5 Tasting Notes
For 50 euro, this is was truly disappointing. For anything more than 20 dollars this would have been disappointing. First of all, for such a price you’d expect Mariage Freres to provide a tin; it didn’t. Second, the leaves are coarse, unpolished, filled with yellow highlights, and unfragrant. I’ll attribute it to the fact that this is “organic.” The same goes for its lack-luster taste. I brewed it at 175 ‘F for 50 seconds with a slow pour but this might call for 160’ at 1 minute 20 because my first brew was lame. There was no umami-filled creaminess characteristic of a high quality tea. The steeped leaves were a brownish green as opposed to the vivid uniform green of better quality teas. Overall, don’t be fooled by the beautiful photo of dark needles; this tea is of poorer quality than the $12 Sencha Yamato from Upton Tea.
Update: I did actually try 164’F for 1 minute 20 with a slow pour and it was so much better. Still definitely not worth the price, but much better nutty, slightly roasted, rounder vegetal flavor. But you can still taste a certain “swampiness” that makes this tea markedly inferior.
There is so much to like about this tea. The steeped leaves and liquor are the most beautiful pale green. The flavor is somewhere between the cleanness of a green with the warm wholesome-ness of a white. It’s like the more delicate, evolved form of Lung Ching/Longjing/Dragonwell. Anji Baicha is pretty rarely found in mainstream tea sites, so I can’t compare this with others I’ve had, but it tastes like a fine quality one.
So this is basically hot peach water, which is remarkable considering that there is no ingredient other than tea. But more than the taste of peach/apricot is a roundness or fullness I can only attribute to a high amino acid content. This is the IDEAL tea to accompany dim sum. This is my favorite darker oolong. I’ve tried other shuixian/“water sprite” oolongs and none compare to this one.
This tea is not for novice brewers. It’s pretty difficult to brew correctly. However, a correctly brewed cup is sublime. This tea is handpicked, so the leaves are beautifully uniform and whole. A correctly brewed tea should have a delicate neon green-yellow hue. I suggest upper 160s’F for 45 seconds with a slow pour—so about 1 minute with a normally fast pour. Once you get it perfectly, you should taste a perfectly balanced cup that is marked by silkiness. That’s what makes this superior to Matsuda’s Sencha. Lots of lemony spinach flavors, seaweed, etc. But it’s calm and refined. Not overly bracing.
Flavors: Lemon, Seaweed, Spinach
There is no tea like this one for the price. It’s extraordinary. You can tell by the vivid, uniform greenness of the steeped leaves that this is a quality tea. I have tried many many senchas from Harney, Upton Tea, O-Cha, and Hibiki-an, and none of them offer one with as much character as Matsuda’s. There is something impeccably pastoral and authentic about this tea. However, like with all high quality senchas, it can quickly turn bitter. I recommend either 160 degrees for a little less than two minutes for a mellow grassy flavor, or 170 for a little more than one minute for a nuttier, roastier, deeper flavor.
Flavors: Fishy, Grass, Lemon, Nutty, Seaweed, Spinach