This is my first Gyokuro time! Aaaah!
This review will be broken into three parts because I prepared this as Gyokuro first then read that Kabusecha is meant to be prepared like Sencha, rather, so I tried both ways. Last, I took some tips from online and made a salad from the used leaves.
PART I: KABUSECHA PREPARED AS GYOKURO
10g tea per 100ml water at 122F/50C for 2 min
The smell of the dry leaves in the warm kyusu is incredibly sweet and umami. This smells very rich and delicate. After brewing, the wet leaves smell similarly but with more vegetal notes. The brew is very thick, syrupy looking and green-yellow.
Let’s take a sip… and… what… whoa… what the… o___o < – (my face right now)
That is a pure shot of umami in the mouth. Wow. It tastes like a very rich broth. The way the flavor just stays there in your mouth for so long is really impressive. The flavor is incredibly intense and has a pretty nice little kick of bitterness to it.
At first I was thinking it was slightly disappointing that it makes so little tea for such an expensive tea, but as rich as this is… wow. I don’t think I’d want to drink much more than this tiny little tasting cup full. This is intense!
My second infusion was much shorter and produced a translucent bright yellow-green liquor that looks like Mountain Dew. It smells a little more sweet and grassy, and tasting it now it is more of a blend of umami and salt and grassy, whereas the first infusion was just straight up umami in the face.
I did a third infusion and it started to taste more like a regular sencha but with a bitter finish. On the fourth I decided to up the temperature to around 176F to try a hotter brew and bring out some of the astringency. The tea tastes quite bitter and has a seaweed flavor. There is still some umami richness though and a lingering sweetness after sipping it. At this point I think it is undrinkable, but I have done this step to prepare the leaves to make a tea salad. It is necessary to get out some of the bitterness so they will be tastier to eat.
PART II: KABUSECHA PREPARED AS SENCHA
2.5g tea per 100ml water at 158F/70C for 1 min
Flavor-wise, the result is similar to the first method of preparation but much more diluted and more like what we think of as tea, liquidy. It is really similar to Sencha but with a much more umami-rich flavor. It still has the strong trailing bitterness that comes in the later part of the sip, though the umami lingers in your mouth much longer and outlasts the bitterness.
I can really see this tea going either way as far as method of preparation. I say do what you think would suit you best. Do you want it in a small amount and really strong or more diluted with more to drink?
PART III: TEA SALAD
I just took the leaves and dressed them with a Japanese style dressing (3 parts ponzu, 1 part soy sauce, 1 part sesame oil, and some toasted sesame seeds). This is really tasty! I think I like the salad more than I liked the tea (uh-ohhhh, hahaha). I’m kind of scared of the insane caffeine rush I’m going to get from this though, but I wanted to try eating it. I’ve been known to get caffeine-induced panic attacks from matcha particularly. Consuming the whole leaf, especially with these fresh green teas, seems to pack an insane caffeine punch.
It was an interesting experience either way. I’ll have some higher quality Gyokuro reviews up soon, as I have the Kurihara sampler pack, and this was just the gateway in. Kabusecha is the ferryman between Sencha and Gyokuro, after all.
All-in-all, I’ll be honest. This was really hard for me to drink. Something about it was kicking in my gag reflex a little, maybe just the pure foreignness of this type of flavor. It is just really crazy rich and you might get a similar experience from dissolving a teaspoon of MSG into a shotglass of water and sipping it (though I don’t recommend it).
I can’t rate this tea terribly high because it was not one I’d like to drink again, but if you are an umami nut and like some bitterness, this might be one for you. My score is a reflection of how much I liked it, not on the quality of the tea.