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Recent Tasting Notes
One of the things the pandemic changed is the way I buy tea online. Pre-Covid, it was easy to do quick one off orders from Japan or Taiwan whenever I was running low on a favorite tea thanks to inexpensive international air mail shipping. Well that option is no longer available – at least not for US customers – leaving only the more expensive express shipping via DHL and FedEx. This has resulted in less frequent tea buys and led to a search for US-based tea shops that direct source high quality tea.
I discovered this company through Instagram and Amazon. They are based in Japan but have recently begun shipping from the US. I ordered some fukamushi as I was all out of Japanese greens and wanted something more intense than the lightly steamed Sencha and kabusechsa I’d been having lately.
The tea arrived within days and came vacuum sealed which made me very happy. Properly sealed tea is so important for preserving freshness so you can taste it at peak flavor. Otherwise you’re just buying stale tea.
The tea itself was excellent with all of the flavor elements I like. Freshly cut grass, rich umami, chlorophyll sweetness, and pleasant vegetative notes of spinach and chard along with a little peppery arugula in the aftertaste. Occasionally there’s a faint astringency but it complements the other flavors and is not off putting. Very refreshing and energizing.
Normally it takes me a while to get through a 100g bag but I tore through 2/3rd of this tea in just a month and a half. A real testament to how delicious this tea is!
Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CM-Er1_hNJL/
Flavors: Artichoke, Freshly Cut Grass, Lettuce, Spinach, Umami
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Day 5 from Nicoles tea adventure for me. I don’t usually drink greens teas, and part of that is because i want them infrequently, so i can’t buy any sort of volume or i wouldn’t be enjoying them fresh…when they’re most delicious. I’ve had kukicha before and this one is super tasty. It’s nice to revisit delicious greens….this one is clean, refreshing…some nuttty, buttery notes to it. Not vegetal…just juicy and tasty. thanks nicole!
Ah, the weekend of July 4th, also known as the weekend of perpetual fireworks. They started last night and have been consistently going off around my neighborhood since then, luckily the cats have lived here long enough that they no longer fear them or storms, so win. I love it, the air smells smoky and vaguely brimstone like and there are occasional very pretty flashes of light I can see through my window. Fireworks are one of those things that I absolutely love, and silly as it might sound, one of the few things that can make me weep over the beauty, not many things do that for me. Also happy Canada Day to my more northerly tea friends, and know that I perpetually envy your weather.
Today I am looking at Ocha & Co’s Organic Japanese Kabusecha Shade-Grown Green Tea, one of my favorite forms of Sencha, it is shaded like Gyokuro, but for less time, making it a bit of a halfway point between the two. It is wonderfully refreshing like a Sencha but with that extra level of savory richness to make it similar to a Gyokuro. The aroma of the richly green leaves is savory and nutty, blending notes of bok choy, sesame seeds, toasted nori. grass, a bit of spinach and broccoli sauteed together in Kombu Dashi (that is a very specific thing it smells like, but that is what I got!) and a finish of gentle toasted soybeans.
Into my houhin the leaves go for a bath, the aroma is strong, intense notes of soybeans, cooked spinach, kombu, toasted nori, a bit of grass, and a subtle sauteed bok choy note.Not a lot of sweetness in the steeped leaves, mostly it is wonderfully savory. The liquid, which is a gorgeous bright green in my new tall snow yunomi, smells of toasted nori, sesame seeds, spinach and fresh kelp. There is a touch of grassiness which comes off as very summery to me, a contrast to the winter themed yunomi!
Like Gyokuro, Kabusecha is intensely smooth and thick, though it is not quite the almost syrupy thickness that a traditionally brewed Gyokuro has. It is what I love about Kabusecha, in so many ways it is similar enough to Gyokuro that I can get that fix I frequently crave but without paying the lofty price that Gyokuro has. The taste has a subtle nutty sweetness of soy beans and sesame seeds, a tiny touch of astringency (or shibumi if you are feeling fancy) in the form of cut grass, and a strong lingering spinach, bok choy, and nori umami that lasts well past the finished cup.
The second steep, while being a more vibrant green, manages to be a touch more subtle. This steep brings out the underlying sweetness, notes of sesame and toasted soybean very gently mix with spinach and nori. It is very refreshing, there is no astringency at all and the more green notes are played down this steep. A very enjoyable tea, especially on a lovely firework filled night like night!
I had the strangest thing happen today, there was a package from UPS! I get a lot of mail, perks of tea-blogging, but usually I know when something is supposed to show up, so when I saw this mysterious package I assumed it was tea I had forgotten about. Nope! It was my heart monitor! I was expecting a call from my doctor to come in and get hooked up, but no, this is all done solo. So far wearing it is not a giant pain, it is only two electrodes and they are not too itchy (yet) and the monitor is not hugely bulky (in comparison to the short-term one I wore in high school where I was covered in electrodes and had to wear a huge fanny-pack) so far my only complaint is I have to either wear pants with pockets or carry a purse so I don’t have to have the monitor in my hand at all times. Of course I have to wear this for 21 days, I might be singing a different tune by then!
You know what one of my favorite things about this time of year is? Shincha! That first plucking of the Sencha harvest, it is a thing that is hard to get and usually requires pre-ordering! Today I am looking at Ocha & Co.‘s Organic Japanese Shincha 2016, brewing it in my typical kyusu method, and also on a whim I decided to ice steep it. First let us examine the leaves before they go off to be steeped, they are vibrant and green, and the aroma is astoundingly fresh! Notes of raw spinach, lettuce, crisp fresh seaweed, and a touch of rice (specifically the aroma of water from rinsing rice) waft off the leaves. The green aroma of this tea is more marine and vegetal than grassy, so if you are a person who prefers their greens not on the grassy side, the aroma of this tea is very promising. Granted I don’t mind the grassy notes, but I know plenty of people who do.
First up is brewing with my Kyusu, since it was just me I used my smaller one (I have…a few) and the aroma of the wet leaves is still very fresh and green, with notes of sweet hat, cooked spinach, bamboo leaves, fresh seaweed, and lettuce. Towards the end is a tiny bit of starchy rice water, but the aroma is mostly crisp green and gently sweet. The aroma of the liquid is light and sweet with notes of sun warmed hay, crisp lettuce, and bamboo leaves. There is a very gentle undertone of cane sugar, adding a nectar quality to the aroma.
The first thing I noticed about this initial steep is the pleasantly thick mouthfeel, usually something I associate with Gyokuro rather than Sencha, but I do admit it has been over a year since my last Shincha and I tend to pay extra attention to mouthfeel these days. The taste is a wonderful balance between green and sweet, notes of sweet hay and sugar cane blend with bamboo leaves and gentle spinach. Towards the end is a savory note of fresh seaweed that is replaced with lingering sweetgrass sweetness in the aftertaste.
For the second steep I decided to drink it outside, it was so fresh and green that I wanted to enjoy it under a tree. The aroma is a tad greener, stronger notes of seaweed and spinach, with undertones of cane sugar and bamboo leaves. The taste is still sweet, with gentle notes of sugar cane and sweet hay, but wow, the umami has arrived in force! Stronger notes of spinach and lettuce with crisp bamboo leaves dance in my mouth, it is smooth and rich!
Lastly the much longer to prepare ice steeping! What you do for this is place the tea in the bottom of whichever tool you are using for brewing (I used the houhin style gaiwan I have) and then load the thing up with ice cubes (putting a few leaves on top for aesthetics is fun too) the tea steeps as the ice melts making for one intense cup. Of course you have to wait for the ice to melt, so it is best to occupy yourself with something else while waiting, unless it is heat wave time.
Tasting this tea was wow, like Gyokuro brewed in the traditional way, you can see why tea tasters officially call the liquid of tea the ‘soup’ because wow, the thickness is intense. Notes of buttery cooked spinach, edamame, and seaweed explode in an umami burst in my mouth, it is seriously intense and delicious! We are expecting a heat wave later this week (ewwww) and I am going to indulge in this at least once a day, it is so refreshing!