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Recent Tasting Notes
Another budget Yuuki-Cha tea. This time it’s gyokuro which is normally considered a premium tea. However, this unique variant is processed like bancha consisting of leaves and stems. I’m not a huge fan of gyokuro as I find it too umami heavy for my taste but went for it here as it looked super interesting and the price was good too.
The smell out of the bag is a mixture of umami, nori seaweed, and flowers in a grassy meadow. I’m still working out the brew times and temperatures, but I generally start between 135 – 150 F and gradually increase the temperature 5-10 degrees per infusion for a total of 4 steeps. The first steep produces a fatty, umami laden cup with a texture reminiscent of animal fat. Trust me, it tastes better than my description. It has a slight edge that tiptoes around bitterness without ever becoming bitter. Pale green liquor that smells like brussel sprouts and earth.
Second infusion brings out a subtle earthiness, wheatgrass, and cabbage. Third infusion is 160-165 F and has a more familiar sencha-like flavor. Light wheatgrass, matcha-like creaminess, and straw. Fourth and final steep is mellow and rather washed out.
Overall, an enjoyable Gyokuro with a rich flavor and complexity beyond just umami. It doesn’t resteep as well as pricier teas but acceptable given the style and price point.
Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTiC14orvVd/
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Lettuce, Straw, Umami
Did a big Yuuki-Cha order last month and this is one of their budget senchas that I picked up. For the price point, it’s not a bad tea. Grassy, medium bodied, with a gentle astringency. Nice fresh flavor and color. It has a familiar Japanese green tea flavor but lacks the complexity of better sencha. A solid tea for the office.
Flavors: Astringent, Freshly Cut Grass, Umami
This is an organic sencha genmaicha from Kyoto. The rice is brown rice from Nara Prefecture and the sencha is first harvest aka shincha versus bancha. For the most part, it is a good genmaicha and has nice toasty brown rice notes. I found it to be very temperature sensitive though.
I made it with 160Fwater in a banko kyusu. At 185F it was far too brisk for me. Astringent, extremely drying on my tongue, bitter. So I dropped the temperature down to 170F and then finally 160F. At this temperature, I got the familiar mellow aroma, umami, and a much better balance of sweet and bitter taste, less bitterness and was savory, had vegetal notes of greens, like grass, spinach. I re-steeped it 3 times. I also found making it in spring water was best. 170F was good too though.
It is a good price for organic first harvest sencha genmaicha. Recommended.
Flavors: Grass, Rice, Savory, Spinach, Toasted Rice, Umami, Vegetal
Upgraded to this from the grocery store Maeda-En hojicha I used to drink. There was nothing wrong with it, in fact it’s one of the best commercial green teas out there, but I wondered if I could do better and Yuuki-Cha’s description of this tea was enticing: specially aged, first flush harvest picked from a high grade kuradashi leaves.
The dry leaves give off a funky, almost putrid smell. I got some really intense dark flavors the first couple of times I steeped it. Dark amber hued liquor with lots of woodsy and caramelized notes. Coffee, butterscotch, and leather were the dominant flavor and aroma characteristics. These were accented by notes of maple, barley, roasted nuts, sandalwood, and toffee. It’s definitely more complex than your typical hojicha. The flavor has now started to mellow a bit after resting a couple of weeks. It smoother and the earthiness has tamed down.
I especially enjoyed it as a cold brew which is how I’ve been steeping it lately. The cold brew is even smoother, crisp, and refreshing. You can taste more of the tea’s subtleties. Tobacco, black cardamom, oak, and clove were some of the more interesting flavor notes I got from cold steeping.
While I can appreciate how meticulously this tea was produced and enjoyed its complexity, I still prefer the simpler taste of classic hojicha. This to me is more of a connoisseur’s tea. It may appeal to fans of roasted oolongs or rare aged teas, but for me the taste doesn’t quite live up to its lofty pedigree.
Flavors: Caramel, Coffee, Earth, Oak, Roasted Barley, Spices, Tobacco, Wood
Since this tea isn’t great for matcha lattes, I decided to see how it would fare in cooking. I made a small batch of green tea brownies using this and they turned out quite good. Assertive yet subtly sweet green tea flavor. This green tea powder lacks the bitterness of real matcha which makes it suitable for baking. You don’t need as much sugar to balance out the bitterness.
Recipe for anyone interested: https://www.hmart.com/recipe/post/nye-green-tea-brownies/
Ever since I got into matcha lattes, my matcha consumption has went up dramatically. This also led to increased spending and because good Uji matcha isn’t cheap, I started looking for frugal alternatives a step above culinary grade. That’s how I discovered this powdered kamairicha at Yuuki-Cha.
Kamairicha, for the uninitiated, is Japanese tea that is processed like Chinese green tea, where the leaves are pan fired instead of steamed. The resultant tea is a Japanese-Chinese hybrid of sorts – fruity, nutty, and sometimes floral – and absolutely delicious. I’ve tried and enjoyed a number of different kamairichas and was intrigued to find it in powdered form .
Appearance wise, it has a paler green color than regular matcha powder. While the prepared tea does have an attractive emerald green color, it doesn’t froth as nicely and lacks the creamy mouthfeel of good matcha. There’s a noticeable chalkiness in the aftertaste. Taste wise, the grassiness and vegetal notes are a lot tamer which might appeal to people that don’t care for the aggressive taste of matcha. Holds up quite well to hotter water temperatures without becoming astringent.
For me, the real test was how it held up to milk and sugar. Unfortunately, it was quite underwhelming as the mild flavor gets further muted when prepared as a latte. It tastes like a pale shadow of a real matcha latte with the barest hint of greenness and lots of chalkiness. So it’s rather disappointing in this regard. I’ll have to experiment further with this tea, but for now I’m going back to my Organic Yame matcha for lattes. It’s more expensive then this one, but it’s the most affordable of the traditional matcha powders.
The third shincha of 2020.
I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a Japanese tea as quickly as this one. Usually it takes me a while to get through a bag of sencha but I’ve already polished off half the 100g pouch in only a month. Have to pace myself now so I don’t go through my stash too quickly because that’s how good this tea is.
This is a tamaryokucha, which is processed differently from regular sencha resulting in less astringency and a smoother flavor. It’s more forgiving to oversteeping and water temperature.
The tea itself has a subtle and unassuming appearance. Small broken leaves that have a mild grassy aroma. The brewed tea is a buttery sweet fruity explosion with nice umami and floral overtones. Smooth, crisp, and full bodied. Upping the leaf quantity intensifies the umami. Second steep is a denser cup, vibrant lime green with grassy chlorophyll flavors. The third and final steep is lighter but delightfully fruity and sweet. There was little to no bitterness and no sulfuric edge that Japanese greens can sometimes leave behind even when I really push the steep.
This was a marvelous tea exhibiting the best characteristics of sencha without any of the off-putting ones. It’s less finicky to brew and has more sweetness than other Japanese greens I’ve tried which I like . Easily the best shincha this year and the best Japanese green I’ve had recently.
Flavors: Citrus, Corn Husk, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Sweet, Umami
The second shincha of 2020. Working out the brewing times and temperature for this tea was a rollercoaster of sorts. I don’t know if it’s just me or whether Japanese greens are really that finicky but I went through 50g – half the pouch – before I finally got it dialed in.
This tea shows different faces depending on how its brewed. At low temperatures, it’s umami rich and earthy, reminiscent of shaded greens. Japanese green tea connoisseurs tend to favor fairly high leaf-to-water ratios (0.8-0.9g per 1oz) but this can taste swampy and brings out a lot of bitterness. I got the best results by underleafing and brewing western style, just a teaspoon and a half of leaves in a 185ml teapot. The brewed tea is smooth, grassy, and almost fruity with a bit of sweetness and a robust mouthfeel. I can taste a bit of those citrus peel and grapefruit notes too. Good for 3 steeps.
A solid sencha and between this and my other shincha, Kirishima Asatsuyu Sencha, this was the better of the two.
Flavors: Citrus Zest, Earth, Grapefruit, Grass, Spinach, Umami
This is an okay genmaicha. There’s more toasted rice in here than tea. Just a basic genmaicha taste, quite drinkable but not particularly memorable. Tastes good by itself, as a cold brew, and makes a good base for blending with other teas.
Flavors: Rice, Toasty
The cheapest matcha at Yuuki-Cha. I bought this one specifically for lattes as I don’t care much for straight matcha. Opening the pouch revealed a slightly yellow tinged fine green powder with a creamy spinach aroma. A few whisks of the chasen is all it took to whip up an incredible froth. Much frothier than any matcha I’ve ever tried. Adding milk turned the matcha bubbles into a velvety microfoam like a skilled barista would produce.
Even though it later got doctored with milk and sugar, I did the obligatory tasting of the straight tea. It had a bright, rich forest green color. Smooth and creamy with a thick mouthfeel. Notes of sautéed asparagus and a little spice. Sweeter and less earthy than matcha can sometimes be. And more importantly, it made an excellent matcha latte.
Flavors: Grass, Smooth, Vegetal
Whoa, a Japanese oolong – it’s a first one of a kind for me. I had two sessions worth of it, and the first one was kind of ruined because I oversteeped it by a lot. This tea, unlike traditional oolongs, requires short brews and relatively low temperatures. Treat it like a sencha (with potentially higher temps up to 80-85 degrees) and you should be fine – that means be especially careful about the second and third brews.
In terms of its profile (and, to a lesser extent, appearance), the tea reminds me of Himalayan oolongs. At first it is fruity, sweet, and woody with a strong minerality and mild tartness and a vegetal finish. Subsequent infusions further see the onset of some biting bitterness and notes of coffee and bread. The aftertaste is a bit more floral and cooling, so I’d say overall there is quite a lot packed into one session.
Aromas are quite pronounced too, dry leaves smell of roasted hazelnuts, croissant and stonefruits, while the wet leaf aroma is more floral with an apple note. Based on the aroma alone, I would actually place the tea somewhere in the vicinity of both dan cong oolongs (such as mi lan xiang) and lighter roasted rock oolongs.
The body is medium (unless you overbrew it, but then the astringency will kill any sort of mouthfeel) and the texture quite bubbly. I find that the liquor gets quite heavy as it cools down. The energy from the tea is both relaxing and sedating – somewhat distinct from your average sencha.
All in all, this is a remarkably aromatic and fairly complex tea – it makes me curious about the space of possibilities of tea production in Japan.
Flavors: Apple, Baked Bread, Biting, Bitter, Char, Coffee, Floral, Fruity, Hazelnut, Mineral, Oak, Pastries, Roasted, Stonefruit, Sweet, Vegetal, Wood
I can’t warm up to this particular gyokuro and will probably cold-brew the rest of my pouch. The aromas are weak, the body is lighter than usual, and even though the taste is pungent I find the profile off. I am not quite sure why but it seems like it is somewhat unbalanced and disintegrated.
As for the particular notes, there are hints of cabbage and spearmint in the aroma emerging from the leaves and milk & custard in the empty cup scent. Fairly unusual range of aromas for a gyokuro, but they are so weak that they cannot take the center stage.
As expected first two infusions have a strong umami with a brothy / salty profile, which, unfortunately is not very well integrated with the green, vegetal aspects of the tea. Flavours of corn, spaghetti squash, butter, grass, asparagus, okra, green beans are among the ones I detected.
Flavors: Asparagus, Broth, Corn Husk, Custard, Grass, Green Beans, Marine, Milk, Pumpkin, Salty, Spearmint, Umami, Vegetables, Vegetal
This karigane is nice, although fairly basic and doesn’t stand out all that much.
Dry leaves are in fact very fragrant with a brothy, nutty and a touch grassy smell. There are notes of sake, some flowers but also cookies. Later on, the wet leaf aroma also reminds of bok choy, celery and likewise some bone broth and alcohol again.
Taste is sweet as expected; the nutty, umami, grassy and bitter notes are a bit less pronounced. I could also detect some flavours like those of chicken broth, milk, raisins and fennel.
Flavors: Alcohol, Bitter, Bok Choy, Broth, Celery, Chicken Soup, Cookie, Fennel, Flowers, Grass, Milk, Nutty, Raisins, Sweet, Umami
If memory serves me right, this is the first Kamairicha I’ve had in any significant amount. Its character is an interesting mix of Japanese and Chinese style (think Laoshan) green teas.
The first time I drank the tea, I followed a recommendation I found online for the parameters, but I found it to be a bit overbrewed. Today I started slightly lighter and it yielded better results. Namely, the parameters I used were: 45s, 72°C / 15s, 82°C / 30s, 80°C / 45s, 85°C / 75s, 85°C / 2min, 90°C / …
One of the nice things about fresh green teas is the range of aromas they display, which is definitely the case here. Dry leaves smell of corn, toasted rice and grass at first and then in a preheated gaiwan I notice more of a bready scent with notes of thistles and sugarcane as well. On the other hand, during the session, the wet leaf aroma has a strong chicken broth character with a lot of vegetal notes such as celery, broccoli, squash and green beans. Empty cup aroma is then more on the milky and floral side of the spectrum.
The taste is quite savoury with a nice bitterness and biting astringency that can last a while. First infusion is more buttery and citrusy than later ones that become more grassy and sweet. There are flavours such as those of fiddlehead fern, yeast, spinach, green apple and others appearing throughout the session. The body is medium to full and the mouthfeel cooling and on the oily side. It takes a while until the sweetness properly takes over the aftertaste, but it does so eventually.
Flavors: Astringent, Biting, Bitter, Broccoli, Broth, Butter, Celery, Chicken Soup, Citrusy, Grass, Green, Green Apple, Green Beans, Kettle Corn, Plants, Pumpkin, Spinach, Sugarcane, Sweet, Toasted Rice, Umami, Vegetal, Yeast
Among the Japanese teas that I got this year is this sencha – the most expensive among the crowd in Yuuki-cha’s line-up. There are a lot of things to like about it, but the most memorable aspect is probably the texture of the first infusion, which is the softest I’ve ever experienced in any tea. I don’t think I ever described the mouthfeel of some tea as fluffy, but it kind of fits here.
Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The fragrance is generally not a crucial part of sencha appreciation, but it definitely plays its role. Here, we have a fairly standard range of aromas, but more complex than average. Dry leaves smell of toasted bread and sweet grass initially and of green peas, twigs and bread dough in a preheated pot. During the session I picked up further notes of freshly cut grass and egg whites, as well as a distinct candy-like scent in the empty cha hai – maybe the most unusual part of the bouquet.
As I mentioned already, the first infusion has a super soft and smooth texture, at the same time being buttery thick. The profile is a mix of bitter and umami flavours, the most prominent among them are broth, sugar snap peas, moss, and decaying wood.
Second steep is a bit more balanced in its flavour profile, but also less interesting. There are notes of chicken broth, sweet grass, and rapini. The aftertaste is cooling, mineral and very sweet with notes of rock sugar and white pepper. I also quickly notice the cha qi, which is very invigorating as I would hope from a high-end sencha.
Third infusion is very refreshing with a touch of bitterness and sourness – quite a bit like lemon zest actually. More vegetal flavours also appear at this stage. The next steep is then more on the sweet and fruity side with a hint of cloves.
I wouldn’t be necessarily say that it’s the best sencha I’ve had, but it’s up there and I am certainly glad to have ordered it.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Bitter, Broccoli, Broth, Butter, Candy, Chicken Soup, Cloves, Decayed Wood, Freshly Cut Grass, Garden Peas, Lemon Zest, Mineral, Moss, Peas, Peppercorn, Smooth, Sugar, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Umami, Vegetal, Yeast
[April 2020 harvest]
It’s been a while since I’ve had a fukamushi sencha, so this one is a welcome addition. The interesting thing about it is that it is more herbaceous and minty than grassy or vegetal. There is some good bitterness too and the umami flavours are mostly bready. Liquor has a medium to full body and a thick, oily mouthfeel with next to no astringency.
The aroma is concentrated around the dry leaves, later there is almost none to discern, and displays a mix of vegetal (courgette) and forest (mushrooms) notes.
The taste is crisp, marine, sweet and a little metallic with dominant flavours of mint and bread. Other notes include asparagus, edamame, licorice, and pine needles.
As is common for fukamushi senchas, the colour here goes from deep nuclear green to light green and then to a very light mix of yellow and green.
Flavors: Asparagus, Baked Bread, Beany, Bitter, Forest Floor, Grass, Herbaceous, Licorice, Marine, Metallic, Mint, Mushrooms, Pine, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal, Zucchini
My third kamairicha and once again a top-notch green tea. There’s an amazing range of flavors that unfurls on your tongue as it steeps. The taste is a mix of fruity, umami, grassy, sweet, and nutty. The liquor is thick with a buttery mouthfeel, evoking the lush flavor of high mountain oolongs. I first had it a few weeks ago while down with a sinus cold and even with my sense of taste and smell greatly impaired, I could still taste the pear like fruitiness. Gives at least 3 good infusions.
Flavors: Fruity, Grass, Peanut, Pear, Peas, Seaweed, Umami
This summer is going to go down as the summer of cold brew. Ever since I got the technique down, I’ve been cold brewing non-stop and my daily tea consumption has quadrupled as a result. I think I’ve only hot steeped a handful of times this week.
What follows is my shortcut cold brew method which I learned on IG and tweaked slightly. It was designed for Japanese green tea but works well with other teas too. I drop 2g of tea in an 8oz cup, fill with room temperature water, cover and walk away. 2 hours later, the tea is strained and poured over ice. With certain teas like this one, I’ll give the leaves a vigorous stir 5 minutes before straining. Lather, rinse, repeat with other teas. Way more efficient than waiting 8-10 hours for tea to steep in the fridge, IMO.
This has been my favorite tea for this cold brew method. The broken up fukamushi leaves infuse quickly and have so much more umami and sweetness as compared to hot steeping. When cold steeped, I definitely prefer the intense flavor of this deep steamed sencha over my lighter asamushi sencha. Upping my rating slightly because of how well this performs cold brewed.
Flavors: Green, Sweet, Warm Grass, Umami
Here’s the second tea from my Yuuki-Cha shincha order. I usually buy just one tea during shincha season since a 100g bag lasts awhile but with so many interesting teas at Yuuki-Cha this year, I went a little crazy and picked up 2 different senchas, an asamushi and this fukamushi, as well as a kamairicha. So yeah, it’ll be a while before I purchase any more Japanese greens. Anyway, I decided to check out Chiran Sencha after seeing it everywhere on my IG feed.
This is a pretty good Sencha with the deep steamed grassy flavor typical of the fukamushi style. Dry leaves have a fruity and sweet umami aroma. Wet leaf smells like a fresh ocean breeze. The tea starts off grassy with bold vegetal notes of broccoli, edamame, and asparagus. It becomes more savory as it settles, finishing with a little chlorophyll. Second steep is something like a thin matcha. Dense green, both in color and taste, and has a wheatgrass-like taste. Third steep is similar but flatter. This tea infuses quickly so best to keep steeps short to minimize bitterness. Don’t get much umami from it although for that I should probably drop the temperature. That may also help bring out more sweetness as it’s a tad savory.
Like shincha #1, this is a very good, classic tasting tea but there’s nothing really memorable about it. It’s got that in-your-face grassiness I love yet lacks complexity. Still have 85g left so I’ll continue experimenting.
Flavors: Asparagus, Broccoli, Grass, Soybean, Vegetal
And the spring green tea marathon continues. I’ve been drinking green tea almost every day this month while my 2019 teas are still fresh and haven’t grown tired of them (yet). My shincha order arrived the other day and I wasted no time diving right in.
This is an asamushi (light-steamed) sencha that’s described as subtle and aromatic. The leaves smell like flowers and grass, not fresh cut grass but grass that’s been outside drying. Wet leaf smells like spinach and cruciferous vegetables. First steep produces a pale yellow-green liquor with floral and umami notes. It becomes brothy as the tea cools. Second infusion is a brisker cup with a greener color and a refreshing grassy flavor. By the third steep, the flavor lightens and has a faint citrus hint.
A solid but unexciting sencha. Mellow flavor and very drinkable, but nothing really pops out at me.
Flavors: Grass, Umami, Vegetal
I bought this Kamairicha a few months ago. It’s the cheapest one on Yuuki-cha’s website and has good reviews so I thought I would try it out.
I’ve tried brewing this many ways but it still doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t find it a bad tea but it’s not too much like the other kamairicha’s either. This one is more savory. There’s a roasted taste to it. This tea was fired at a higher temperature than a normal kamairicha which explains why it’s so savory and roasty. For those that love roasted savory teas, that explains all the good reviews. There’s a little bit of similarity to Laoshan Green or wild jujube tea.
For me, however, I will woefully make it through this tea but wait in anticipation for the new 2019 kamairicha’s to come out.
This one sold out quickly last year, so I had to try it out this time around. I’d say Yuuki-cha’s description is spot on. It’s definitely not your typical Japanese sencha—less vegetal and more fruity, floral, oceanic. If chlorophyl had a named flavor, I’d add it to the list. It has a very nice body for a light-steamed sencha. The tea liquor is clear yet more green than some gyokuro I’ve had. It induces a very calming and cooling feeling. It’s perfect for summer.
For those that care, I brewed this with a gaiwan and rough-clay yakishime kyusu. The early steeps with the gaiwan are more sharp and floral—even somewhat grassy. The kyusu brewed a more balanced and aromatic cup with more distinctive mineral and moss/sweet forest notes. Taste-wise, I can’t say I prefer one brewing method over the other, aside from the kyusu being more aesthetically pleasing, which enhances the whole sencha-drinking experience, IMO.
I’d been meaning to try this tea so when I placed a teaware order with Yuuki-Cha I added it to my cart and glad I did.
The description is apt, “The taste of this Kyobancha is clean, smooth, sweet, refreshing, and perfectly roasted without any astringency or bitterness.”
The wet leaves smell like coffee, great tea to sip on all day. First time out I prepared it in a Tokoname kyusu with boiling water.
The traditional method to prepare it is to put leaves in a kettle and bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for around 5-10 minutes.
This was an okay gyokuro. It has a nice but elusive umami flavor. You have to nail down the perfect brewing parameters which I’ve only managed to achieve a couple of times. Most of the time, it has a basic green tea flavor with savory asparagus and wheatgrass overtones. Compared to other gyokuros I’ve tried, it’s on the light side and not quite as rich and buttery. There’s a fresh oceanic aroma in the leaf which I was hoping would come through in the tea but didn’t.
While most quality gyokuros give 4-5 good steeps, this goes only half the distance leaving me feeling short changed. It also doesn’t have that nice transition from umami to grassy sencha flavor.
Those who read my tasting notes know that I often favor standard grade teas over their expensive counterparts and I’ll take a sencha any day over gyokuro. Yet for some odd reason, I keep giving gyokuro a chance. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that I just haven’t found the right one yet.
Flavors: Artichoke, Asparagus, Broccoli, Grass, Umami