Before I begin this review, just let me tell all of you that, on a purely personal note, this tea takes me way back. I attended a really strange private middle school in the middle of nowhere in Eastern Kentucky. This really strange middle school required three years of Japanese language and culture coursework as part of its language arts curriculum. Each year a teaching intern would be brought over from Japan to live and teach at this school in this rundown little mountain community. The intern we had during my 7th grade year was really into tea culture, and not only provided me with my first taste of matcha, but also my first ever serious tea experience. Ever since, I have associated any sort of Japanese green tea with this experience, as it was such a formative one for me with regard to my interest in tea.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the tea at hand. Kokeicha is a variant of matcha originating from Shizuoka. This is a relatively new style of tea, as from what I understand, it only traces its origins back to the middle of the twentieth century. In essence, kokeicha is a formed matcha. It is made from a combination of matcha, water, and rice paste and is formed to generally resemble a twig. Indeed, from a distance, it kind of looks like a really dark kukicha. Kokeicha is not normally one of the more popular Japanese teas in the West, and having never tried it before, I jumped at the opportunity to acquire some at a reasonable price.
For this review, I steeped 1 teaspoon of this tea at 175 F for 2 minutes. Second and third infusions were done at 2 1/2 and 3 minutes respectively-I generally prefer longer lengths of time when I resteep green teas as I prefer a stronger flavor and do not mind a bit of astringency. The results of each infusion will be detailed below.
First infusion: The liquor produced was a delicate, pale greenish yellow. I was careful when pouring the water over this tea and managed to avoid the gritty, dusty look one can get when the kokeicha twigs start to crumble. Subtle aromas of grass, collards, spinach, and seaweed were present on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up delicate notes of lemon, collards, spinach, grass, and seaweed. The finish was big on the spinach, grass, and seaweed flavors, though I also noticed a trace of minerality.
Second Infusion: The second infusion produced a liquor that was darker and greener. It was also somewhat cloudier. I noticed strong grass, seaweed, and leaf vegetable aromas with a touch of saltiness and minerals. In the mouth, I picked up strong grass, seaweed, collard, and spinach notes underscored by sea salt and minerals. The finish played up the sea salt, mineral, and leaf vegetable notes.
Third Infusion: The liquor produced was again more green than yellow and quite murky. On the nose, I detected pronounced mineral, sea salt, spinach, and seaweed aromas. In the mouth, there was a subtle grassiness, but more seaweed, sea salt, spinach, and mineral flavors. The finish was heavy on the mineral and seaweed notes with a touch of spinach, grass, and sea salt.
Overall, I really kind of like this tea. Granted, I have nothing with which to compare it as this is my first experience with kokeicha, but I do like the range of aromas and flavors this tea presents. My research suggests that everything I am picking up in this tea is appropriate, so I suppose this is a solid kokeicha. Still, I think I prefer traditional matcha to this, as in my opinion, it is easier to brew. Truthfully, this kind of falls into a gray area for me, as it delivers the aroma and flavor of matcha in a form that lends itself to multiple infusions, yet does not quite display the depth of aroma and flavor I typically look for in a good traditional matcha. I’m glad I picked this one up because I enjoyed it, but I doubt that it will become a regular in my tea cupboard.
Flavors: Grass, Lemon, Mineral, Salt, Seaweed, Spinach