Thés du JaponEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
So much to say, so little to desire to write. I have been burned out from work.
Yesterday, a customer I’ve developed a work-related friendship with called out to me as I rushed past him. I apprehensively turned around and walked back to him. He told me a story.
‘There was an American man who traveled to Japan during war. The Japanese consulate denied him a new visa so he went to sit in a park. He drank tea and wrote a poem, then went back to the consulate to present it. After reading the poem, the consulate granted him a new visa.’
My customer inhaled sharply to stifle his tears.
’The poem read:
Drinking a bowl of
I stop the war.’
We parted ways.
He is a teacher.
This tea is such a wild card. Glad I had 40g to figure out what was going on here. After 10 or so rounds of experimentation at work and home, the last cup of the bag was the best! I didn’t weigh the broken bits (2g?) but did use the 160F setting on my kettle. Got distracted, came back 10+ minutes later to a sweet and mellow fruity cup. The floral blueberry and fruity peach notes really stood out this time. No bitterness. Full-bodied.
Overcast and cool September Sunday calls for some sencha.
May 2022 harvest
First experience with this tea that’s over a year old by now. I picked it up at some point in Spring of 2023.
Dry leaf smells like kudzu, black grapes, paper, buttery raspberry scones (anybody familiar with Sconehenge?), anise and lamb fat. Warmed leaf is more intense with dominant aromas of spinach souffle and raspberry cream.
The dry and warmed leaf aromas catch my attention much more than the taste of the tea. Brewed with Thés du Japon’s suggested parameters, the tea is watery, drying and tannic with a distinct bitterness – perhaps it is showing its age. I do get fruity notes like green grapes and kiwifruit. Also some wheatgrass and light, dewy sweetness. Slight refreshing character, like cypress in the fog.
I’ll give this tea a few more tries. If it’s simply past its prime, compost it is.
Flavors: Anise, Apricot, Beans, Bitter, Blueberry, Cream, Drying, Egg, Evergreen, Grape Skin, Grapes, Green, Kiwi, Paper, Pastries, Peach, Raspberry, Spinach, Sugarcane, Sweet, Tannic, Watery, Wheatgrass, White Grapes
First ever tamaryokucha style green tea, and I believe it’s 2023 shincha, courtesy of Thés du Japon. Thank you!
This morning’s cups were damn near perfect. Half the sample – 4g – went into the steeper basket with cooled water from the work dispenser, steeped for maybe a minute. White beany and vegetal, full-bodied and round with sweet umami, not a lick of bitterness or astringency. Refreshing and engaging but mellow. Second much like the first. Third steep, brewed without cooling the water, was dark and cloudy; it tasted like the smell of the clumps of young, wet grass that stick to the bottom of the lawnmower. Wow, those were some great cups of tea. I have the rest of the sample set aside for brewing in a small pot.
Like gyokuro-lite. I dig this much more than gyokuro. More balanced.
Flavors: Beans, Freshly Cut Grass, Round, Sweet, Umami, Vegetables, Vegetal
A free sample included with my order. I believe the sample is 2023 shincha.
Edited to add that I think this tea is better steeped in a basket. I went heavier than usual 4g:300mL to finish off the sample, 160F for 1min. Practically no bitterness and the aroma is like a berries and cream candy with such a soft spinach vegetal component.
Aroma of pie crust with blueberry and raspberry jam, some boiled spinach as well. It is a soft and sweet scent. Body is medium with a little fish broth umami underpinning a bright and bitter haylike taste. The berry notes of the leaf and aroma release lightly on the swallow. Very dewy sweet aftertaste comes from the back of the mouth. A few small burps taste like the aroma. This is a nice tea and moves easily but the bitterness is off balance for my taste (perhaps this can be mitigated) and there is a catch in my throat. Good for 3 steeps in a small pot.
Yamakai cultivar is certainly unique and worth a try. This one is a great introduction at only ~$0.08/g, however, shipping fees must be taken into account.
Thank you, Thés du Japon!
Flavors: Berry, Bitter, Blueberry, Bright, Cream, Fish Broth, Fruity, Hay, Jam, Mint, Pastries, Raspberry, Spinach, Sugar, Sweet, Vegetal
Another interesting tea courtesy of derk.
I was surprised by how fruity this was. And by fruity I mean tropical fruit which is unusual in green tea. When I first sniffed the leaves, I wondered if perhaps they had absorbed scent from another flavored tea.
Sure enough, the fruitiness from the aroma came through in the tea. Definitely taste the adzuki bean sweetness that derk noted. Soft umami, baby spinach, stir fried cabbage, and cherry blossom were amongst the flavors encountered.
As someone that drinks a lot of green tea, they often end up tasting rather similar. So a unique sencha like this with an atypical flavor profile is a welcome change.
Flavors: Beans, Cabbage, Fruity, Spinach, Tropical, Umami, Vegetal
May 2021 harvest
The leaf is clearly thin and delicate and when dry, has a soft, high scent of butterfat with an even softer ‘dark’ undertone. The cut is small and uniform, about the size of sea salt flakes, which allows for quick infusion. Despite this, there is very little astringency and no bitterness. It is best prepared as a one-steep tea with long infusion time. Probably well suited for a European-style large teapot brew.
A doughy aroma gently stimulates the senses. I think of it less like yeast, which gmathis aptly noted, and maybe more like a fresh, doughy and warm soft pretzel.
As far as the taste, this tea is all about the tones and lacks distinct flavor notes. Low tones of well worn soft leather, old dark wood, dark bread and forest soil earthiness with some red currant brightness are so soft and rounded. Tinges of astringency and acidity. When prepared with higher leaf:water ratio, I do notice some of the vanilla sugar Thés du Japon suggests.
This profile is a bit of a mystery to me. If I am to categorize its character, it’s maybe like an African black tea with a leathery Assam but without the typical assamica punch of either. The velvety and full body is more like a high-quality Chinese Qimen and does not match what the leaf visual brings to mind.
Interesting tea and worth a try for the curious. Read more here: https://japaneseteasommelier.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/karabeni-cultivar-black-tea/
Flavors: Bread, Bread Dough, Cream, Dark Wood, Earthy, Leather, Red Currant, Round, Soft, Sugar, Vanilla
Uh-oh. No notes on this one yet so I’m going to have to figure out the flavor without any help from fancier palates than mine. The cup was a little like a sensory jigsaw puzzle!
Plain old Missouri farm girl western-style steep; four minutes. The scent—-and I had to keep sniffing and thinking about it—reminded me of yeast that had been left to rise in the sun just a little too long, but in a good way. (Fermented a little, I guess.) The flavor doesn’t quite fit my usual favorite toasty or bready adjectives; it was more like a heavy Christmas fruitcake or plum cake—definitely a dark, heavy fruit thing going on.
I’ll add an amendment when I try the second steep, but in the meantime, thank you, derk—this is one I would never have stumbled across without you! It is unlike any straight black tea I’ve ever tried.
April 2021 harvest.
Rich, heady florals and thick sweetness with a balanced astringency once I dialed in on this leaf’s character. It can be very finnicky, bitter and unbalanced, especially so when following TDJ’s parameters.
What transformed this tea for me was using 4g:400mL brewed in a glass vessel with water 160F or lower for a minute or two. It reminds me of oolong with its floral intensity, creamy-milky and fruity notes (like Froot Loops cereal), sugarcane-like sweetness and extended retronasal action of the aftertaste. It is equally a green tea, though, with pronounced but well integrated astringent vegetal-whitebean-grass taste. Mild, minty cooling.
It took a minute, but I’m now rather happy with this sencha and hope that others can be, too.
Oh, there’s some ghee here, too. Not your typical buttery note. GHEE. It’s sticky in my olfactories. But that note also seems unnatural, though inoffensive — if not strangely palatable — like a flavored milk oolong. I like it.
Addendum: Recommended for those who fancy a big floral bouquet and can find some pleasure in experimentation. The fruity nuances this tea has to offer are a treat. They will materialize with some coaxing and linger with the affection of a crazed lover. Intense tea. Mellow is not a quality that has ever come to mind. While I’m unlikely to seek out this sencha again, I do appreciate the exercise in patience that allowed me to finally get to know this tea.
Also, while the tea is still fresh a year after harvest, I can see it devolving quickly into pure parfum. I will work to drink this down before other green teas in my cupboard that are known practitioners of longevity.
Flavors: Beans, Brisk, Butter, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Wood, Lavender, Lily, Lime, Macadamia, Milk, Mint, Peach, Perfume, Pineapple, Plumeria, Raspberry, Rich, Spinach, Sugarcane, Sweet, Thick, Vegetal
May 2021 harvest, grown without pesticides
Following TDJ’s parameters, I wasn’t impressed by the level of barklike bitterness; however, the flavor itself was pretty good and the aroma spectacular. I remember the second infusion smelling like blood oranges. I’m wondering how TDJ picked up a descriptor of ‘coconut dumplings’.
Steeped 3g:300mL for several minutes, again the aroma is pronounced, with a mixture of lychee, apple, blackberry, cream, cinnamon and almond, a touch of malt. The body of the tea consists of dominant qualities that are dark and tannic-drying, reminding me of rosewood, with a dark and dry leaf litter vibe. The aroma does flow very well through the taste and lingers like a thick vapor. Camphory, cypressy freshness abounds soon after the swallow, spreading from the chest to the throat, eventually taking over the mouth with minty freshness; not overbearing, just very natural and a marker for me of a high-quality tea. A candied orange peel aftertaste blooms slowly and grows with the sense of calm that this tea induces.
That aftertaste morphs into a tree-sappy returning sweetness with notes of something more like mandarin-apricot. I also notice a rasp on the tongue which reinforces the notion of cinnamon I caught in the aroma.
This is a tricky leaf, as I’m finding out with my exploration of Japanese teas, but it has an elegant heaviness and depth if approached in an appreciative manner. In other words, it’s a tea to respect, to sit with, not one to brew and drink in a rush.
Flavors: Allspice, Almond, Apricot, Bark, Blackberry, Blood Orange, Camphor, Chili, Cinnamon, Cream, Dark Bittersweet, Dry Leaves, Drying, Floral, Forest Floor, Lychee, Malt, Mandarin, Orange Zest, Osmanthus, Rosewood, Spicy, Tannin, Vanilla, Woody
Thanks, Derk, for all the generous Japanese tea samples! This is also my first Japanese oolong, and I was drawn to the ones featured on the Thés du Japon site because they were described as resembling Taiwanese gaoshan, even down to the cultivars used. I had no idea how to steep this, not having a 60 ml vessel, so I filled my 85 ml teapot most of the way and hoped it was okay. TDJ also only gives directions for the first steep. I used my 3 g of leaf in boiling water and steeped it for 30, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of apricot, tart fruit (I haven’t had quince, but that seems accurate), grain, lemon, lilies and other flowers, and sugarcane. The lily, honeysuckle, orchid, and maybe even lilac florals do remind me of a Baozhong, as does the grass, butter, and silky texture. There’s definitely an element of grain that I haven’t found in Baozhong, and the tart quince/apricot/peach comes in on the aftertaste. (That peachy aftertaste might be the best part of this steep!) Spice is quite prominent in steep two, along with flowers, grass, minerals, grain, sap, and tart fruit. I see how Derk is getting mango in steep three, though there’s also some astringency, grass, spinach, lily, apricot, lemon, and minerals. The tea is starting to get a bit rough around the edges. Coconut appears in the fourth steep, though the spinach and grass are getting stronger and the fruit/florals are backing off. There’s still some creamy mango sweetness as it cools. The coconut, mango, and apricot continue in the next few steeps, but this oolong is getting very grassy, vegetal, and bitter.
This oolong evolved throughout my gongfu session and was a bit temperamental, though that could have been due to user error. While it did have some similarities to Baozhong, it took a wildly different direction in later steeps. (Also, keep those coconut teas coming!) Thanks to Derk for letting me try this tea!
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Butter, Coconut, Cream, Floral, Grain, Grass, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Lilac, Lily, Mango, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Quince, Sap, Silky, Spices, Spinach, Sugarcane, Tart, Vegetal
A lingering specimen from Mastress Alita’s Monthly Sipdown Challenge, March 2022 – A floral tea
The dry and warm leaves of this Japanese oolong smell like a bowl of Captain Crunch Berries cereal. I’d love to see confirmation of that.
Beyond that cutesy, drool-worthy leaf aroma, this tea is green, pretentious and stubborn, often unfeelingly brash, with some quiet depth beyond the florals. I could never fully open up this tea no matter the preparation; it stayed rigid and zipped up kinda like a certain someone sometimes haha. Because of this, I could never sink into the experience.
If I had had an idea that I didn’t possess the skill to get this tea where I think it needed to be, I wouldn’t have purchased it. Sorry Leafhopper, this one was a gamble. Maybe you’ll have the touch begged for to explore its emotionally unavailable diva-like character.
Either myself or this tea needs therapy.
Thank you Derk! Here’s my input-I’m going to have a hard time going into this tea blind since I’ve read your note and the description from the website, so here it goes.
I brew this in my gong fu 2 go, and intuitively make it. I did about 25-30 seconds in the first brew with about two thirds of the bag. I immediately noticed a geranium-lilac aroma coming from the cup, and drinking it up, chestnut or even butternut squash coats the palette. There’s some brown sugar sweetness here and there, and some woodsiness. It’s not as woody as other Japanese Teas I’ve had. Instead, it’s more floral and smooth bordering on some oolong qualities. How the florals flatten on my tongue, and then rise into my sinuses remind me of quality Baozhong flower notes, and even has the same kind of gold floral malt some of them have. The savory qualities make it lean more black, but the mouthfeel does interesting things, starting low, creamy, then cooling up into a sweetness with piquant bitter hints. Middle steeps were more floral, more rosy, but lilac, squash, brown sugar, and light wood hit my brain the most. Later steeps, 4 and 5, were sweeter/lighter towards squash and sugar, maybe cinnamon, and the last brew was sweet, light, and the most woodsy.
I’m not too sure about some of the fruitier notes described, but I can see them because the teas naturally sweet and has the kind of acidic bite strawberries might have. Camphor is something I immediately get to approximate the sweet wood cooling oil quality of the tea. I’m leaning towards petrichor in terms of mood and feel. Cinnamon is a little bit more psychological. I see it more in the later steeps than in the earlier ones, though I’m not sure if I’d peg that as a note comparing it to cinnamon in teas and Rou Guis.
I really like this one, and enjoyed it more than the Tsushima black a little bit because this one was more easy going. I still have one Japanese black to try out along with others, but I enjoyed this one. More experienced drinkers would be better with this one than newbs because it might just taste like a savory floral tea to them. I hope my input was decent derk!
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Butternut Squash, Camphor, Floral, Geranium, Lilac, Oily, Petrichor, Rosewood, Squash, Sweet
What did I do to deserve derk? Nothing, that’s what. As I thought about that, I was reminded of a little story I read a long time ago in a sermon trying to explain the concept of the grace of God.
A businessman from up north is traveling through the Southern US. He stops at a diner and orders breakfast – bacon, eggs, and toast. A waitress brings his plate and he points at a white mass and asks, “What is this?”
“That’s grits,” she replies.
“But I didn’t order grits,” he responds.
Patiently she tells him, “You don’t order grits. They just come.”
And that is how grits are like the grace of God and derk. Derk, you are better than grits, and I like grits a lot.
On to the tea! Wow, skinny skinny sharp and pointy deep dark green. Water hits the leaves and deep golden color develops quickly. Before I ever take a sip from the cup, I know this tea is thick. I mean, THICC. Brothy and very like seasoned broth from a well-seasoned and long stewed chicken. Umami to the tenth power.
So much flavor. My tongue is tingling with the briskness which builds and I just drink more and more. The most remarkable part is that I finished the first cup and did a bit of cleaning and the flavor was still lingering. The rising sweetness we so often hear about (usually I thought with Chinese green tea) is relentless. I keep getting a burble of this very sweet flavor.
The second steep is just as flavorful, perhaps a tad more brisk but still the rising sweetness that follows lingers for a long, long time. It just doesn’t quit. More steeps to come, but honestly I think I will be tasting this for literally hours today because I am STILL tasting the last of the second steep even though it has been a while since I sipped.
I am not nearly as eloquent as derk, nor am I as good at detecting flavors, but this is great tea and I am very happy I had this opportunity to try it.
Thank you, derk!
I went for it first because it was the Baozhong like one. Brewing it up, it struck me as being closer to a first flush darjeeling than a Taiwanese oolong. It had a thick body, beautiful leaves like a Baozhong, and some florals that remind me of Jin Xuan and Baozhong, especially in texture, but the profile was heavier with umami for me. I kept on getting the same kind of notes that I get in Gyurkos and First Flushes, like a little bit of apricot and strawberry hints, but lots of greener ones like soy, edamame, cream, fresh grass, gardenia, and drying astringency. I had hard time getting past the 5th cup gong fu. I liked it, but it was a little bit astringent and almost too green for me.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Gardenias, Green, Green Beans, Snow Peas, Soybean, Strawberry, Thick, Umami, Vegetal
Thank you Derk for all the teas!
I started with the oolong, but started with this one blind. I picked it out because I’m somewhat familiar with Tsushima due to video game popculture, and made the choice for this reason.
Parameters-30, 20, 40, 50, and 60. I need to do a disclaimer first: I tend to find Japanese blacks very sweet, but very grassy or woodsy with a complex dryness. Sometimes I like it, and other times I don’t. Going into this one, the first steep was sweet and aromatic, making me think of anything colored brown and hot pink, though the liquid was a bright light red. I personally thought of cherry blossom, roses and fall leaves, cherries, almond, and lots of wood. The second steep had a little bit more fruit in the form of satsuma orange with a cooling acidic rise into a tannic finish. The last few steeps were generally almondy, woody, and floral again with the cherry blossom.
Interestingly enough, the description for this one said Lychee. I can kinda see that, but it wasn’t fructose-y enough for my palette to go in the direction. I know cherry blossoms is the most basic white person response, but it did remind me of salted cherry blossoms in tea.
I don’t think I’m going to rate it, but I will say it was a fun tasting experience. I don’t love it since it’s a little bit too tannic for me, but I really like the kind of profile it had. More of a tea nerds kind of tea though rather than a newbie tea.
Flavors: Almond, Bitter, Cherry, Cherry Blossom, Cherry Wood, Citrus, Dry Grass, Dry Leaves, Drying, Floral, Rose, Sweet, Tannin, Tea, Wood
April 27, 2021 harvest.
Difficult to describe… Complex and rich fruit and spice flavors that dance off the palate, aroma lingers in the throat. Deep but not thick turbinado sugar type of sweetness that is lightened and balanced playfuly by the tannins, mild astringency and bitterness of a malty black tea. Strong citrus and floral presences are difficult to isolate because they’re so well integrated, peaking in and out of the mid- to high ranges. It’s not like perfume at all to me.
First steep takes boiling water and long steep beautifully; second steep takes some attention to time to mitigate the tingling bark-like medicinal bitters which can make a third infusion worthwhile if you’re into that kind of feeling-taste.
This tea, when prepared with TDJ’s parameters, is a medium-bodied tea with rich aromatics and flavor. It presents characteristics of Wuyi zhengshan xiaozhong, Taiwanese and Nepali black teas.
Flavors: Allspice, Almond, Apple, Apricot, Astringent, Bark, Bitter, Blackberry, Brown Sugar, Butter, Chamomile, Chili, Chrysanthemum, Cinnamon, Citrus Fruits, Citrusy, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Lychee, Malt, Peach, Peony, Rose, Rosewood, Spicy, Sweet, Tannin, Woody
After trying ice-brewing again, I decided it wasn’t for me. Since I have so many teas at home I’d rather drink, this had the potential to become severely neglected. It’s definitely good enough that I didn’t want to toss the leaf, so I took it to work to see what I could do with it there.
Turns out the key to my appreciation for this tea lies in a much lower leaf-to-water ratio than is custom for gyokuro. I let the cup of dispenser hot water sit while I dive into these involved projects I’m working on and by the time I come up for a breather, the water has cooled to gyokuro brewing temperature or lower. Take a big pinch of leaf (3-4g) and let it steep for several minutes (a 2nd steep, too). The resulting cup effects my mood and work pace in a very beneficial way. I detect almost no bitterness and the low, deep, thick and rich umami is lightened enough that my body and tastebuds do not protest. With longer steeps, some eucalyptus and pineapple can come out in the aftertaste.
Flavors: Alkaline, Cheesecake, Eucalyptus, Fish Broth, Kale, Lima Beans, Marine, Pineapple, Seafood, Spinach, Thick, Umami
Tried my hand at ice-brewing, following a guideline somewhere that called for 1g of tea to 30g of ice (yeah, I weighed it). It’s better than hot-brewed for my tastes but still too intense for my liking, thick with shellfish umami, soybean sweetness and those cholorphyllic wheatgrass notes. Some of the bitterness is mitigated by this method. The leaf will be relatively easy to finish off as ice brews. Not a repurchase, though. This particular gyokuro is simply not for me.
Flavors: Alkaline, Bitter, Green, Round, Shellfish, Soybean, Sweet, Thick, Umami, Wheatgrass
A family friend from Texas landed unexpectedly at our house last night for an impromptu weekend visit. After nerding out about tea with King Weird for a bit last night, I put together a care package for him of Japanese greens (and many other teas!) which is what prompted this note.
April 28, 2021 harvest
Very intense when brewed with TDJ’s parameters. The amino acid content made my stomach turn, so with this session, I dialed back the first infusion time to 1 minute. Much better, still intense but kinder to my constitution.
Nutty-sweet and starchy white sweet potato scent of the dry leaf with a sheer, creamy overlay; soft, clean note of boiled spinach. Something elusive, like a combination of marzipan, some kind of fruit and cinnamon. It’s a mystery to me, but it’s there and very well hidden.
The liquor is very low-pitched and seafood umami/sweet-driven. Alkaline, brothy and moderately thick (but not oily) with a dominant taste of soft, sweet seafood and edamame, bitterness of dark green kale. Some cashew nuttiness, a sharper umami note of white bean paste that’s more in the nose than mouth, and a quiet, undefinable fruit undertone. The ultra-green chlorophyllic wheatgrass note of shaded green teas expresses itself greater with each subsequent infusion.
Really difficult tea to understand and take in. The bitterness isn’t well integrated and always pulls me out of the moment. Gyokuro’s charm continues to evade me. I can say that I did enjoy another of TDJ’s gyokuro from Asahina more: https://steepster.com/teas/thes-du-japon/98109-gyokuro-from-asahina-saemidori-cultivar
Maybe I’ll try this one ice-brewed.
Flavors: Alkaline, Beans, Bitter, Broth, Cashew, Cinnamon, Green, Irish Cream, Kale, Marine, Marzipan, Round, Seafood, Shellfish, Soybean, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Tree Fruit, Umami, Wheatgrass