76 Tasting Notes
It’s over 90 degrees in here, and even with a cooling towel and the fan on high, it’s…. a lot.
I’ve heard it said that drinking tea is supposed to have a cooling effect, and the science seems to check out on that to some extent, though the studies seem to usually be conducted at a ‘normal’ room temperature. It makes sense that drinking a hot drink might prompt your body to do whatever it does to release that heat, via sweat or otherwise, resulting in feeling cooler, but I’m not entirely sure how well that stacks when it is already hot and your body is presumably already doing whatever it can to release heat.
Truthfully, I feel like the hydration aspect is probably the most important here, regardless of the drink temperature. I’m not a scientist, though. I do have a new batch of roasted barley ready to be made into iced mugicha as soon as I feel up to doing that.
But I haven’t gotten around to doing that. The heat slows you down and either clouds or clears your mind, depending on how you look at it. You reassess your priorities. You don’t do things you don’t have to do.
Anyway, right, so, this tea.
“Best by April 2022,” so again, not the peak time to be drinking this, yet I’m still finding it delightful. The leaves are long and mostly unbroken with a fair bit of stem. The first steeping genuinely shocked me with how syrupy-sweet it was, with a beautifully aromatic grain flavor, particularly in the aftertaste. It’s not a flavor I remember getting from Japanese greens, but it has been a few years since I’ve been well-acquainted with them.
The sweetness really sticks around in the later steepings, it’s almost a cooling sort of sweetness, and this is fascinating to me, it’s so different from what I’m used to. It stays light and sweet all the way through with very little grassiness and practically no astringency. There’s an almost fruity-floral flavor under it that I can barely identify, maybe vaguely apricot-y, but not quite.
At least once I think I’ll try this at a higher temperature, just to see what else it brings out, but it’s hard to want to do that when it’s so nice this way.
Flavors: Grain, Sweet
It’s probably not ideal to drink these sorts of greens two years after their harvest, but this is somehow still the nicest I’ve had in a while. It’s just so soft on my lips, sweet and maybe slightly salty, but in that gentle alkaline, brothy way, not in an….. actual… salted… way.
Great descriptors, I know.
The astringency comes out all at once in the subsequent steepings, almost too much, but it’s manageable. It’s not hard on my stomach. It drops back into mild brothiness fairly quickly. It leaves me feeling relaxed and slightly heady and…. capable of writing, hence bothering to pull up steepster again.
A little weird maybe to add this particular tea to the listings at all, or…any tea defined by its harvest date, since I don’t think you can get this one anymore, though it looks like they’re taking 2022 preorders.
I do struggle with the seasonal nature of senchas. While I do enjoy them greatly at their freshest, there’s often so much I want to try and yet I only want to open only one foil packet at a time and consume it as quickly as possible. This pressure to both savor it slowly, fully, and yet also immediately and all at once before it stales…it lands me in situations like this, where I have burned out on sencha two weeks into two years ago, and am just now getting around to sipping through it at a pace I can enjoy.
The shincha FOMO is just one of many silly little things to reckon with in this hobby, I suppose. I take it all far less seriously than I did a decade ago, but some bits of it still linger, leaking anxiety and perfectionism and optimization into what should be my relaxing escape.
I like to think these days I manage it better, but like everything, it’s an active and ongoing process. At any rate though, I am still enjoying this tea very much.
Early on in my tea journey, for whatever reason, the thing I feared most was “watery” teas. So I packed every steeping with the highest amount of leaf recommended and steeped as long as I could without overbrewing. I really had it in my head that this was the best way to enjoy tea. I scoffed at my mother who would dunk a teabag in her mug of gently microwaved tap water for ten seconds, then stick the wet teabag on a plate in the fridge for later. Okay, maybe I still roll my eyes a little at that, but for reasons besides just the understeeping.
Anyway, the point is that I have come to appreciate less leaf and less steeping time in my teas over the years. Not just because it’s more budget-friendly (my goodness, a decade ago when I was subscribed to $80 worth of monthly tea subscription boxes?? Imagine having that kind of disposable income these days), but because it’s gentler on my stomach, which…. the years of stress and anxiety, especially in recent times, have certainly taken a toll on. For several years I had a very difficult time drinking Japanese greens without it upsetting my stomach and giving me a sore throat, until I realized that with less leaf and a lower steeping time I could not only enjoy them again, but perhaps enjoy them even more.
I crave the quieter things these days. Tea has always been that little moment of peace in my daily life and I’ve benefited from turning the volume on that down too. The first steeping, maybe 20 seconds, then 5-10 for the second and third, longer after that, though I start to lose track. It’s mild and sweet with traces of memory from a simpler time when such teas were a novelty. It gradually turns watery and grassy, but I keep resteeping it anyway, because why not? It’s still comforting, and this 100g packet can last all month if I enjoy each serving til I’m full and sloshy.
It’s hilarious that I can still get into this account, and bizarre to read back over my decade-old tasting notes when I was a person I can barely identify with anymore. But at least we still have tea in common.
Wow, haven’t touched steepster in a while. Reading through all my old tasting notes makes me really miss writing them though. Looks like steepster’s had an overhaul in the meantime, and it’s looking very nice!
Anyway, I’ve been reaching for this tea several times over the past few days to help soothe an upset stomach. Caffeine seems to only make things worse, and this is one of the few herbals I still have around. It does the job well though; very minty and refreshing without being overly herb-y like straight peppermint tea sometimes is. I don’t know that the mulberries are adding anything to the flavor but they certainly look interesting. I noticed Handmade Tea doesn’t seem to be offering tiny samples of each ingredient with the tea anymore, which is really a shame, I would have loved to steep a few of the mulberries alone to see what role they play in the blend.
Overall though, I am really enjoying this tea while I weather this illness — I won’t be surprised if it’s gone by the time I am well.
Sipped this earlier today while sitting in the sunlight, and filled a couple pages in my handwritten journal with flowery language about it that I won’t bother you all with. But in summary, this tea went something like this: Earthy/Minerally > Extra minerally > Meaty/savory/smokey > creamy/sweet(?!)
Of course in my head it was something more like being part of a hunting tribe tracking prey through the mountains in the harsh winter, then celebrating the successful hunt with much feasting. But that is just the sort of thing that happens in my head when nothing exists but myself and a cup of tea.
This tea makes me feel less sad regarding the ’06 Tea Trail offering that is no longer available.
Wow, this is an interesting one.
The most challenging part of this tea was trying to get an even distribution of the various elements into a single serving size. While all the heavy pu’er settled into the bottom of the pouch, the flowers, herbs, and spices sat on the top, so I think about a third of the chrysanthemum flowers in the pouch ended up into this serving, and not a whole lot of the actual tea, hah. I guess each serving of this tea will be a little different, just due to slightly different proportions of the ingredients.
I’ll have to give more detail on this when I’ve had more time to mull it over— it’s really a very intriguing and unique blend; my first impressions are that of… an herb-crusted steak, or a fragrant beef broth. Definite comfort brew, almost like a savory chai.
Sigh, I really try to avoid fangirling, but the team at Verdant Tea is just awesome. This was from my first monthly tea subscription package, and having access to this limited offering just feels like I’m a part of something special. And the tea came along with a lovely description of the teas and the stories behind them and why they were chosen for that month; it’s so very apparent that these guys have a lot of passion for what they do, and it’s wonderful to get to share in that passion.
As for this tea, it’s a little boggling to taste rice in a tea that isn’t genmaicha. But I’m also getting a bit of warming spice, and definitely a lot of savory elements. A tea to tide me over when dinner is running late, I think. Very happy to have the opportunity to try this.