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I embarked on my tea journey when I studied abroad in China in 2008 and traveled around Taiwan that summer. I'm here to share my experiences and offer my own opinion, advice, and comments on tea.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sencha Review, Finally

I was planning on doing some GRE exercises, but decided to do this instead. Even though I'm applying for graduate school after Peace Corps, I'm researching programs now...is it bad that I'm strongly considering Columbia and NYU because The Tea Gallery is nearby (They also have excellent Anthropology programs, but the tea thing is a real bonus I think)?

I waited until I've sampled a few other Sencha before writing a review, because I wanted something to contrast with what I'm tasting. In my opinion, a review wouldn't make much sense unless I was relating it to something else, or using something as a standard.

Many thanks to Chip from TeaChat for some excellent samples, and for allowing me to enjoy a wide range of Japanese greens. I ordered O-Cha's organic offerings of Uji Sencha, Ooigawa Sencha, and Kabusecha. From Chip I have properly sampled the Rishi Honyama (I'm still working out the kinks of the others he gave me).

I think out of the three steamed levels (asa, chu, and fuka) I think I like the fukamushi the most. I really enjoyed the Ooigawa's richer taste, as well as a lingering sweetness which I enjoy very much. I also liked the fact there wasn't any astringency at all. I had originally disliked the Rishi Honyama, but it turned out it was because of my sloppy technique. Both the instructions and Chip told me that the 2nd steeping should only be 15 seconds. Thinking myself wiser, I thought a 2nd steeping could go for a bit longer, and brewed it for about 30 seconds.


WORST MISTAKE EVER!!!!*

I learned from this to always follow the directions at first, and if they're unsatisfactory, do whatever the hell you want. By oversteeping by only 15 seconds, I ended up with a very astringent brew, and it put me off from this tea for a while. I came back to it a few days later, when I had gotten over the experience. This time, I followed instructions and the brew was much more pleasant. There was still a little astringency/bitterness that came out during the 2nd steeping, but it was much more subdued. The astringency/grassiness was a nice balance to the sweetness, and there was also a mellow umami flavor in the mix. I think I prefer a fuka to an asa though, to be honest. I don't really like astringency/grassiness, but I highly recommend this tea though for those who like asa-style teas.

I also like Kabusecha, and I can't wait to get my hands on some gyokuro. Of course, I need to buy one of those gyokuro pots to really brew it right, so maybe not for a while. But wow, the umami flavor is really intense. When I was tasting this, I couldn't taste it for the first second or two, and than BAM!!! it really hit me. It tastes very "meaty" by the second brew, not like a steak but like a savory kind of mouthfeel. The umami gets a little tamer by the second steeping, and is better incorporated into the flavor profile of the tea.

I think after I finish off my current stash of tea, I'm probably going to order the Yutaka Midori and the Sae Midori from O-Cha. I've heard nothing but great things about these two, and I'm hoping they can be a benchmark I can count one.

Oh yes, since these teas are organic, they require more leaf than usual. O-Cha's instructions didn't point this out, but I use about 8 grams for my 300 ml kyusu, which seems just about right for me. I don't really think there's that much difference between the flavor profile of conventional and organic teas, but I haven't tasted enough organic teas to make a call here.

Anyway, this was a nice distriction...time to get back to those problem sets
*Overbrewing, not the tea

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