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