive.

Den is kind enough to personalize each tea’s brewing instructions, on his website. Which calls for 1.5 teaspoons 4oz of water at 160f/71c for 60 seconds.
My first attempt, ended up with 1.5 teaspoons around 170f/76c for 60 seconds, 5 oz of water. It was too bitter for me.

I tried again with 4oz of water at 160f, maybe even high 150f’s by the time I put the leafs in, for 60 seconds. It came out a watery-pale yellow, compared to the more common gold-yellow seen in sencha, that I was worried I under-steeped it, perhaps I did, but I found it to be a smooth with natural sweet notes.

The suggestions for re-steeping on Den’s is not personalized. The FAQ area has some generic suggestions, and not specific to this tea, which recommended 15 seconds for Sencha’s. However this may not apply to Shin-Cha, due to quantity of leaf (for such small quantities of water, its common for most sencha to be only 1 teaspoon, not 1.5 like shincha).

Second steep, I “tried” 170f for 25seconds, and it had the taste I’m more familiar with in sencha, but I found the bitterness to sneaking in. I think the bitterness never left me, following subsequent steep attempts, always sitting on my palate. Re-steep at 185f for 3rd time, 60 seconds, the bitterness started to come in much stronger. By the fourth, 5mins boiling, and fifth 10mins boiling, it was more akin water, despite a strong colour persisting.

From my experience, this tea walks a very thin line between sweetness and astringency, that is ultimately decided on by the water temperature, sure this is common with all japanese tea’s, but in this case, the temps were almost gyokuro levels for me. If I had more of it, I would like to experiment with it further. I’m ultimately curious what would happen if I had kept the water temp low for the second steep. Or just as high, as my “guess”, but with only 15 seconds. Freshly harvested Shincha/Shin-ryoku may also affect the taste, but we’re going to have to wait another 3 months for that.

Preparation
155 °F / 68 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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96
drank Fukamushi Sencha by Samovar
10 tasting notes

First a pre-cursor. For quite some time now, I stopped brewing sencha in the “western style” (Basically, the typical tea cup-size, lots of water, more brewing time, usually less steeps). I prefer the taste variation I get with the “traditional style” (less water, smaller cups, shorter brewing, typically more steeps) when it comes to sencha(I’m still lazy and do western for most other teas though). As such, my review is based on the “traditional style”.

I could sum up this tea in one word: Wow. I’ve been drinking sencha for years, but the more traditionally cultivated methods, this was my first time trying fukamushi-styled. I ordered this one on a whim, and was blown away with it. Clearly I’m a fan. Using more Traditional Japanese brewing, I can get at least 5 steeps out of this remarkable tea. The brilliant green persists through the steeps, and so does the delicious sweet, buttery almost grassy flavour (for those wary of grass-vegetal, to be honest it is not over-powering, its well balanced, almost a hint).

Brewing method: 120-140ml(4oz or just over) of water(same amount for all steeps) and 1 teaspoon. Water is Green temp (170-175/77c-81c), further cooled, by adding to the pot before adding the tea, then pouring from the pot to the cups(all this happens within a minute, but the cups and pot natural temp cools the water further), add the tea to the pot, then add the water from the cups to the tea(you really only have to do this the one time, unless you’re going long periods between steeps, the purpose is to cool the initial infusion, and to warm the vessels so there is no leaf-shock). Now steep for only 1 minute. Second steep, 30 seconds with current water temp (green 170-175F/77c-81c). Third steep, warmer (White-Oolong temps – 185-195F/85c-90c) 1minute. Fourth steep 5minutes with boiling water. Fifth steep 10 minutes with boiling water. I would drink this every day if I could, but, due to the involved method of brewing this, makes it impractical for most offices. I haven’t brewed it in the “western style”, and I’m hesitant to “waste” this tea that way. If I feel particularly lazy, perhaps I’ll try it, and give my thoughts on it then. But any green-tea lover should definitely try fukamushi sencha. Easily my favourite sencha.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec
teaplz

Thanks for the awesome descriptive-ness of this! I completely botched my first attempt with a fukamushi sencha (Maeda-en’s), so it’s really great to read something that worked out!

unstable

Just read your review. Yeah, from what I can tell Fukamushi is stronger, more sensitive to quantities and time, which surprises me it worked as well as it did with my usual sencha regimen – but then again, I tend to use “heaping” teaspoon scoops for my regular sencha, where this I was almost exactly a teaspoon. The green does not really get to that golden yellow most sencha’s have, until about the 5th steep, and even then, its still very green. Not as green as Samovar’s Ryokucha/matcha, but green for a green tea. I’m also very cautious on time. I start pouring before the timer runs out. I don’t know. I’ve made this tea 4 times now(not counting the re-steeps), and each have been successful (at least for me).

Angrboda

Say, is that (traditional style) what is known as gong-fu style brewing? I’ve been meaning to try and learn something about that, but I always seem to get distracted and forget about it again, so I still don’t know how to do that other than I think it’s something to do with a more leaves and shorter steeps.

unstable

@Angrbody I’m not an expert. But, essentially yes. I always interpreted it as “less water”, than “more leaves”. Either way you spin it, its the same thing in the end(glass half full, or glass half empty). I use smaller vessels (cups and pots – more traditional asian size, that hold only 2-3 oz/60-90ml – to put that in perspective, thats 1/6 to 1/4 of a soda can, and kyusu, which average around 6-9 oz). Hypothetically you could do the same thing with more tea in larger vessels, but you’d have to play with the quantity/water ratio a bit to get it.

Angrboda

Cool, thanks. I have some small cups that might be good for experimenting with. Probably a bit bigger than yours, since I haven’t ever measured what they hold, but it should be close enough. I’ll have to try that some time when I have better time. :)

unstable

Guess I’ll throw in one last comment. If your using a pot/kyusu, or even a gaiwan. Remove the lid after each steep to let it breathe. Otherwise it can sort of “re-steep” the leaves with the build-up of moisture from the steam, which can possibly negatively effect the flavour of the next steep.

Keemun

Sencha rocks…

Lydia

wow! thanks so much for the brewing instructions. i tried following samovar’s but i found i a bit confusing and the tea came out way too strong for my taste. i thought maybe it was because i didn’t use a kyusu pot but after using your method, i immediately fell in love with this tea!

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72

I ordered this based on an existing impression of another “Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy” brand. That brand, the name of which escapes me to this day, was much lighter and sweeter in nature, that required a good 3 minutes of steeping just to unfurl, and more green-oriented(vegetal). This variation is very dark, roasted and smoky – concentrated even – leaning more to the black tea variety. It was after fiddling around with it that I found a “palatable” setting of only 30 seconds a steep at the White-Oolong temps. 45 seconds max on re-steeps. I’m usually wary of suggested steep times on tins, when they immediately say boiling. And for a such a long period, with a larger quantity of leaf(tablespoon vs my own teaspoon), this, to me at least, would be over-powering. I have yet to try that method, but if I do, I’ll be sure to update my findings, but I’m comfortable with what I have now. My way of brewing, the tea’s the smoky and roasted flavour does not become over-powering, but a more calming accentuated flavour, ideal for fireplace settings, and especially the winter season. I get the woodsey, smokey taste notes mentioned, and after a couple steeps, I definitely detect the apricot. Not as sweet as I had expected from another Monkey Picked, but still a good quality/price ratio oolong. Currently my “every day tea”.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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86
drank Hawaii-Grown Oolong by Samovar
10 tasting notes

The product description is surprisingly accurate on the taste-notes. For me, I was also getting a sense of what can be best described as “fresh”, with slight notes of vegetal, and an interesting titillation on the tip of my tongue, a sensation similar to something spicy (but not being actually spicy). Due to its rather mellow nature, I had to steep longer than some oolongs. In this case, 3mins at just over Green/White Tea-temps. And for each consecutive steep, added another 30 seconds. By the third steep, it takes on a more apricot flavour. I’ve managed to take it to 5 steeps without issue, but found the first steep to be the most interesting. As good as this tea is, the cost makes it difficult to justify, at least for an “every day” tea. Probably better suited for special occasions, or something to try now and then to break up your regular tea regimen.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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