96 Tasting Notes
Thank you Ricky for this sample and for being a very patient swap buddy :)
I love the smell of the strawberries in this mix…it’s like strawberry milk or strawberry ice cream. Yum. Unfortunately, my matcha is a little affected by the smell/taste of some of the other teas in the box, so I’m not sure how much of the mellowed, milky flavor is from the matcha itself and how much is from the other yummy teas Ricky sent me. :)
This matcha, like 52teas Mandarin Matcha, has a kind of strange sharp, sour note. I’m not sure why…I assumed in the case of the Mandarin Matcha it was the acidity of the orange, but the same sourness is in this matcha as well. Maybe its a preservative or a flavoring thing? Or just the quality of the matcha itself? Who knows, but it’s keeping me from really loving this.
My package finally arrived! Included was a 1.06 tin of ceremonial grade matcha and a bamboo whisk (chasen). Thank you to DoMatcha for holding this contest! I decided to go ahead and prepare this thick style right off the bat. For those who are unfamiliar with matcha, there are two ways matcha is usually prepared: thick style (koicha) and thin style (usucha). Koicha is prepared using more matcha and less water, and thus requires very high grade matcha; using a lower grade matcha to make koicha will result in a bitter, undrinkable mess. Generally speaking, the higher the grade of matcha, the sweeter and less bitter it will be. I’m using the directions a friend of mine told me about preparing koicha, as well as the instructions listed at http://www.yuuki-cha.com/matcha_green_tea_powder.php. Note: These directions are for koicha (thick) matcha, and not usucha.
1. Sift 3.5 chashaku scoops of matcha into pre-heated, dry bowl.
The chashaku is a bamboo scoop that comes with many matcha sets. I read on a blog that the amount of matcha in a single chashaku scoop should be about the size of an almond—if anyone has learned tea ceremony, please let me know if this is accurate.
2. Heat 40-50mL of water to a temperature between 70°C and 80°C (158°F and 176°F).
I went with just under 50 mL of 165°F water which probably cooled down a little before I had a chance to add it to the matcha powder.
3. Add a small amount of the water to the sifted matcha to create a thick paste. Using the chasen (bamboo whisk), knead (don’t whisk!) the water and matcha powder together using up/down and left/right motions, or a calm 360° rotating motion.
The water and matcha paste actually was fairly smooth from what I could see, probably thanks to the sifting. It almost looked like green paint.
4. Add the rest of the water to the matcha powder. Continue kneading, not whisking, the matcha. Koicha is not supposed to be frothy, and the kneading should produce a tea that is thick, smooth, and without froth.
The resulting tea was thick and smooth. I was shocked because there was absolutely no bitterness. None. Whatsoever. Maybe my taste buds are off because I’m used to drinking very concentrated matcha using crappy quality powder, but really: I didn’t taste any bitterness or astringency. The flavor of the matcha was a little more on the savory side than sweet. It was vegetal and just lightly sweet, similar to steamed green beans, and oh so creamy…mmm. There wasn’t much of a sea or seaweedy taste. There was no grittiness or left-over clumps, and there was such a small amount of tea (50 ml) that there was no opportunity for settling. The temperature was a bit cool for me, probably because I sifted the powder after the water was done heating up, instead of before, so it just sat on my counter losing heat. Oops.
I prepared a bowl of my really low grade matcha from Mighty Leaf in the same way, and the result was a very bitter and had a thinner mouthfeel, for some reason. So, another plus of the DoMatcha ceremonial grade: the mouthfeel was really smooth, thick, and creamy. The Mighty Leaf was also gritty and didn’t mix as well as the DoMatcha, but that might have been because of error in preparation.
Unfortunately, this is the first ceremonial grade matcha I’ve ever tried, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. However, this is a really delicious matcha, and the lack of bitterness, the sweetness and savoriness, and the creamy and thick mouthfeel all make this one a winner for me.
Okay so….my new bag of Coconut Cream Pie came in. Unfortunately, I broke my french press while trying to wash it, so I had to make this in a tea ball. When I opened my bag, it smelled so strong and made me gag (I hate coconut usually…). What gives, CCP? Maybe the sample Ricky gave me lost some of its flavor/smell because it was older, or was a different batch, but this bag is too strong. The steeped tea tasted very strongly of coconut as well, in the bad way. Sigh.
I cleaned up my apartment today so that the cleaning lady could vacuum, and as a reward I made myself a cup of Dawn. It’s a lot richer than I remember, which is a good thing. I think part of the change can be attributed to the fact that I didn’t use boiling water in the past, and this tea thrives on boiling water. For anyone who hasn’t tried Dawn yet, it is truly amazing. It’s like unsweetened hot cocoa…there’s even this almost powdery/thick mouthfeel, like you’re drinking a rich suspension of chocolate and cocoa and tea. The second steep is wonderful as well. Simple Leaf, you rock. Congratulations, you get my first 100.
ETA: A slightly longer steep (closer to 4 or 4:30) really makes this seem like a decadent, rich cup of unsweetened hot cocoa.
Four Seasons pisses me off.
Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t a bad tea. It’s actually quite tasty. But it’s just not that special. It tastes, to me, like an average Tie Guan Yin, but missing the delicious heaviness I associate with TGY. It’s delicious, but no more delicious than some of the other TGYs I’ve tried.
But here’s the biggest kicker for me—you have to use a lot of leaf, and it does not produce that many infusions—certainly not 10-15, unless you’re thinking 2 ounce cups in 2 tablespoons of leaf. This is kind of infuriating, since the whole selling point on the Samovar website is that it lasts forever, so you’re getting a good value even if it’s $25 for a small, half-filled tin. I don’t like being lied to or misled. And there sure as hell aren’t 40 servings in the tin I received. Hell, there aren’t more than 15 teaspoons in there. And this tea requires, at the very least, 1.5 teaspoons for 6 ounces of water.
The tasting note descriptions intrigue me…I’ve done a little research, and I’ve never heard of Four Seasons/Si Jie Chun being described as bread and milk. The description I’ve come upon most is flowers, fruit, honey and pineapple. Hm. I’m tasting less milk or lactose or bakey-bready-ness, and more gardenias and sweet floral perfumes. [And yes, I have tried this at a number of different temperatures, and have gotten mostly the same results. No increase in dairy/lactose/bread at a lower temperature, for me.] I wonder how much of the (omg milk! bread!) love for this can be attributed to the power of suggestion…makes me want to experiment by writing up a tasting note for a random tea that’s like “OMG THIS TASTES LIKE CHERRIES!” and then see if anyone else says the same thing :)
So what do I taste? Gardenias, mostly; honey, certainly; and butter from my cooled down second infusion. The proportions of the flavors changes slightly from infusion to infusion, but the leaves don’t last very long either. Something I’m noticing this time around—it’s pretty bitter. I’m not sure if it’s because my water is too hot, or if I’m oversteeping it. A warning: do not try to brew this with 8 ounces and 1 teaspoon. I’ve brewed other TGYs this way and it’s been fine, but Four Seasons is not like other TGYs :) I ended up with one okay-but-light first infusion, and then almost tasteless 2nd and 3rd infusions. It’s so difficult to rate this one…on the one hand, it’s yummy when you do everything right. On the other hand, it’s extremely expensive and you have to use a lot of it to make a decent cup of tea, plus all the reservations I mentioned above.
I know I’m blaspheming, writing a negative review for a Samovar creation…please don’t hurt me!
Okay, okay. I know, I’m not supposed to like this. It’s coconut. It’s CTC black tea. It’s flavored. But oh, mah, gawh, this is soooo delicious with a good sized dash of milk and two heaping teaspoons of white sugar. Oh, my sweet, not-overwhelmingly-coconutty, creamy cup of dessert—I love you, I really do. And I’m sending happy thoughts to Ricky who sent me this sample, because there was no way in hell I’d buy this for myself (coconut and all). But seriously? I have a huge chest of tea that I need to finish before September, yet I went ahead and put through an order for this at 52teas because it is that good. Nom. 100 94 noms.
Haven’t had much time for tea these days, but I broke down and made myself a cup of this after I received my samples from The Jade Teapot in the mail. I think this might be the same as Art of Tea’s Uji Gyokuro, if it matters.
This is my first gyokuro, so I’m a little hesitant to rate this. The leaves are very dark green and full of chlorophyll. It seems like there are quite a few stems in this sample, so it’s probably not the greatest quality Gyokuro. I emptied the entire sample packet (about 1.5 teaspoons) in 8 ounces of water.
First steep, 45 seconds: The smell is very similar to matcha, or at least the vegetal flavor of matcha. The taste is also reminiscent of it, except less seaweedy and powdery than matcha usually is. I can’t really pick out much other than the grassy, delicious taste of the gyokuro…I’m not getting butter or gardenias, although there is a slight perfumy quality to the liquor.
Second steep, ~30 seconds: Okay, I should have only done around 5 seconds for this second steep, because it was quite bitter. Still, it was delicious. Less sweet, and more savory.
Third steep, ~2 minutes: Lighter than the second steep. More savory/umami, and a bit bitter and drying. It’s very brothy, for lack of a better word; I kind of wish it were a bit saltier. The flavors are considerably weaker, though, and there isn’t any of the sweet/buttery/green/vegetal yumminess that there was in the first two steeps. Perhaps next time, if my second steep is shorter, the third steep will still be tasty.
Overall, this was nice, although I think that there are probably some better examples of these flavors out there! It has made me curious to try more gyokuro.
I’m not sure if this tea has gotten spoiled or not…but there’s kind of a weird smell to it. Perhaps the chocolate bits or white bits (coconut?) went rancid? shrugs
Intrepid tea drinker that I am, I went ahead and steeped up a cup, and added some milk and sugar.
At first, I was like :x but then I was like :D
Hot, this is meh. There is a slightly fruity-almost-tart-but-not-quite-tart taste that’s throwing this off for me. I can kind of taste chocolate, but no coconut. It’s just sort of average-to-strange tasting tea.
But then! I left my nearly full cup cool, and came back to it. And oh, mah, gawd. It tastes JUST like chocolate milk. It looks like chocolate milk. It smells like chocolate milk. But best of all, it TASTES like chocolate milk! :O
But, alas, I am not looking for chocolate milk, I’m looking for tea, so I’m giving this a middling score.