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Recent Tasting Notes
My first ever houjicha, received in a sampler set from Yunomi. Unfortunately this was my least favorite tea in the sampler. This tea has a smoky nose, and is both savory and roasted when drinking, but I don’t feel like it goes anywhere after that. Unlike other teas commonly described as smoky or roasted (e.g. Lapsang suchong), this is not what I would describe as leather—this is definitely more of a true burning wood flavor to me.
I do not want to provide a numerical value or provide a recommendation either way, because this is my first houjicha, maybe I am just not into them in general.
I shouldn’t have read the notes prior to trying this one. Particularly not Liquid Proust’s, because now I’m thinking of dead human bodies that might have turned into plants, and it’s all suddenly very Lovecraftian.
The leaves are something different. They’re huge for one, and look like leaves you might find outside on the ground in autumn. They certainly don’t resemble any tea I’ve ever tried. The scent, though, is truly awful. It’s very vinegary, and while I can see the comparisons to pickles and olives, mostly I’m thinking embalming fluid. That’s all LP’s fault, I’m sure.
Now that I’ve filled my mind with such comparisons, I know I’m going to have a hard time tasting pleasant things. It’s not terrible, but it’s not something I’d want to drink routinely (or even ever again…) It’s very savoury, which is fine, but it mostly tastes like a combination of brine and vinegar with an undertone of decay.
I’m going to say I recommend this one, because I think everyone should have this experience at least once in their lives. It’s unique.
I tried less leaf and cooler water this time, yielding a lighter and less complex, but definitely very tasty tea. The lower bitterness and astringency allowed me to focus more on the mouthfeel of the liquor, which is oily, thick and effervescent. There is still some powderiness from the astringency, but fairly subdued.
Flavors: Rooibos, Seaweed, Umami
I can imagine coffee lovers enjoying this tea. It shares some characteristics with coffee especially in the smell. There are roasty notes and some very nice bitterness, unlike other hojichas I have tried.
Another thing that sets this apart from standard hojicha is that I feel it is more reminiscent of dry wood fire rather than smoke that you get from burning damp wood or charcoal. I also get some lovely late autumn forest sensations from this tea.
I strongly recommend not to dispose of the leaves after you are done with the 3-4 steeps. Simmer them for 10 minutes instead. This gives you a final infusion, which might be even my favourite. In terms of colour it is almost shou like and the taste profile is also more on the sweeter side. There is a bit less bitterness, but strangely enough the coffee notes seem even stronger. I also notice a little bit of astringency, which is very unusual for hojicha.
I really enjoy this tea and look forward to future sessions. It will serve well as an evening tea to calm down.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Bitter, Coffee, Fireplace, Forest Floor, Sweet, Wood
Cold brew review:
This tisane is really suited for a cold brew. It is very easy to drink and possesses a great balance of honey sweetness, roasted nuttiness and a hint of sour notes. Although not very complex, it is enjoyable and refreshing. I like the mouthfeel too, it is neither drying nor mouth-watering, but coats the mouth very well.
For the price it is a great deal!
Flavors: banana, Honey, Roast nuts, Roasted Barley
First cup delicious (6 g, 60 ml, 40º, 2 min). Prepare in a shiboridashi. The infusion has aan intense yellow green color. First sip sweet with a potent flavour. Tea is creamy, with umami and slight aftertaste. I appreciate a slight astringency, but would not say it is a fault in this tea.
My second steeping (60 ml, 50-60 ºC, 30"-1’) is nice though it lost most of the sweetness and umami of the first one.
Flavors: Sweet, warm grass, Umami, Vegetal
Opening the packet (like a kid on Christmas morning) I tear back the strip and vice grip the tabs apart. Smoke, rich and dark with wood and charcoal qualities announce themselves with a punch. So strong yet so complex. Much more going on than your average smoked tea.
In appearance the leaves are dark brown and light yet crisp with a few sticks/stems present. They are loosely chopped and vary a little in size.
Steeping Parameters: 3g of leaf – 90C water – 270ml vessel – 3 minutes
Once steeped the liquid is Golden, red/brown and bares a smoky, wooden scent somewhat toned down from it’s raw form.
Flavour is rather mild considering the stronger scent. The first sips are smoky and wooden with some dryness but it quickly dissipates and becomes sweet (like honey) with a lingering aftertaste. No where near as strong as say a Lapsang Souchong, and far more complex in flavour.
As it cools slightly and my mouth is coated in it’s essence I can note the whisky in it’s ever growing sweetness. Malty yet smooth and sweet with a hint of smoke, sounds like a good whisky right? And I am a whisky sorta gal, it’s my poison if you will. Also a fruit note comes through a bit better half way down my cup, like plum or apricot. Sour and sharp but also sweet and juicy.
A good second steep with plenty of smoke and sweetness left to speak of. Perhaps not like honey at this point, more like brown sugar. Still the sweetness comes through in the after taste and it lingers on the tongue, coating my mouth with it’s beautiful glory.
More wooden in this steep too.
Very soft but hints of smoke and sweet fruit remain. A refreshing finish to a complex and flavourful tea.
This tea was frankly everything I wanted and more. Packed with flavour without an overpowering smokiness and delicious throughout each steep. The whisky barrel has added so much depth and sweetness, it was a truly beautiful touch. I achieved all of this with only 3g of leaf, very impressive.
The gold leaf was separate from the green tea so I decided to use my new washi paper tea canister which was also from Yunomi. I placed both the leaf and the gold inside and gently shook the canister to mix them together.
The green leaf is somewhat powdery and bares a strong, creamy and sweet grass scent with hints of seaweed. Similar to matcha.
Steeping Parameters: 5g leaf, 80C water, 200ml kyusu.
Once steeped the resulting tea is dark green in colour and bares a sweet, grassy scent.
Flavour is rather delicate but packed with sweet umami. It’s super creamy and smooth with sweet grass, seaweed and honey notes. It has great mouth feel, one sip coats my entire mouth and the after taste lingers as it becomes sweeter and fresher. Considering the amount of sencha dust this isn’t powdery or dry.
It’s a shame none of the gold seems to have made it through my kyusu screen. Though the fact this tea has actual gold in it makes me feel like royalty.
Overall: This was delicious and sooo creamy! It has the charm of a matcha but in sencha form. The umami was delicious and a nice balance to the sweet grass notes. I would have liked a little more of a punch in the flavour but overall it was pretty yummy.
Opening the packet reveals a dark brown leaf that is loosely broken and bares a super strong pine smoke scent. Like a smack in the face sort of smokiness. Perhaps on par with Lapsang Souchong.
Steeping Parameters: 5g leaf, 90C water, 200ml
The resulting tea is dark brown/black in colour and bares a smoky pine wood scent similar to it’s raw scent.
Flavour is wooden and dry with strong a strong smokiness that quickly dissipates. It’s only medium strength considering it’s strong scent, perhaps a longer steeping time would change that.
The smoke has a clinical taste which I believe must be the pine. There is some astringency but it’s easy to drink. The smokiness lingers in the after taste but not as much as the dryness.
Overall: It was a pleasant enough smoked black tea, though it has to be said the smoke was perhaps a little too strong for my usual taste. The clinical almost medicinal taste was unusual but interesting. Again I would have to be in the mood to drink this tea.
I haven’t tried that many flavoured Japanese teas before so this is something of a novelty. All the same I like peach and I’m partial to a Japanese black tea so what could go wrong?
Opening the packaging (which is plain but re-sealable) I am met with a super sweet and fruity peach scent. It sent a smile to my face instantly as it fulled my nostrils. It’s so strong and sweet and juicy it’s hard not to want to devour it all on the spot.
Steeping Parameters: 5g leaf, 90C water in 200ml Kyusu.
Once steeped the resulting tea is brown/red in colour and bares a sweet, peach scent with a wooden under tone.
Slurping the first few sips (as you do) reveals medium strength wooden base which lightens and becomes sweet with fresh peach notes in the after taste. It’s balanced wonderfully, it’s not too strong and you can taste both elements equally. The after taste is sweet but also with some dryness. Considering it’s a black tea this is pretty smooth, there is only a hint of astringency.
The peach flavour itself tastes natural but the sweetness isn’t, so I believe it must have had something added to it to be so sweet. I can’t say if that is natural or not, it could be stevia for example. Either way it’s sweeter than an actual peach.
Rating: It’s a nice flavoured tea. The balance is good, flavours good and my overall drinking experience good. It is perhaps a tad too sweet for my usual liking if I was to be critical. I actually think this would be amazing iced, which is probably how I will steep the rest of this.
Opening this bright green packet reveals a loosely broken mixed green leaf that bares a dry, herbal, toasted grass scent.
Steeping Parameters: 5g leaf, 80C water, 200ml Kyusu
Once steeped the resulting tea is a deep, cloudy, yellow/green in colour and bares a light yet toasted sweet grass scent.
The first sips reveal a toasted, grass flavour (matching of it’s scent) with a touch of astringency and dryness. Good umami notes, sweet and floral with a lingering aftertaste. Only medium strength, not as strong as I had expected considering it’s intense colour.
It has a wooden, herbal sort of taste. Similar to the toasted rice in a genmaicha.
Overall: Honestly this is not one of my favourites, it’s a little dark and oddly herby for my liking. I prefer tencha in matcha form than in original form. It’s also rather dry. But again this was just a basic grade so I didn’t expect much from it. It’s drinkable by any means but it would not be one I would pick if given the choice.
Beautiful colours on the packaging, that’s the plus side to many Japanese teas. Opening the packet reveals a a sweet, fresh, grassy scent full of vegetal notes. So beautiful, like cut grass on a beautiful Spring day.
The tea itself is quite dark green (with a few stems present) and loosely broken into quite fine pieces. The pieces look and feel glossy.
Steeping Parameters: 5g leaf in 70C water. Vessel: 200ml Kyusu
Once steeped the resulting tea bares a gorgeous, cloudy green glow and smells of toasted sweet grass with a hint of fresh spinach.
In flavour this is of medium strength with real mouth feel. One sip coats my entire mouth with flavour. Grass and spinach mixed with vegetal dark green cabbage notes and a lingering umami that becomes slightly dry in the after taste. Yet it’s fresh and very easy to drink. There is some sweetness mixed with a touch of bitterness but they are quite evenly paired.
Re-steep – 55C for 40 seconds and only 100ml (lower temperature to try to draw out more umami)
More flavour and with a touch more bitterness though it’s not bitter by any real means. The sweet umami once again fills my mouth with it’s savoury notes. Still dark green cabbage like but also toasted seaweed. Very mineral and ‘green’ tasting. Beautiful all the same.
Overall: This was a beautiful green tea that was incredibly easy to drink and very fresh. It was not as umami rich as some other teas but it was pleasing and would be a great tea if you’re interested in introducing yourself to Japanese greens. I have a feeling this would be nice iced.
This tea has a great balanced flavour, which develops nicely over different steeps. A nice little surprise are the hidden woody flavours which are rarely found in green teas. I suppose these might originate from the use of harder twigs as well as stems.
1st steep, 68°C, 60 sec: Umami and sweet notes dominate.
2nd steep, 72°C, 30 sec: Umami and sweetness still present, but the soup is more clouded and viscous with vegetal notes coming to the fore. Very nice mouthfeel.
3rd steep, 78 °C, 60 sec: Astringent and citrus notes appear, but do not dominate.
4th steep, 85 °C, 120 sec: The taste profile is the flattest with surprisingly mild astringency. Citrus notes seem to be the most present, especially in the aftertaste.
Overall, I am impressed.
(Out of curiosity, I also went for 5th steep, 90 °C, 240 sec. As expected, the tea doesn’t have much to offer there. This last brew is somewhat bitter and grassy, but not particularly enjoyable.)
Flavors: Citrus, Grass, Umami, Vegetal, Wood
Second time trying this tea and it came out better. Still not very complex, but possesses a good balance of flavours, which was probably intended by mixing various types of tea. There is not a huge difference between various steeps, but naturally umami gradually dies out while astringency appears around 3rd and especially 4th steep. The last, fifth, steep is lacking in many respect with respect to the previous ones, so I didn’t push it any further.
6 g of tea
1st steep, 70°C, 60 sec, 60 ml
2nd steep, 75°C, 30 sec, 100 ml
3rd steep, 80°C, 60 sec, 100 ml
4th steep, 80°C, 100 sec, 100 ml
5th steep, 90°C, 150 sec, 100 ml
Flavors: Astringent, Broth, Butter, Grass, Pineapple, Umami
To my surprise, this tea was not a blend of senchas, but rather a blend of karigane, sencha and bancha. Overall, it’s not bad, but not quite what I expected. The flavour profile is flatter and less complex than that of higher grade senchas, but with the vegetal notes still on the forefront.
Flavors: Butter, Vegetal
Very light tea with virtually no astringency and a vibrant balance of the nutty flavours of toasted rice, the sweetness of kukicha and vegetal notes of bancha.
Harvest: Spring 2016
Region: Uji, Kyoto
Flavors: Grass, Nutty, Sweet, Toasted Rice
Okay to start with I normally dont drink tea bags, but this was interesting enough that I decided to make an exception and Im very glad I did. I brewed it exactly according to instructions with 200 water for 2.5 minutes. I got sweet, vegetal green liquor with a hunt of nuttiness. Its not as intensely nutty or popcorn as genmaicha, its much more subtle. There is almost a wheat like flavor in this as well. It also mellows the green flavors of the tea as well, leading to a nice mellow tea, that I highly recommend for afternoons.
Excellent tea! view less
Flavors: Nutty, Popcorn, Spinach, Vegetal, Wheat
I know it’s only genmaicha but I really love this one. I had previously bought genmaicha dusted with matcha, but the matcha added extra caffeine that I didn’t need at night and made the liquor murky. This is a high quality genmaicha that’s just regular sencha mixed with puffed brown rice and these popcorn looking pieces. Taste is very smooth and clean. Liquor is a clear, yellowish-green color. Good balance of toasty and grass flavors. It gives several tasty infusions and can easily be blended with matcha or plain sencha for some oomph.
Flavors: Popcorn, Toasted Rice
This can be a hard hitting tea at first but as your steeps go on it really changes character and goes from a lot of astringency into floral and grassy tones. The aftertaste of ocean air is always around and it leaves your mouth feeling a bit dry.
Note: Lowering the temperature and/or a shorter steep time can fight off the astringency some if its not your thing. However it will always be around.
1st Steep: A large astringency hits me and leaves my mouth feeling dry and am left with the light aftertaste of ocean air.
2nd Steep: The 2nd steep brings out some grassy flavor and strengthens the taste of ocean air a lot which lingers long after the sip. The astringency is much toned down.
3rd Steep: The faint taste of flowers arrive and mix with the ocean air beautifully. This is where I feel the tea really comes alive. The astringency all but disappears, however your mouth will still feel a bit on the dry side.
4th Steep and Beyond: You’ll get floral and grassy notes as the flavor tapers off.
Overall I really enjoy this and recommend it for those who want something flavorful and with drastic changes over the steeps.
Flavors: Astringent, Drying, Flowers, Grass, Ocean Air