I saw this tea on Yuuki-cha’s website earlier in the year when I was deciding what shincha to preorder. I love trying new and interesting teas and a Japanese black tea? Totally qualifies. I picked up this one and the Yabukita varietal. I’m almost out of both of them but I think the Saemidori is my favorite.
When I first started drinking teas, I ended up with a fair number of Darjeelings. (I think it was because I liked the Twinning’s bagged Darjeeling with sugar and milk so I thought Darjeeling = good.) There were aspects of Darjeeling tea that I really liked (the muscat note and the brightness in particular) but so often it seemed that they had bitter and/or astringent end notes that killed the pleasure for me. And once I discovered Chinese black teas and their can’t-make-it-bitter end note, any Indian tea that had that potential for bitterness? Migrated out of my pantry and never came back. (In fact, even today I have only three Indian teas in my pantry, all Assams, out of over 80 different teas.)
This tea is basically everything I like about Darjeeling and none of the things I don’t. It’s like a sweet, summer-fruit-tart Darjeeling was raised in China where it learned to give a heavy, silky mouthfeel and a floral and non-bitter end note.
The dry leaf smells of sweet hay but the brewed tea smell is just shocking because it has none of that hay note. Instead, it is all plums and cherries (the bright red tart kind, not black). It’s crazy to compare the smell of the leaf to that of the tea. The two smells don’t seem to match at all.
The taste is surprising. It is very much like a Darjeeling (as I mentioned) but without the astringency. The cherries and plums from the smell come through on the taste – tart summer fruits that taste like the first of the season, not the ones that have been ripening on the tree for a while. It also has the smoothest, silkiest mouthfeel and end note ever. It feels so heavy on my tongue!
As it cools, the taste smoothes out even more and becomes softer and more floral. Maybe a faint note of roses though not as perfumed. (My lack of knowledge of flower scents is really showing here… think of a dark smelling, not overly sweet rose.) Every so often I start to get a note of the hay-like sweet smell in the taste but it is rare. It’s a sort of softly woody/dry grass note that lays underneath the summer fruit and floral notes.
The strength of the flavor is really powerful. I tend to go for smooth, mellow black teas that make me think of cuddles. But this? It’s vibrant and powerful and bright. Delicious, but energetic. And as good as it tastes, one cup is usually enough for me for a while. I mean, imagine the pungency of a good sencha and carry it over to a black tea because that’s how the taste is. Pungent but in a tart, fruity, floral way. And with a really long aftertaste. I’m talking easily five minutes after my last sip I can still taste the floral tart-sweet on my tongue. Delightful! It’s also nicely caffeinated. Of course, that could have something to do with the 3g/5oz/2min steeping suggesting but just like sencha can get my hands shaking, so can this. So yeah, one cup can totally take care of me for a while!
Yuuki-cha no longer has this one their website. They went out of stock on it pretty quickly and I guess they don’t have the ability (or intention?) of caring it again until hopefully next year when the new crop rolls around. I can’t say this is my normal style tea – it’s actually pretty opposite – but it is such a different, surprising and tasty tea, I could see myself buying it again.