This was my first experience with Bancha, and due to the fact that I thought I had ordered Sencha, I was quite taken aback by the experience.
It took me a while to figure out that it was actually a Bancha, and not some crazy tainted Sencha (as Sencha is the staple of most cafes’ green tea collections). The flavour was almost completely unlike Sencha, as it had a very…wheaty flavour? I would say it was comparable to fermented hay mixed with a curious kind of barley. There was an echo of a lemony tang towards the end of the mouthful which is characteristic of green teas, but it was outspoken by the initial…wheaty bombardment?
It was quite a buttery kind of wheatiness. If you could imagine butter on toast…it wasn’t that. It was like that idea had just broken-up and had started to go their separate ways in my mouth.
I wouldn’t say it was unpleasant – it was a very interesting tea. One that I a) wasn’t expecting and b) had never tried before, and so it was quite fun trying to figure out what I was drinking. I will say however that the wheaty/barley/yeasty flavour was teetering on unpleasant. Just a wee teeter. This could have been due to the temperature the tea was brewed at (it’s difficult to trust Coffee orientated cafes with brewing a tea correctly). Either way, it was what it was.
It had a pretty full mouth-feel to it – albeit it was full of that wheatiness I just described. The aroma was pretty well balanced with the flavour as well; it was just missing that aromatic expression of green tea (like a lemon/grassy fragrance).
Overall, quite a shock! I won’t say I loved it, but I will say that I am curious about it, and would like to try and few more different brands of Bancha to compare, and to allow my palate to habituate to the flavours. I think I could like this tea in the future.
On the plus side, It did get me curious about the different kinds of Green tea in Japan, and I managed to learn some interesting facts:
- Bancha is the product of the 3rd and 4th harvest (Sencha is the 1st and 2nd)
- Kabusencha and Gyokuro differ only in the length of time before harvesting that they are deprived on sunlight (~1 Week and ~3 Weeks respectively)
- Genmaicha is said to have been derived from an attempt to flesh-out what little quantity of tea poor Japanese people possessed. It is said the roasted brown rice was usually added to Bancha leaves.