72 Tasting Notes

There’s a… floralness to this one, a rich nuttiness and a sweet honey aftertaste. I really, really like it. Like. wow. What even is this? The most glorious thing in a cup. What makes it so different…? I have had so many… still good, perfectly satisfactory roasted teas, but this?? What other level of ambrosia is this?? I feel like this is the roasted-tea ideal I have in my memory and have been searching for, and until now have been settling for less. And less is still… really good, but this is a perfection I have only ever dreamed of.

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drank Kyobancha by Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms
72 tasting notes

I absolutely love how huge these leaves are. It’s just a lot of fun to watch brew. A very smooth and comforting flavor. I may actually pick up a bunch of this; it’s very budget friendly and might be the perfect after-dinner tea.

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Smelling both the dry and wet leaves really made me want to sneeze, so I didn’t inhale too much.

The first steeping immediately coats the tongue. It’s thick and sour. Kind of a toasty aftertaste. which is weird. Maybe I should have washed my pot more thoroughly after drinking all those roasted teas. Interestingly it’s very mild overall, except when you’re hit with that… sour-astrigency? Maybe lot more sour than astringent, but it hits the back and sides of the tongue in such a thick and juicy way.

It’s…. extremely intense, though, I think a bit too much for me. Drinking it also gives me a weird…. headache/sinusy feeling, and a tickle in my nose, like I am going to sneeze. Is it possible to have respiratory allergies to tea? Did a bunch of pollen end up in this somehow?

I gave my housemate some of it and they also got the nose-tickly feeling from it, so at least it’s not just me.

I think this is the first tea in the sampler I just can’t drink past the first steeping. The flavor is complex and interesting, and I’d really like to explore it more, but it’s probably not a good idea to keep drinking a tea that is giving me such weirdly strong allergy symptoms. I don’t see any of the other notes mentioning this though, so maybe it really is just us for some reason. How odd.

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I believe the Brightness tea I tried the other day was also a summer-harvest tea, so it’ll be interesting to see how this differs.

Dry leaves smell plenty grassy and dark green, sweeter, I think, than the last tea, and maybe there’s some milkiness in there. Wet leaves are foresty, mossy and…. why do I keep getting chocolate vibes in these teas?

For once, I don’t think I understeeped the first cup. It’s certainly…. interesting, starting out kind of sweet and brothy and turning astringent and … sour, like a hot and sour soup, maybe. It feels heavy and substantial in the mouth. The second steeping is a bit more immediate on the astringency but also… richer, more savory, less sweet. The sour notes are nearly gone, but seem to return in the third steeping, a umami-adjacent juiciness. It’s got some background grassiness, but that’s far from the focus. I’m not sure I can really define the focus, but it’s… it’s really good and just so interesting, competes with the Autumn Moon for my favorite tea in this sampler. I’d like to get more of each and try them side by side.

Looking at the website, it appears the only difference between this tea and Brightness is that Brightness is shaded for two weeks before harvest, while this tea is not. And I think I prefer this tea to Brightness, so maybe I just prefer unshaded teas? Brightness was still very interesting its own way, and might be excellent in certain applications, but this tea is more to my personal tastes, I feel. I love how so many of the teas in this sampler vary just slightly enough that I can start drawing conclusions like this.

I should start thinking ahead though, as I realize I’m about halfway through this sampler. While I still have enough houjicha to last me ~2 weeks, I should probably start shopping around for new sencha to try, given shipping can take a while. I’ll need to finish this sampler before I make any reordering decisions, so in the meantime I’m open to vendor or specific sencha recommendations, if anyone has any suggestions!

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Dry leaves smell very.. deeply green, very chlorophyll-rich, with that bitter edge that tends to accompany darker greens, like chard and lacinato kale. Wet leaves remind me of a pond overgrown with algae and teeming with life.

Despite my attempt to brave my fears and not understeep this, letting it sit a whole 15 seconds longer, the first steeping is still quite mild, slightly green-bitter at the backend, otherwise, vaguely pondwater flavored.

The second steeping explodes. Green peas and spinach, a slight nuttiness and a vegetal sweetness, a pretty intense green flavor that makes me feel like I am getting a lot of vitamins in this. I don’t know how much of that is actually true. I guess for one they’d have to be water soluble nutrients, and probably only in very small quantities, equating to those in a mouthful of spinach at most. But, no matter. I’ve never been into tea for any alleged health benefits, but it’s a nice perk when it happens.

There’s a hint of a crisp mineral-ness to this too, brightening the dark-green depth just enough. I keep coming back to “pondwater” and believe me when I say I mean that in the most affectionate way. The minerally and algal flavors just meld into something I can’t think of a better way to describe.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s agreeing very well with my empty stomach. Some green teas are just… like that, and I don’t entirely know why. Maybe I can narrow it down, though, if I keep taking notes.

I will say, I am also getting a very relaxed headiness from this tea, what I used to (and I guess may as well still) call “tea-high.” It is also something that some teas do better than others, for reasons I’ve never really narrowed down. I think in the past I’ve most commonly gotten it from younger sheng, and once very intensely from a mid-grade silver needle. I’m uncertain if I’ve ever gotten this from a sencha before. It’s interesting. But for all I know, it’s nothing to do with the tea, and more to do with other biochemical factors of whatever else is going on in my body at the moment. I’ve never really scienced it out that far.

I really need to start noting whether or not I would purchase more of this in these notes, because otherwise I am going to forget. I think only very rarely do I re-purchase tea, though, it’s so much more fun to try new things than familiar things, even things that I know I love. And when I do want to repurchase tea, it’s usually for the comforting factor of it rather than the complexity or interest of it, and the comforting factors are usually factors that are present in teas of lower grades, so it becomes a matter of finding the most budget-friendly version of the tea rather than the version that most perfectly encapsulates what I am looking for.

And tea is so darn seasonal, really, especially sencha. who knows if a repurchase of this tea would be from the same harvest, it might be entirely different! But I guess one can assume that summer harvest teas from the same farm would at least retain similar enough characteristics.

Anyway… as for this tea, I’m not sure I would go out of my way for it, but if I did end up with more of it, I think I might like to try it with a hearty, smokey stew, or some kind of campfire-meal. It just tastes like such an outdoorsy sort of tea. I’d also like to try cold-brewing it, I think.

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drank Genmaicha by Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms
72 tasting notes

Measuring out genmaicha for a session in grams doesn’t really…. work. The brown rice is so heavy. You have to at least double it, if not more. So, some adjustments had to be made to get a flavor out of this 5 gram sample packet.

It’s really been a few years since I had a genmaicha. The delightful aroma of the wet leaves has me wondering why. It’s so satisfying, savory, nutty. The toasted flavor is entirely different from the toasted flavor of houjicha. Something in it just feels…. extra nourishing.

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I think it’s very cute that each of the different types of kukicha in this sampler has a different little bird on it.

It smells like. roasted sticks! With maybe a hint of sweetness. But mostly roasted. Actually, it smells a tad burned. Like if I smelled this when I pulled something out of the oven, I would be a little concerned.

When you add the water, it definitely looks like mud. Kukicha is already a weird tea to explain to your family. Roasted kukicha, even more so. Luckily, no one is home to judge me.

When I went to smell the wet leaves, something in there was…. I dunno, it had a cooling sensation, like maybe something mentholy? I sniffed it a few more times, trying to figure out what it was. I inhaled deeply. And then I sneezed. A lot. So much, my ears were ringing!

I hope I am not somehow allergic to something in this stick-tea. That would be a shame. Well, if I have an allergic reaction and die, I hope whoever finds me thinks to read the screen I am sitting in front of and realizes what the culprit is.

I really need to figure out words to differentiate between different roasted flavors besides Roasted. I guess it’s kind of a roasted grain flavor, like mugicha, but more chlorinated. That’s not the right word either. But I’m unable to pinpoint exactly what I am thinking of. There’s just a hint of effervescent freshness I get every so often, I think I am associating it with something in Tiger Balm or some kind of cleaning product. It’s not unpleasantly chemical or anything, I just wish I could identify it.

It’s dry, in a wood-y type of way, which for some reason is more tolerable with stick-teas. It feels more like a flavor that belongs.

In the third steeping that I left longer than intended, I was pleasantly surprised by a mouthful of …cocoa and cinnamon, almost, rich and dark. I think I really am just very shy of oversteeping and probably not letting these teas reach their potential. Another reason that I should have ordered two of these samplers, hah.

The astringency becomes more pronounced and less pleasant as it cools; this tea seems to be at its best (and most comforting) when it’s piping hot.

Four or five steepings in and my favorite part is the raisin-sweet aftertaste on the roof of my mouth. And… it is comforting. I don’t know what it is about these roasted teas that sometimes just deactivate my racing brain. I guess all teas do that to some extent, but there’s something extra in roasted teas.

This is also making me want to make gimbap for dinner. Sometimes green teas stimulate my appetite and sometimes they suppress it, I really don’t know why, or which. But I think in this case, the comfort of this tea is nudging me towards comfort food, so I think I will go start some rice.

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Now this one smells quite grassy, the dry leaf somewhere between hay and lawn clippings, but also something else, maybe a bit damp and mulchy, soil-y, and… oh, well, I guess this is literally named “earth.” That tracks.

The wet leaf smells about like what I might just call “classic” sencha. Like one whiff of this would probably make anyone go, “oh yeah, that’s sencha.” Someday maybe I’ll have better words to describe this, but all I can say is that the scent is quite directly attached to a specific memory.

First steeping is quite mild, but I got a lovely surprise melon rind or cucumber note amid this grassiness.

I think I chronically under-steep my first steeping, but the second always seems to be where senchas really wake up. Another note about this tea said it would be good with sushi, and I feel like I agree. While I’m not finding anything fantastically bold or stand-out about this sencha, it’s just overall pleasant, with the grassiness and borderline savory brothiness I tend to favor in sushi-sencha without too much astringency.

I am gradually starting to relearn the visual differences in these teas. The leaves in this one are substantially smaller compared to the leaves in the autumn harvest tea I had the other day, which makes sense. Not especially small, but the autumn harvest tea had some impressively large leaves in it. This tea also seems a bit more fragmented than the last, but maybe that’s also just a common appearance with smaller leaves. I’m not sure what amount of stem-iness is common in these teas, but it feels like there are fewer in this spring tea. Hm, now I kind of wish I had photographed the leaves of prior teas for later comparison. Maybe I’ll start doing that.

By steeping 4 or 5 (I’ve lost track), it’s mellowed out into an array of boiled vegetable flavors, I’m getting bok choi and lima bean, maybe a hint of not-unpleasant collard-bitterness. I have been doing these tea sessions on an empty stomach lately, and I feel like it helps me tune into the flavors a little more, in the way that everything tastes better when you’re hungry. So far I have yet to get an upset stomach from this practice, though I have been warned some teas can do that.

It says on the packet that these teas were harvested from 30 year old tea trees. I wonder what flavor differences there are between old and new trees? I don’t see anything advertising “young” trees, so I am inclined to think that the older trees are more favored. Some very brief initial research shows that older teas are greatly favored in the puerh world as they impact how well a tea ages, but I am not sure what their role is in un-aged sencha. Hmmmm.

If I regret anything about ordering this Obubu sampler, it is perhaps not ordering two. It might have been fun to drink one session going in blind, as I often try to do, and a second after reading through the tasting notes and having a better grasp on what others find in each tea, and see if I can find similar flavors. A form of.. I dunno, mentally calibrating my tastes, I guess.

Really, it’s just nice to be mindfully tasting tea like this again. The last time I was in this habit, it was nearly a decade ago and I was coping with… a lot. Tea kept me grounded. Life is a lot easier now in many ways, even if it’s a little harder in others. I don’t necessarily need the tea habit as much now, but… I just really love it. And it’s nice to be finally enjoying a period in my life where I can do things that I love because I love them, without them needing to fulfill some practical function to be worth doing. I’m so grateful for that.

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Dry, these leaves smell… almost fruity, like a dried fruit, but only just barely, in a sticky way, maybe a little nutty, maybe dried watermelon with the seeds still in it. Wet, there’s a …creamy and maybe vaguely chocolatey undertone? I dunno. Something in it just briefly reminded me of warm chocolate chai lattes I would make on hot summer nights back when I lived in the south, sipping before bed, listening to podcasts.

But this is a sencha, not a chocolate chai latte, so I’m not sure what scent-note exactly is slinging me into that memory.

Sipping it though, wow, it really is creamy though, somehow. While also being astringent enough to dry up the roof of my mouth and back of my throat a little. Just… how interesting. There’s a flavor I’m getting right before the astringency hits that I wish I could linger on a little longer. It’s so interesting. Maybe almost nutty, but.. I dunno. Spicy isn’t right either. I really don’t know why I’m getting chocolate vibes from this, but I am, definitely. But not like, sweet chocolate or overly dark chocolate, maybe more like a cocoa butter flavor. I dunno

The aftertaste is like… very fresh steamed broccoli. Very fresh, before it starts getting that cabbagey flavor. Or maybe edamame. Hmm.

I forgot how fun this is, hah, just pressure-free trying things and guessing flavors. It’s been such a long looooong day at work and I’m not technically done yet but I missed lunch, so a tea break felt in order.

Whoof, the second steeping is very astringent, but after I get used to it, it feels like a stronger version of the first steeping, that creaminess is really something, you could absolutely convince me I was drinking a latte right now if my eyes were closed. Maybe an oatmilk latte, specifically, there’s definitely some grain flavors to this, like a hearty, whole, filling grain, maybe some hot cereal, or a matcha latte with buttered toast. And… there’s that interesting fruity note again, maybe just a light, juicy acidity.

The third steeping is starting to wane but I think that juicy acidity is getting a little stronger. Something in there for a second reminded me of lotion. The creaminess is fading and the graininess is starting to take over a little more.

This is the first time in a very long time that I am actually drinking higher end, not expired sencha. Was it always this good? I am excited for the rest of the teas in this sampler, if they are anywhere near as fascinating as this.

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