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Recent Tasting Notes
June Wedding! This is a newer tea, which I bought just last month during Yunomi’s Golden Week free shipping sale. I was curious about it mainly because it had so many… negative/odd reviews on Steepster, which made me want to taste it for myself!
The tea leaves are huge, and definitely look reminescent of autumn leaves, because they are so large and brown. They really fill out after infusion, too! The dry leaf smells strongly of fermented sour pickles, but I love pickles, and since most of the reviews described the tea as having a pickle sort of flavor, I figured I probably would like this okay.
Brewed up, I definitely find this to have a pickle flavor. I first sampled it on vacation with my friend, and he agreed; I found it more agreeable than he did. In addition to the sort of tart, pickle top note, there is that sea salt/brine sort of taste I get from some green teas, though it is lacking the seaweed note that usually accompanies that particular flavor in those green teas.
Overall, the tea comes off a bit more on the savory side, so I tried ochazuke (white rice submerged in green tea) with this tea. I wasn’t too impressed with my first try of the Japanese dish, but I think that was mostly because the texture was too much like porridge, which is just too mushy for my tastes. I’m still glad I tried it, though.
I’m a bit middle-of-the-road with this one; I don’t dislike it, because I do like that tart-pickly taste, but it also isn’t a flavor I’d particularly feel in the mood for in tea very often, so even though I only have an ounce of leaf, it’ll probably take a while for me to use it up. I can tell this will very much be something where I’d have to be in the right mood.
Flavors: Dill, Ocean Air, Salt, Tart
June Wedding! Something new… but that I’ve put off trying for a while. (For my purposes, anything from this year is pretty much “new” as far as I’m concerned!) I got this from one of my Yunomi orders to use as ramen broth. I was incredibly surprised how good the ume kobucha (plum kelp) “soup tea” my friend brought me back from Japan was, so I have high hopes for this shiitake mushroom soup tea.
This is another dissolvable powder like the ume kobucha, and like the ume kobucha, it is very salty, so I really wouldn’t recommend drinking it as a tea, but instead using it as a soup broth or in cooking. As a ramen broth, this one is quite nice too! I’d say it is maybe a bit more savory than the ume kobucha, which had a more sweet-tart flavor over all, while this one has salty mushroom taste. Of the two I think I actually like the sweet-tart of the ume kobucha a bit more, but both are great and I’m glad to have another option for eating my noodles, since I need MSG-free broth options.
Flavors: Mushrooms, Salty
When I first tried this tea, I thought I had mistakenly brewed one of my cherry blossom scented teas. This is a straight tea with an astonishing cherry blossom like taste and aroma. It brews up light green, buttery smooth and clean without any bitterness. Grassiness is more subdued than other Japanese greens and there are dominant notes of sakura and umeboshi pickled plums. There’s a sweet and salty flavor to it that reminds me of biting into a sakura mochi.
This is a good tea with a rather atypical profile for a Japanese green. While I enjoyed it, it tastes too similar to the 3 sakura senchas I already own for me to consider getting more. Recommended if you’re looking for a Japanese green that’s a little different from the usual.
Flavors: Cherry Blossom, Plums, Salty
For my latest batch of iced tea I decided to make a quart of cold brewed mugicha, Japanese roasted barley tea. I’ve never tried it before, but know it is a cultural staple there for the summer months, so I’ve been very curious to try it. The mugicha I purchased from Yunomi came in 10g bags, so I simply dropped one in my quart mason jar, sealed it up, and left it to cold brew in my fridge overnight.
Now, I have a confession to make… I like coffee. Yes, it’s true, you can revoke my Steepster account and kick me off the site now. I drank it for years, until I had to go through a “caffeine detox” period to test if caffeine affected my migraines (for better or for worse). During that time I switched to tisanes, since I was still so used to having warm beverages in the morning, and was really shocked by all the flavor options. Once it was determined caffeine wasn’t a migraine trigger and I could have it, I just started exploring more teas rather than taking back up coffee, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it or won’t drink it. In fact, if I don’t have good tea on me at a restaurant, I will order coffee instead rather than take their LQ brand bagged drivel. If I’m going to be paying for a single cuppa, I at least want to make it a good cuppa, and I’ll take a froo-froo mocha over Lipton or Bigelow anyday!
So imagine my surprise to discover that roasted barley tasted exactly like chilled coffee! I was expecting mugicha to have a sort of houjicha taste from the roasting process, but I’m definitely getting a very distinct coffee bean sort of flavor… the only difference is the drink is of course not as heavy of a mouthfeel as coffee, and very light and refreshing without leaving that acidic feeling in the stomach. I looooooove iced coffee and usually ordered my drinks iced rather than hot at cafes, so this was an extremely pleasant surprise! I can only imagine that I’ll be making loads of this stuff over the summer.
Flavors: Coffee, Roasted
The liquid had a pale, golden yellow color. The aroma again is dominated by scents of cedar wood and smoke. The body is medium, with a very smooth, velvety texture. There is no bitterness or astringency. The taste is also dominated by notes of cedar wood and smoke, with an overall roasty character. The aftertaste is sweet and woody.
See the full review at https://teajourneyman.com/
Flavors: Cedar, Roasted, Smoke
Technically, this isn’t the tea I currently have in my cupboard, though what I have is very similar — my friend Todd brought me back a small jar of powdered ume kobucha (plum kelp) tea from his trip to Japan, and since the jar is fully in Japanese, other than reading the “ume kobucha” on the front, I have no idea the brand name. I used the directions for preparing the tea from this Sennenya brand listed on Yunomi’s site, my current go-to for Japanese teas, and from the few ingredients I could read with my limited Japanese skills, what I have and this one seem to be the same sort of thing. I am guessing the brands are probably pretty close and with the same sort of ingredients, anyway.
Todd knows that I have been looking for good teas to use as broth bases for ramen noodles, because my chronic migraine condition means I can’t use the packaged flavor packets (MSG is one of my triggers). I actually grabbed a shiitake tea from Yunomi for this purpose, and was pretty surprised by this plum kelp tea that Todd found, which apparently is another of the “brothy” variety of teas. I wasn’t so sure about the taste from the description, but I’ll try anything!
I definitely wouldn’t just drink this as a tea — it’s far too savory and salty for that! — but this is actually a really tasty broth! Despite being a thin broth the tea has a very thick mouthfeel because it is very salty. There is a vegetal, seaweed-like note to the tea, but it isn’t overwhelming — it is actually more subtle than the umami seaweed flavor I find in many green teas — and it is quickly chased by a slightly fruity sweet-tart plum note. The sip closes on a salty, soupy broth flavor. This was perfect for ramen noodles, and gave them the salt and flavor they’ve been missing, and I really enjoyed sipping up all the broth afterwards! The little flecks of dried kelp and ume were even a fine garnish on the noodles.
If you are looking for a good “soup” tea, I’d highly recommend this! Just make a cuppa of something else to actually quench your thirst.
Flavors: Broth, Chicken Soup, Plums, Salty, Seaweed, Tart
Such a smoooooth gyokuro. The umami flavor is just a hint when you swallow and let in more air. It quickly subsides and resolves in a cool, slightly sweet fruit note, mostly melon to my tongue. Did I experiment with this at 190? Yep. Was I rewarded with a new gyok experience? Yep. The leaves even gave a fairly nice second cup.
If it were a bit less expensive, this could be a sensible daily drinker.
Flavors: Green Melons, Sweet, warm grass, Umami
Surprisingly full-bodied. I thought it would be a bit delicate, but it works both hot and iced. Perfect for Spring. Not a “classic” Japanese green cup, but definitely not a Spring Blossom Pekoe. To my tongue, it was something a bit new. Kinda like when you first have a fresh Japanese black when you mostly know Assams and Keemuns. Loved it.
Flavors: Grass, Spearmint, Sweet, Vegetal, Wheat
It took my whole workday yesterday, but I finished writing up my tea presentation for National Library Week next Thursday! Phew…
Felt in the mood for some houjicha this morning, so I decided to make a cup of this Amber Roast sampler by Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms that I got from Yunomi. It’s the first houjicha I’ve tried that’s made from a sencha rather than bancha, and I’m actually saving the rest of my sampler to sipdown when I see my bestie next month on vacation, since houjicha is his favorite kind of tea, and he’s never tried this kind of houjicha either. I could certainly tell a difference in the flavor, and I’m curious if he’ll be able to tell, as well!
The tea steeps up a bright amber color and has the woody, roasted nuts aroma common of houjicha. The flavor of the tea has a lovely roasted, malty flavor, with some slightly sweet notes that remind me of honeyed oats mid-sip, but the finish closes with a slightly astringent, smoky, savory seaweed aftertaste that I’ve never had from a houjicha before. I’ve never tried the Sencha of the Summer Sun this houjicha was produced from, but it’s obvious this particular note is left lingering through from the base leaves, and makes this houjicha very unique. This particular vegetal aftertaste fades a bit on subsequent steeps, leaving it tasting a bit more like a more standard (though still delicious) houjicha, but that first steep remains a truly unique houjicha experience and I’d highly recommend it to fans of houjicha and sencha alike!
Flavors: Astringent, Honey, Malt, Oats, Roasted, Seaweed, Smoke, Toasty, Umami, Wood
The dry leaves smell of muffins and marshmallows. The wet leaves give a nice cherry fragrance to the room. The first couple steeps had little to offer. However it opened up in a big way on the 3rd. Its a very pleasant natural sweetness. Reminds me a lot of marshmallows and baked goods. The black tea taste doesn’t come through much at all. Its all strong sakura flavor here. My brother said it got so strong after a bit it turned his stomach. That didn’t happen to me but something to note.
I do recommend this tea. Nothing else like it.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cherry, Floral, Marshmallow, Sweet
Green March! I recently put in a big order with Yunomi, and I was just shy of qualifying for free shipping and didn’t know what I wanted, so what better way than to drop some mystery tea onto the order? What I ended up getting was a May 2017 harvest of Kabusecha Saeakari from Marushige Shimizu Tea Farm. I’ve never tried (and I’ll admit, even heard of) Kabusecha before. From the description it seems to be a bit of a fusion between sencha and gyokuro, but the preparation instructions are definitely more like that of gyokuro. And I’ve never tried gyokuro before, so I was expecting a little wobbliness in preparation making this for the first time.
I was mainly concerned getting the right temperature. I don’t own a food themometer, and the lowest setting on my temperature-control kettle is 160 degrees F. The recommended steeping temperature for this tea was 122-140 degrees F. And while I do own a small porcelain Japanese teapot, I don’t have a fancy gyokuro-style set with the water-holder dishes and whatnot. So, I winged it. I used the lowest setting on my kettle, poured that into my teacup, let it sit while I measured out 4 grams of leaf to put in the teapot, then moved the water to another teacup just before dumping it into the teapot, hoping by that point it would be in the proper temperature zone. While I’ll never know for certain, after my cup steeped for the recommended two minutes, the resulting steep certainly didn’t feel more than just a little above tepid to my tongue, so hopefully it was in the ballpark?
The first thing that struck me was how much of a salty aroma the tea had! The flavor was very strong; I didn’t find it unpleasant, but was not used to such a strong savory taste from my tea having never had it before, and I had to sip through the infusion very slowly. It did have a thick umami profile, with salty notes and vegetal seaweed flavors that reminded me of a seafood taste similar to shrimp. There was also a bit of grassiness and a sweet finish that comes with nice green tea. I didn’t get any astringency from the cup at all; it was very thick and smooth.
The second steep brought on more of a sencha flavor, with a more prominent grassy taste, but notable deeper, umami seaweed notes in the finish of the sip. By the third steep, the umami notes had waned from the cup, but it still had a pleasant vegetal flavor and made for a relaxing cup of green tea.
The first steep was certainly the most unique, but I think it’s going to take a bit of adapting to get my palate used to those strong umami notes. (I’ll get there; once upon a time, I used to not be able to drink bergomot, and now I have more earl grey blends in my cupboard than I care to count). So at the moment that second steep was my favorite, which brought out more of a blend of the new flavors and old, familar notes. I’ll have to continue to work with this tea… apparently the flavor can change a lot depending on temperature and steep times, and I’m especially curious to try it iced!
Flavors: Grass, Salty, Seaweed, Sweet, Thick, Umami, Vegetal
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 recently tried a sakura-flavored green tea, so I decided to sample a sakura-flavored black tea this morning! (What can I say, the spring-like weather has me in the mood, even if we don’t have cherry trees in my area). This tea is made by the Japanese company Creha Tea, but I ordered it through Yunomi.
The first thing to note with this tea is it does use some flavoring, unlike the green tea I sampled recently, so this tea has a much more prominent flavor — having a black tea base, I don’t think there would be any flavor at all without it, given how subtle the sakura taste was on its own when I tasted it in the green tea. But this does give the tea a far more pronounced cherry flavor rather than a subtle floral touch; I imagine for some that will be far more to their liking, and for others, it may be far more disappointing.
The base of the tea is not an extremely strong black, so it isn’t overwhelming to the flavor. More of light-to-medium brew that takes the flavor well, and it’s very smooth. I find no astringencies with the tea, a light maltiness, and a very subtle leafy or woody note. It’s very pleasant. The finish of the sip has this sweet cherry taste, but it isn’t like the cherry flavoring i often find in American blends, that is syrupy, strong, and overbearing. This has a light delicateness to it that really does make me think of cherry-flavored mochi or marshmallows — something soft, fluffy, and sweet, but not overly strong with the flavor. The tea base itself shines through a lot on this, with a softer and more rounded sweet hint of cherry at the end of the sip. It certainly doesn’t have that off-putting “cough-syrup” taste like many cherry teas, and would be a good choice for someone looking for a tea with a subtle and sweet cherry flavor lacking those nasty overbearing medicinal notes.
Flavors: Cherry, Cherry Wood, Malt, Marshmallow, Sweet
Green March! I am a fan of anything and everything sakura (I’m a March baby, I love things associated with Japanese culture, and they just have such a pretty look and smell! Last March I got to see them blooming in Portland, Oregon, but it is my dream to get to go to a proper Hanami in Japan one day!), so when I saw actual sakura-flavored tea, and not that common faux-sakura green tea that is everywhere using cherry-flavoring and rose petals (and don’t get me wrong, I freaking love that stuff!) I knew I had to try it!
This tea was ordered from Yunomi, but is made from a Japanese tea company called Chasandai Tea Factory. From what I’ve found from my (limited) research into flavored Japanese sakura teas, usually the sakura leaves and flowers are salted, not sugared (and I have some of the salted variety on order from Lupicia on the way… can’t wait to try those, too! I’ll just consider going way over my tea budget this month on sakura seasonals a birthday present to myself. cough cough) I’ll be curious to compare the differences, but I have to say, this tea is very unique, and I really like it!
First off, and I know this is quite strange to say about a tea that probably everyone would unanimously think of as floral, it comes off very dessert like to me… in fact my very first impression was sugar cookies, and I often don’t even get that feeling from tea blends that are boasting themselves as cookie blends. Yet, it is hard to put my finger on exactly what it is that strikes those feelings in me. I certainly can taste a rich, vegetative sencha note in the base of the tea, and it is obvious this is a quality sencha. But it has a sort of buttery quality to it that reminds me a bit of drinking a Jin Xuan oolong… that creamy/buttery/vegetative note. It just feels a little lighter in body than a Jin Xuan. Then it has this very notable sweetness, both from the sugared leaves and the natural sweetness of the floral quality of the sakura. Somehow those things put together just make it taste somehow very cookie-like to me, rather than like a typical floral tea. It certainly doesn’t read with a heavy floral taste the way rose petal tea does. It’s a very subtle touch.
The flavor isn’t strong, but it is something very unique. To me it’s like a Jin Xuan that has a subtle sakura petal note instead of that orchid/lilac note that is often lingering under the buttery/vegetal flavor. And it’s just a bit sweeter, hitting this buttercream/cookie note at the back of my throat. If you want something that is going to scream “sakura” at you, honestly the faux teas that taste strongly of cherry and flowers but are accomplishing the deed in an artificial way are going to do it better, because as I’ve discovered, sakura is a very subtle flavor note. But this is quite different, and quite tasty! I’ll definitely be enjoying this, and may try making an iced brew and seeing how that tastes, as well.
Flavors: Butter, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Sugar, Sweet, Vegetal
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 feel like the more I drink this tea, the more I like it. It fares well with various different parameters. This time I tried a high leaf/water ratio and cooler temperature for first two steeps. Namely, 1st steep at 80°C, 2nd at 86°C, 3rd straight off the boil and 4th was a 10 minute simmer, now my standard ending of Hojicha sessions.
All infusions were very thick, but also very different from each other. It started off mild and roasty, yet complex and finished with a dark woody brew with competing coffee bitterness, green tea astringency and caramel sweetness.
Flavors: Caramel, Cedar
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