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Recent Tasting Notes
I don’t really drink much flavored tea anymore with the exception of naturally scented tea with flowers. Over the past year or so, Sakura has officially dethroned jasmine as my favorite floral flavor in tea. Den’s Sakura Sencha has been my cherry blossom tea of choice for a while now and I eagerly anticipate it’s release every spring. This year, they made the bold move of changing their winning blend and went all natural. The cherry flavoring was removed and matcha was added. While I applaud their effort, the new blend isn’t quite as satisfying as the previous one.
The matcha dusted green leaves are less visually appealing than the old blend with its long needle shaped leaves interspersed with elegant pink flower buds and sakura petals. The smell of the tea is also different. It reminded me of salt pickled cherry blossoms. The flavor is true to the aroma – a subtle taste of cherry blossom and umeboshi pickled plums. More savory than sweet and a bit drying in the mouth. The base of the old blend was a deep grassy green tea which I preferred. This one although good, seems to be more brothy.
Overall, while I enjoyed this tea I rate it lower than last year’s blend and Yunomi’s Sakura Sencha with Sugared Sakura Leaves. It’s briney, salty taste wasn’t my favorite and I missed the sweet sakura flavor of those other two. The matcha is an interesting idea but doesn’t add anything here. I hope Den’s tweaks this blend or goes back to the old formula.
Flavors: Plums, Sakura, Salty
This is from a teabox and now it is gone and I never wrote a tasting note. Here is one: the tea is ancient but the packaging is great, so the flavor shouldn’t be too bad. It still tastes fantastic to me — if anything, the green tea is so light. I used two teaspoons since there were so many popped rice pieces! And lots of matcha among the few leaves of green tea. The mug color is more yellow than green which is surprising with all the matcha. The flavor is all sweetness and toastiness and earthiness from the matcha. Sometimes this type of tea hits all the notes and this is an excellent one. I think my preferred genmaicha in stock would be one with matcha. (I also finished a couple other teas from teaboxes recently!)
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for a full mug// 30 minutes after boiling // 2 1/2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 25 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Thanks to Stephanie for this sample! I brewed it up in my Den’s Tea kyusu. The instructions are for two steeps but I got a third steep out of the leaf by brewing at 180f for about 3 minutes. It’s a basic, grassy sencha. I may have let the leaf get too old. It’s tasty but doesn’t have a lot of the nuance that I’ve come to expect from Den’s Tea. Still, it’s got a decently thick mouthfeel and clean flavor.
This was the free sample of the month when I made my recent order. I love kukicha but never had a roasted kukicha before. Adventure time! I prepared this in a shudei kyusu. Steeping times: 30 seconds, 15, 30, 45, 120.
The dry leaf smells like roasted grains (barley came into mind fast), and the dark leafy veggies char and kale. The wet leaf smells sour and bitter, very much like kale fried with apple cider vinegar.
The liquor is golden brown and full-bodied. The first cup, at first, is broth-like, tasting of grains and nuts (nuts in generally – perhaps cashews?). Very smooth texture. After I become used to this new tea, I begin to discern that it’s actually somewhat sweet. The aftertaste is even sweeter. The second cup and beyond are similar to the first in taste, but they taste even sweeter and feel silky.
I sampled this tea the day before Halloween. I wish didn’t put off writing the review since I like to sample and review on the same day – having the feeling of the tea in mind. I do recall that it tasted and felt like an early autumn tea, when the air is crisply cool, when the leaves are beginning to turn and rot on the ground after they have fallen. This was a good first experience with roasted kukicha. I don’t prefer it to green kukicha, but to houjicha? Perhaps if I didn’t want something so intensely roasted. I liked this one!
Received this as a free sample with my Den’s order a while back. Given that it’s a culinary grade matcha, I wasn’t expecting too much but it makes fantastic matcha lattes and is even pleasant to drink straight.
The matcha powder smells fresh and grassy like a good matcha should. The tea has a sweet vegetative taste with some minty tones and a hint of astringency in the finish. The body is robust enough to hold up to milk and sweeter with great flavor.
This is far above the low grade stuff that passes as culinary matcha. Recommend checking it out if you prefer matcha that’s naturally sweet and less bitter.
Flavors: Grass, Mint, Sweet, Vegetal
Very nice tea I got a sample of as part of Den’s starter kit or whatever. I used the brewing instructions that came with this sample and they worked quite well. The leaf smelled grassy and nutty, like many sencha. The first steep was grassy with a bit of a fruity undertone and slight bitterness. The second and third steeps were a bit more vegetal with a spinach note, little to no bitterness, and a more rounded flavor. The last steep was slightly more watery, but still had some sweet, green flavor going on with it.
Flavors: Fruity, Grass, Nutty, Spinach
I hadn’t had mugicha for almost six years until this summer. When I studied abroad in Kyoto, my host mother brewed a large pot every evening (large tea bags from the grocery store) and then let it refrigerate over night in recycled bottles. My host siblings and I each took a bottle to school each day. Sometimes, instead of ryokucha, my host mother would brew a hot cup of mugicha after dinner. I only remember that it tasted like…barley – simply barley.
In comparison, Den’s mugicha is more roasted and even tastes coffee-like. At first these qualities deterred me from liking it, so I diluted the infusion by more than 50%. The roast used to be a tad heavy and bitter for me. Slowly, I started using the directions more strictly. The cool roasted grain taste was very refreshing during the hotter days and evenings. I just finished the last bag (now being late September). Heating up it up after cold-brewing produces a comforting cup akin to houjicha.
Glad I decided to buy this even though I didn’t have a sample beforehand. Another plus is that it’s affordable.
I’m not a fan of mango tea in general, but this was a free sample in an order. I found it pretty good considering what it was and that it’s not a personal preference. A tiny touch of waxy flavor that’s always present, but it’s overall pleasing and uplifting. The tea bag delivered a strong taste.
Flavors: Fruity, Mango
Sipdown no. 65 of 2016 (no. 276 total).
It really seems like I’ve had more sipdowns than I’ve recorded this year, but I’ve been pretty religious about it so it must just be one of those things that seems different than it is.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Not as juicy as the Maeda-en, but still, in the words of George Harrison, sweet and lovely.
I love the fine leaves of shinchas, like green, fragrant iron filings. They make a chartreuse colored liquor with a sweet, vegetal fragrance like sweet peas. The flavor is similar, though it’s not just a single note, and it dances back and forth a bit between sweet and something just short of bitter but not enough to be unpleasant, with some marine, seaweed notes and some grassy green ones.
Not my favorite of those I’ve had, but still quite good.
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Marine, Peas, Seaweed
It is my pleasure to have the 2016 harvest as my first Hashiri Shincha from Den’s. I had been looking forward to it for months.
Brewed in a ceramic kyusu. Steeping times: 90 seconds, 60, 90, 120. Temperature remained the same.
The most noticeable characteristic is the sweetness. Unexpectedly, the dry leaf smells fruity, of lychee and loganberry. When steeped, the leaf smells more vegetal and ever so slightly buttery. The pale but bright green broth is very thick and medium-bodied. The first cup has a balance of sweet and savory. It is so deliciously sweet! With each following infusion, the savory note strengthens and the sweetness lessens.
There is no bitterness, nor a seaweed note. Straight up sweet and/or savory. It is refreshing and invigorating – a spring delight.
This sample is ancient at this point, but I’m about to receive a shipment of fresh senchas, so I’m really in the mood.
Bitter on the first contact with the tongue, but in a way that amplifies the sweetness later. It feels very creamy for a green tea, but not so far as oily or thick. The sweetness is familiar, like that of dragonwell aftertaste, almost a sugar snap pea cotton candy. Delicious. This tea is only vaguely seaweedish on the mid sip, I hardly even notice it. Definitely not a marine green and very little in the savory department. It is worth buying again, and has kept very well for being probably over a year old at this point!
Flavors: Peas, Sweet
I really enjoyed this one. Did two sessions with it – one with the parameters I normally use for sencha (4g in 150mL with 160 degree water, sometimes going up to 165 a couple steeps in) and one with Den’s Tea’s recommended parameters, which seemed a little weird to me (1st steep, 180 degrees for 60s, second steep boiling water for 15s). I liked it both ways, but I think my normal method was a bit better. These leaves smelled nice. Had the classic roasted nutty grass smell of sencha.
1st Session: 60s, 30s, 45s, 90s
The first steep was the best to me, with just a touch of bitterness, good sweetness with vegetal, grass, and roasty notes and a smooth, almost buttery feel. Next steep had a more pronounced vegetal taste, like spinach, with a bitter finish and sweet aftertaste. After this steep, I pushed the temp up to 170 degrees. The next steep was vegetal with a bitter finish and was noticeably more watery. The final steep was just a light and subtle vegetal sweetnes.
Session 2: 180 degree water for 60s followed by boiling water for 15s.
First steep was a bit more pungent in its flavor with an almost sour bitterness – I think that was the grassy flavor, at the front followed by a very deep roasty vegetal flavor. The next steep had some bitterness with a thick, creamy feel and nice grassy flavor. The taste of the cup got better as it cooled down.
Flavors: Bitter, Creamy, Grass, Roasted, Smooth, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal