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Recent Tasting Notes
Thanks to Nio for this sample! The website says it features citrus and minerality, which sounds promising. I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 140F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry leaf aroma is of citrus, spinach, and sweet grass. The first steep has punchy notes of spinach, cucumber, and grass, followed by orange, apricot, and butter. It’s kind of drying in the mouth. The next steep gives me bok choy and minerals, with a sweet, lingering peachy/apricot aftertaste. The stonefruit persists through the next few steeps, and the spinach also seems to get less aggressive. The tea ends with sweet grass, minerals, lettuce, and faint stonefruit.
This sencha is another winner for me. There’s some of that vegetal kick, but the stonefruit and citrus are lovely. I imagine this would be nice cold brewed.
Use LEAFHOPPER10OFF for a 10% discount (I get a small commission when you use this code). Their Black Friday sale ends in a few hours, though the code will continue to work indefinitely.
I’ll give you guys a break from all the Nio posts after this, though I have about a dozen more samples to try. I’m thinking of devoting either December or January to sipdowns, as I have miscellaneous bits of tea from swaps to enjoy as well.
Flavors: Apricot, Bok Choy, Butter, Citrus, Cucumber, Grass, Lettuce, Mineral, Orange, Peach, Spinach, Vegetal
This sencha is from the yabukita cultivar, which is supposed to be quite vegetal and fruity. I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 140F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of apple, squash, spinach, cream, and grass. The first steep has notes of apple, squash, mango, spinach, kale, and grass. The next steep initially tastes like lettuce and bitter grass clippings, but the cooked apple, mango, and tropical fruit (passionfruit?) bloom in the aftertaste and the bottom of the cup. That fruitiness persists through the next few steeps, sometimes overtaking the grassiness and sometimes not. The final few steeps are vaguely fruity and less aggressively vegetal, with a sweet, grassy flavour.
I would have liked this tea more if it hadn’t been so vegetal. As it is, the tropical fruit was fun and the last few steeps had a nice balance. Those with a higher tolerance for cruciferous veggies might really enjoy this sencha. Based on the few teas I’ve tried, I like the saemidori cultivar more than the yabukita.
Get a 10% discount with the code LEAFHOPPER10OFF (I get a small commission when you use this code).
Flavors: Apple, Bitter, Cream, Grass, Green, Kale, Lettuce, Mango, Passion Fruit, Spinach, Squash, Sweet, Tropical, Vegetal
This kamairicha is another first for me! I have a bit of experience with Chinese green teas, so it will be interesting to see how pan frying affects Japanese greens. I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 160F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of toasted rice, roasted nuts, and grass. Oof! The spinach and squash in the first steep are a surprise! I also get butter, asparagus, toasted rice, nuts, roast, and minerals. The next steep has a thicker body and is a bit drying, with more pronounced hazelnuts and butter and lots of veggies. Subsequent steeps have notes of asparagus, spinach, grass, roast, nuts, minerals, butter, and earth.
My nose expected a very different tea than my taste buds received. I enjoyed seeing how pan frying creates those buttery, nutty aromas, but it seems to be much better integrated into Chinese greens than Japanese ones, at least based on this small sample. I have to say I liked yesterday’s kukicha much better.
Get a 10% discount with the code LEAFHOPPER10OFF (I get a small commission when you use this code). Their Black Friday sale is massive and ends tomorrow.
Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Drying, Earth, Grass, Hazelnut, Mineral, Nuts, Roasted, Spinach, Squash, Thick, Toasted Rice, Vegetal
Another stem tea and my first kukicha! I steeped this tea in 150 ml of 160F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of roasted nuts, grass, and spinach. I’m surprised the first steep isn’t darker given the leaf appearance and roasty smell. I get notes of cream, roasted nuts, walnut skins, minerals, umami, and spinach. The next couple steeps have a lovely candied chestnut aroma, which appears less distinctly in the taste. By steep five, the tea has more spinach, grass, and minerals, though the roast is still there. The final steeps emphasize a heavier roast, nuts, grass, spinach, minerals, and umami.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this kukicha. I’ve been scarfing the last of my Dong Ding, so I guess the beginning of winter has made me want these types of nutty, cozy teas. I wish there was more of that candied chestnut and less of the grass, but overall, this is a nice, comforting, uncomplicated tea to enjoy on a fall afternoon.
Use LEAFHOPPER10OFF for a 10% discount (I get a commission when you use this code). Their Black Friday sale is going on until the end of the month.
Flavors: Chestnut, Cream, Grass, Mineral, Roasted, Roasted Nuts, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal, Walnut
Thanks to Nio Tea for providing this sample, which is my first stem tea. I’ve been curious whether using stems affects the taste or longevity of a tea, and now I can find out! I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 140F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of squash, spinach, grass, and florals. The first steep has soft notes of squash, spinach, grass, hay, butter, and umami, with a thick body and grassy aftertaste. I get kale, squash, spinach, butter, umami, minerals, and some floral hints (narcissus?) in the next couple steeps. Subsequent steeps are sweeter, more earthy, and less green, with that thick body and some dryness.
This tea is kind of similar to the Gyokuro Cha Meijin that I had a few days ago. They share the squash, thick body, and floral hints, though this tea is softer and less intense. It lasted for fewer steeps and was a bit more grassy, which is possibly due to the stems.
If you possibly still need more tea after this weekend, Nio’s Black Friday sale is going on till November 30. You can get up to 69% off and an additional 10% discount with the code LEAFHOPPER10OFF (I get a small commission).
Also, I probably should have asked this earlier, but is it okay to post these discounts on Steepster? The samples were given to me for free, but I do get a commission if people use the code. I want to be as transparent as possible.
Flavors: Butter, Earth, Floral, Grass, Hay, Kale, Mineral, Narcissus, Spinach, Squash, Thick, Umami, Vegetal
What luck! After my recent positive experience with this cultivar, I found another Saemidori tea in my pile of Nio samples, this time a gyokuro. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 150 ml pot using 140F water for 120, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of apples, squash, sunflower seeds, florals, and grass. The first steep has notes of starchy butternut squash, apples, slight florality, sunflower seeds, grass, and spinach. The tea is quite thick and has no astringency. The next steep brings more creamy squash and red apple, with a bit more greenness. Steeps three to five introduce asparagus, more spinach and grass, and some earthiness. I accidentally left the tea too long and got apple again, along with mild veggies, umami, and sweetness. The tea really never gets bitter and fades gently into sweet veggies and grass.
As Cameron pointed out, this is a very soft gyokuro that’s sweeter and less green/astringent than most Japanese green teas I’ve tried. The squash is a little weird, but it was more unexpected than anything else. Saemidori is turning out to be a winner for me!
Take an extra 10% off during their Black Friday sale with the code LEAFHOPPER10OFF (I get a small commission when you use this code).
Flavors: Asparagus, Butternut Squash, Creamy, Earth, Floral, Grass, Green, Red Apple, Spinach, Sunflower Seed, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal
I’ve been neglecting these samples from Nio, but decided to pull them out again while they’re still good. (I have some time, as the best before date is December 2024.) I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 160F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40,60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of red apple, spinach, and grass. The first steep has notes of red apple, apple skin, asparagus, kale, cream, spinach, and grass. The body is nice and thick and there’s some balancing sweetness. The next steep also has a distinctly apple flavour, though with a stronger chlorophyll punch provided by the spinach, kale, asparagus, and grass. The apple persists through the next few steeps, and I also get hints of florality along with the greenness. The final couple steeps are completely green, though that’s my fault for wringing every last drop of flavour from this poor sencha.
I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to how green these Japanese green teas are, but I found the apple very prominent and pleasant. If fruitiness is typical of this cultivar, I’ll look for more Saemidori teas in the future. I’d say this is one of my favourite senchas from Nio so far.
Just a reminder that Nio’s Black Friday sale is going on, and when I last looked at their website, this tea was more than half off. Take an additional 10% off with LEAFHOPPER10OFF (I get a small commission for sales through this coupon).
Flavors: Apple Skins, Asparagus, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Green, Kale, Red Apple, Spinach, Thick, Vegetal
I am noticing the balance most in this Nio Teas offering. There is a pleasant sweetness and thick mouthfeel while on the tongue. My hunch is I prefer a naturally sweet matcha to other varieties I have stocked. Lots of umami mid sip transitioning to a savory and lasting finish. Light vegetal notes and light astringency/bitter notes.
Flavors: Rich, Savory, Sweet, Umami
I wrote this note during one of the recent Steepster freezes, and forgot to record which tea it was for. I think this is the one!
I’m happy to see another single-cultivar sencha in this bag of samples! I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 140F water for 1 minute, followed by several 20 second steeps.
The dry aroma is of apple, grain, sweetgrass, gentle umami, and veggies. The first steep has a nice, thick body and notes of sweetgrass, spinach, asparagus, apple, and grain. It’s surprisingly easy going for a sencha. The next few steeps give me more apple, grain, asparagus, grass, herbs, and spinach. The fruit fades near the end of the session, but the tea never gets too bitter or harsh.
Unlike many of the Japanese greens I’ve been drinking, this tea has dimensions other than veggies. It’s a nice change of pace, and I wish I’d been able to pay more attention to it during what was apparently a hectic workday.
Flavors: Apple, Asparagus, Grain, Grass, Herbaceous, Spinach, Sweet, Thick, Umami, Vegetal
There is something about roasted teas. Especially hojicha. A mellow and pleasant taste and aroma experience. The dry leaf is quite different. Looks more like a bancha than a sencha. Which, in all honesty, it could be any of the varieties or cultivars so I’m not saying bancha like that’s a bad thing just that it reminds me more of other bancha than it does other Japanese tea types. It is fairly tightly twisted into long shapes with some twigs. The aroma is very nice. Roasty, toasty, slight charcoal, and a bit of chocolate. The wet aroma of the leaves is unique with charcoal maple notes. And creme brulee. Someone needs to make that dairy free. Man, I miss that desert. The main flavor… not quite as strong as I was hoping. A very mellow hojicha. One minute was not enough. I did at least three. The charcoal notes mix well with the toasty and roasty notes. And slight woody notes but other than that I don’t find it to be that inspiring.
After my “interesting” experience with matcha, I’m happy to have picked a more standard green tea from Nio’s generous pile of samples. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 150 ml porcelain pot using 140F water for 1 minute, plus several 20 second steeps.
The dry aroma is of cantaloupe, nuts, sweet grass, spinach, and umami. The first steep has notes of wheatgrass, spinach, cantaloupe, cream, green beans, and umami. This tea doesn’t punch me in the face like some other green teas, and is more grassy than vegetal. The veggies become more pronounced in the second steep, with more kale and spinach, while the third and fourth steeps return to being buttery, beany, and pleasant with some cantaloupe and floral overtones. Later steeps give me a peachy, grassy aftertaste. The final few steeps are generic veggies and grass, though the bitterness never gets out of hand.
This is a pleasant sencha that I wouldn’t mind revisiting. However, most of these Japanese green teas are kind of vegetal for me.
Flavors: Butter, Cantaloupe, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Green Beans, Kale, Nuts, Peach, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal, Wheatgrass
This is my first time trying matcha! I’m surprised it’s taken me so long, but I’ve never really explored Japanese green tea and I don’t have the right tools. In line with that, I steeped my 2 g sample in a 180 ml mason jar using 160F water.
After extensive shaking, I get a jar full of very green matcha that even has some foam on the top. Taking my first sip is like having a bunch of veggies hit me in the face. I get kale, spinach, asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and grass. Cameron is right that there’s no sweetness whatever, though I don’t get any hay or mustiness either. The body is thick and creamy, and did I mention very vegetal? There were some clumps at the bottom of the jar, so I must not have shaken it as well as I thought.
I think matcha might be an acquired taste for me.
Flavors: Asparagus, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Creamy, Grass, Kale, Spinach, Thick, Vegetal
After reading others’ descriptions of this tea as very astringent, I decided to take the vendor’s advice and cold brew this fukamushi sencha. I don’t usually do cold brewing, as it doesn’t produce as much tea as hot steeping, but avoiding bitterness and bringing out the fruit were good enough reasons for me. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 700 ml teapot using cold water for around 4 hours, then resteeped the leaves for over 12 hours.
The dry aroma is of spinach, kale, umami, apple, and papaya. Though the tea is still vegetal, it isn’t as astringent as I suspect it would be hot. I get notes of spinach, kale, grass, umami, beans, butter, apple, and faint papaya. I still wouldn’t describe it as particularly fruity. The tea is smoother than the two hot fukamushi senchas I’ve had, with a thicker body. The longer second steep produced a pleasant grassy, vegetal tea with no fruit and little character, so I think it’s best to cold steep it only once.
Flavors: Apple, Butter, Grass, Green Beans, Kale, Papaya, Smooth, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal
Last week’s Steepster freeze felt like a month! I’m glad we can all post tasting notes again, and I have a bit of a backlog.
This is my second fukamushi sencha. I’m using my Finum infuser instead of my other strainer, and I hope it will filter out more of the leaf. I steeped the 5 g sample in a 150 ml teapot using 150F water for 45, 20, 20, 20, and 20 seconds, followed by a few uncounted steeps.
The dry leaves have aromas of spinach, umami, nuts, and tropical fruit. The Finum indeed worked better than my other strainer, and I’m happy to report that no leaf bits made their way into my cup. The first steep has lots of umami, plus spinach, brussels sprouts, butter, asparagus, nuts, and hints of passionfruit (thanks, Cameron!). The second steep has a thick body and is a bit more bitter, but still has pleasant flavours of nuts, asparagus, kale, and passionfruit. Subsequent infusions are quite vegetal and grassy, though not as astringent as the other fukamushi sencha, and the final long steeps have hints of florality.
I enjoyed this more than the previous fukamushi sencha, particularly the passionfruit that appeared near the beginning of the session. The tea is smoother and less aggressively vegetal, which are both qualities I appreciate.
Flavors: Asparagus, Astringent, Brussels Sprouts, Butter, Floral, Grass, Kale, Nuts, Passion Fruit, Spinach, Thick, Umami, Vegetal
The first sample I grabbed today was a matcha, but I have no tools for preparing it so I put it back in the bag. I’m glad that my second pick was a gyokuro. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml kyusu using 140F water for 2 minutes, followed by several steeps of 20 seconds.
The dry aroma is of spinach, grass, and earth. The first steep has notes of spinach, brussels sprouts, broccoli, umami, grass, herbs, butter, and earth. I get very little sweetness and lots of bitter veggies. The next steep features edamame and umami and is still quite bitter. The final steeps have somewhat sweet grassy notes with other veggies.
I didn’t enjoy this gyokuro as much as the Gyokuro Cha Musume I had a couple days ago. It lacked sweetness and fruitiness and was quite vegetal and bitter. I was happy to try it, but it’s not the type of flavour profile I gravitate toward.
These Advent calendar samples also contain a lot of matcha. It seems dumb to buy a $60 matcha kit to make free tea, especially since I’ve never had matcha before and don’t know if I even like it. I don’t have a milk frother or blender, so those options are out, too. Hmm.
Flavors: Beany, Bitter, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Butter, Earth, Grass, Herbaceous, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal
This was my first ever deep-steamed sencha and I wrecked it with an inadequate strainer. Suspecting it would have more bitterness than yesterday’s gyokuro, I steeped it in my 150 ml porcelain pot using a strainer from a bigger pot that I thought would filter out the tiny leaf bits. I used 160F water and steeped it for 1 minute, followed by several 20 second steeps.
The dry aroma of the leaves was of spinach, edamame, and corn. My first indication that something had gone wrong was the dark green colour of the tea in the pot caused by all the leaf fragments at the bottom. What a mess! The first steep packed a wallop of bitter spinach and grass, followed by notes of edamame and sweet corn. The next couple steeps were actually a bit less bitter, with notes of spinach, grass, edamame, corn, butter, asparagus, and kale. Hints of florality and a thicker texture came out near the end of the session.
Though my steeping didn’t help, to say the least, I think this flavour profile would have been too bitter for me anyway. I won’t rate the tea, but I’d say my brewing was about a 40. Next time, I’ll have to use my Finum infuser.
Flavors: Asparagus, Astringent, Beany, Butter, Floral, Grass, Kale, Spinach, Sweet Corn, Vegetal
Nio Teas kindly sent me their Advent calendar in December, and sent samples again when that package failed to arrive. Thank you for your persistence and generosity! I have minimal experience with Japanese teas, so this should be interesting!
Since I enjoy gyokuro, I was happy to grab this first from my pile of samples. I have a 120 ml kyusu instead of a 150 ml one, which means I had to deviate from their instructions slightly. I steeped 5 g of leaf in 120 ml of 140F water for 2 minutes, then three more times for 20 seconds.
The dry leaf has aromas of spinach, seaweed, and grass. The first steep has notes of spinach, squash, umami, kale, butter, and grass, with slight but noticeable bitterness. I also get the creamy hazelnut mentioned in the description. The next steeps are a bit sweeter, with more of that hazelnut, umami, and grass. As Cameron noted, it does taste more like a sencha as the session goes on. By the fourth steep, I was able to taste squash, apple, and sweet grass as the vegetal bitterness diminished.
This is a nice tea, though it doesn’t have the fruitiness I’ve found in other gyokuro. I particularly appreciate the comparative lack of bitterness.
Flavors: Apple, Butter, Creamy, Grass, Hazelnut, Kale, Seaweed, Spinach, Squash, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal