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Recent Tasting Notes
Snagged a small pouch from the TTB and am just getting around to trying it. I kept it because the dry leaf smelled so interesting—the ginger made it almost effervescent, like cola. I’m not much of a soda drinker (it’s far too sweet) but I do like the spice blends and flavors in some craft sodas.
The steeped blend, though, is just odd. It smells oddly vegetal, and the taste is quite muddy and muddled. The ginger only comes through at the end, and on top of it is something more reminiscent of asparagus or savory herbs! I’m not getting any sweetness at all, or really anything evocative of cola. The Yunomi website suggests cold brewing it and adding sparkling water, so I might try that with the remainder of the package.
Flavors: Asparagus, Ginger, Grassy, Herbs, Mud, Savory, Vegetal
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
Last serving of this, and I feel like it’s worth mentioning that by only adding in maybe 1/3rd of the water into the pot for the second and third steepings, and then adding the other 2/3rd directly into the cup after the tea is poured, I have been able to mitigate the high astringency of those steepings and enjoy it a little more overall.
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.
New month, new sipdown prompt list! Using this tea for “a cupboard staple.”
I find it hard to go wrong with any genmaicha, but I particularly like this one from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farm (purchased through Yunomi). I find I prefer the more “traditional” genmaicha used with bancha instead of sencha, and this tea has lovely large, full bancha leaves. The flavor is a fresh, spring-like vegetal grassiness, with that lovely roasty, toasty, nutty flavor from the genmai. The proportions are good too; every scoop gives an ample amount of both tea leaves and genmai for a very even flavor.
This is a tea I find hits my tastes any time of the year. The green tea evokes the fresh, grassy warmer weather, and the satisfying warm roastiness of the rice makes it comforting in cooler weather. On a very rainy spring day like today, it really hits the spot.
Flavors: Nutty, Roasted, Sweet, Warm Grass, Toasted Rice, Toasty, Vegetal
Wait, I’ve had this in my stash since 2018 and still haven’t tried it yet?! What is wrong with me?! Anyway, using this for the February sipdown prompt “Drink a tea flavored like your favorite muffin.” Pumpkin muffins are hands down my favorite! (Especially when they have added chocolate chips!)
This is a roasted stem style houjicha, which I tend to like just a bit better than the leafy sort. The dry aroma is super oaty, but with a noticable sweet squashiness… it’s a bit strange, since in America “pumpkin flavor” is typically utilized in food stuff as either “pumpkin spice” (the spice blend sans the squash) or as “pumpkin pie” (still mostly the spices, but with a very desserty-vanilla sort of squashiness). This is more of a savory scent… it smells quite nice on the houjicha. I’m uncertain if it will translate into the flavor, though!
The brewed cup does smell pretty on point to the dry leaf, with that fresh woody aroma of roasty hojicha blending with the oaty/squashy notes. None of the flower bed barky notes that I often get from (typically lower quality) hojicha. Huh. It’s hard to describe the flavor! Certainly I tasted wood, oats, and roasted walnuts, but there is a sweet squash taste to it. I’m not sure if my brain distinctly pegs it as “pumpkin” without the sweetness/spices that usually accompany the taste of pumpkin, but I can see it. It’s an umami sort of taste, but not vegetal. I actually really like it! It’s subtle, but gives a sort of added dimension to what would be a delicious hojicha on its own.
I’ll have to pull this one out more often! (I’m thinking a luxurious latte at some point…)
Flavors: Nutty, Oats, Pumpkin, Roasted, Roasted Nuts, Squash, Sweet, Umami, Walnut, Wood
So this is from an ancient teabox and went neglected until now. I think it’s this tea, since I think I recognize Liquid Proust’s handwriting and he has a tasting note for this one (six years ago, ahem… so probably the same age of leaf here.) The leaves are very interesting – they look like a rainbow of tiny autumn leaves. I used a ton of leaves and it wasn’t too much for the flavor.. but the flavors are hard for me to distinguish. It was mostly sweetness and starch. The description says this leaf is blended with kishimame which adds sweetness, so possibly I’m just tasting kishimame… maybe I should have really overbrewed a third mug to taste the bancha… Not sure how much of this was due to age but I’m glad I didn’t skimp on the amount of leaf used to finish this up.
Steep #1 // 52 minutes after boiling // 1 minute steep
Steep #2 // 34 min after boiling // 2 min
2022 sipdowns: 22
Skysamurai’s TTB Thank you!
I generally don’t like Coke. I drink one can per year, if even that much. It is usually too sweet for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t drink flavoured sodas. I do, and too much in my opinion. And not only mine, but also my dentist said that.
But I have decided to try this one, because it is black tea from Japan which is rare (and good as well) and ginger will tame the over-sweetness.
Actually, I really like it. Yes, the cola flavour is very present. But as I have hoped, ginger is present and it is not that sweet at all. Luckily, the ginger isn’t fiery at all and it is rather adding some extra flavour.
It’s fine. I think I will keep this small pouch when I will crave some sweet tea (there are those days) and there are two another pouches in the TTB.
Flavors: Cola, Ginger
Steeped this one up over the weekend hot with an addition of honey and it just absolutely blew my mind. So, the honey I used was a carrot honey from France. It’s my current favourite honey and, no, it doesn’t actually taste like carrots. It’s definitely a darker honey with a bunch of similarities in taste to buckwheat honey, but with a bit of a bright lingering acidity on the tip of the tongue in addition to those more caramelized, heavy flavours…
Yeah, I am spending a lot of time describing the taste of this weird imported honey. However, I swear it’s relevant because it ended up being some a PERFECT natural compliment to the dynamic of this tea. Bright citrusy top notes of yuzu that transition into the robust, complex roasted nutty flavours and hints of dark caramelized grains from the hojicha. Plus, this is dark roast hojicha too which is just… chefs kiss.
So yeah, the honey just sooooo perfectly amplified both the bright lively yuzu flavour and the dark heavy notes and complex sweetness of the hojicha.
For as much as I drink houjicha, I think I’ve only ever brewed it hot. So, I decided to cold brew a pitcher for the April prompt “a woody tea.”
It’s quite nice… I think I prefer mugicha as a cold brew, but this deeply roasted houjicha works well. It’s very strongly woody, with a lingering nutty taste, particularly walnut. I think I am able to pick out more nuances in the flavor with a warm brew, but it is still satisfying and refreshing cold.
Flavors: Nutty, Roasted Nuts, Walnut, Wood
This is my last day off before returning to work until New Years, and I wanted to get some errands done… but we got another mass of snow last night, putting a hault in those plans. The snow had stopped this afternoon and I’d cleared the walk to my condo, and now it has started again. Oof. Already paranoid about having to drive in all that tomorrow…
Wanted hojicha this afternoon. Did I still have any after a year of much sipping down? Yes, I have a 50g bag of Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms’ “Hojicha Dark Roast,” procurred from Yunomi. It smells nice in the cooling cup… wood, spices (especially nutmeg), roasted walnuts, and old book leather. Tastes pretty spot on for those things, too, with a fresh woodiness and roasted nuts flavor dominating. There is a hint of the umami qualities of the green tea beneath the coffee-like qualities.
Very satisfying. Exactly what I was craving on a day like today.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Coffee, Leather, Nutmeg, Nutty, Roasted, Roasted Nuts, Spices, Umami, Walnut, Wood
2021 Homemade Advent Calendar Swap – Day 7
I’m not usually a fan of soda-type teas, or I guess more specifically root beer teas. I think it’s the sassafras root that I don’t really like. This tea, on the other hand, tastes just like those cola-flavored Bottle Caps candies, and I’m kind of digging it. The ginger was more prominent in the dry blend but still present after steeping.
Flavors: Cola, Ginger
Only a few sips in and I’m already regretting this. When I first opened the package the smell reminded me of something medicinal. It’s almost leasing to the nose, in a strange way. Actually my sinuses are feeling pretty good after sitting here and smelling it. That being said it’s not really a good smell. Same with the wet aroma. Smells like something I should add to curry. It doesn’t remind me of cola. Maybe a little bit. to be honest I haven’t had any soda in a long time. The flavor is so weird. Slightly astringent, kind of gingery. If you like soda you will most likely enjoy this but I just don’t.
Thank you Togo for the very genous bag of this tea! I had it for the first time last weekend and it made for a very relaxing and comforting late night mug. I steeped it up in the largest Western style mug that I own and that perfectly golden and caramelized toasted barley and almost peanut brittle-like flavour with its delicate roasted coffee undertones couldn’t have been more perfect for a chilly Autumn evening. I actually resteeped the leaf as well in my 30 oz mug I was drinking and, when it comes to resteeping Western teas, that’s something I almost never do – which to me is just a sign of how pleasant this truly was!
Last weekend my sister was visiting, and the weather was so nice that we went and had tea in the park. This was the tea I brought along, which we steeped out in my shiboridashi until the hot water from the thermos was out. As my focus was my sister and not the tea, I didn’t take any session notes.
Very different weather today — rain! — but it also puts me in the mood for hojicha, so I steeped up a couple cups for my work thermos. 5g for 500ml 195F water, steeped 3 minutes western-style.
The dry leaf has a strong “freshly cut” cedar wood sort of aroma, with the vaguest hint of cinnamon. The steeped liquor is a lovely deep brown, somewhere between maple syrup and coffee in shade.
Has a lovely fresh woody flavor, trending to a sweet nutty taste at the end of the sip. Also a mild autumn leaf flavor. A nice roasty tea for a dreary day.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cedar, Cinnamon, Nutty, Roasted, Wood
Now for another goishicha, a specialty fermented Japanese tea. I will be comparing this to the 2015 goischicha I had recently.
I’m not sure how old this is but I do know it’s younger than 2015.
In the dry leaf, I get pungent notes of red wine, candied lemon peel, old wooden furniture, soy sauce and fermented lemon peel.
Once brewed, the tea is sour as expected. Lemon juice with a thin body and a drying taste-quality that’s similar to sucking on straw, wood and leather. Very mild note of fermented soybean and equally mild mushroom. There’s also a hint of lactobacillus, which I think is the main bacteria responsible for fermenting this type of tea. And there is something I want to call dandelion flowers but which is more in line with the smell of a meadow — goldenrod comes to mind. Seaweed undertone.
Maybe it’s factors related to processing or maybe it’s age/storage, but the 2015 goishicha had a moderate medicinal character that this is lacking. This feels more rough around the edges and like it could benefit from sitting undisturbed for at least several more years. I’m enjoying it well enough. Both are works in progress; the 2015 version, though, is a superior tea in comparison.
Next time I see a goishicha around, I will scoop up a large quantity to store, large enough that I won’t feel pressured to drink it for some time. It’s an intriguing style of tea that I hope will produce a very medicinal brew with time.
Flavors: Candy, Dandelion, Drying, Flowers, Leather, Lemon, Lemon Zest, Mushrooms, Red Wine, Seaweed, Sour, Soy Sauce, Soybean, Straw, Wood