This month’s tea genre was Japanese greens, composing of Sencha and Gyokuro. This means I drink that genre of tea in some form at least once a day. This could mean gong-fu, grandpa, or even a cold-brew. I’ll still consume other teas, but the primary focus is understanding and building a palate for a specific type/genre/region of tea through repetition. This the most personal blogging type style of post for TeaDB, and the goal is to stretch my palate as well as give recommendations to interested parties.
Primary vendors ordered from:
Approximate Brewing Parameters
Brewing parameters are very important for Japanese Green Teas. My experiences this month have only confirmed this further. I flirted around with the brewing parameters for each of these teas, but for the sake of comparing teas more directly, I settled on some relatively similar brewing parameters for each tea type.
- Sencha: 0.8-1.2:1 g/oz.
- 160F/90 seconds.
- 160F/10 seconds.
- 165-170/35 seconds.
- Gyokuro: 2.0-2.2:1 g/oz.
- 130F/90 seconds.
- 130F/5 seconds.
- 140F/35 seconds.
Super tenured vendor with a great reputation. I’d placed a large order (including a couple different Senchas and Gyokuros) in September, and the teas had been sitting in my tea fridge. I’d previously drank my way through O-Cha’s Yutaka Midori and Chiran Sencha, having had largely positive experiences with both. My only real (minor) complaint is the larger purchasing size (100g) which for a Chinese tea drinker like myself leads to major green tea anxiety!
Kagoshima Sencha Sae Midori
Probably my favorite sencha of the whole batch. Rich and grassy with a full body. Brewed with slightly more tea leaf it can border on astringency in a very pleasant way. I will say that my cups did get a bit worse as the bag remained open, despite fairly diligent storage (an unfortunate side effect shared by every tea here).
Likely due to my own brewing ineptitude, I’ve only really had negative experiences brewing gyokuro. Not to be deterred, I purchased a thermometer which I have since realized is a necessity for anyone starting in Gyokuro. I lowered the temperature from low (62C) to very, very low (55C)! The results were a very nice, umami-rich cup of tea and easily my best experiences brewing the mellow dew. Similar to the Sae Midori, I preferred the second infusion. This could also easily brew out 4-5 times.
And you thought O-Cha has been around! I went to New York and stopped by their local Ippodo, picking up a bag of their Kaboku Sencha and Rimpo Gyokuro from this 300-year old tea shop.
Nice tea. When upping the leaf to water ratio, this one probably performed the best. At higher leaf to water ratios it teased at bitterness as well as a whole array of flavors! This is nicely different to the Kagoshima-grown Sae Midori. Not as rich, but still full-bodied and pleasant.
Didn’t quite care for this as much as the Yame Gyokuro. Rich and salty (?) and not nearly as sweet. High in umami.
I’ve had good experiences with Den’s, especially their Sencha Zuiko, and happened to have some Organic Sencha sitting in the tea fridge!
A bit disappointing, although not a bad tea. The Organic Sencha (Uji grown) has paler leaves and a different, fruitier smell and taste that is not as richly grassy as the other senchas. A change of pace compared to the other, more grassy and sweet senchas featured in this post.
My first sampling of a popular vendor with an enormous selection. Got their higher-grade Fukumidori to review on the show.
Not quite as rich or as striking as the senchas from Ippodo and O-Cha. Still a nice tea, with a basic sencha sweetness. More mineraly and slightly fruity compared with the Sae Midori.
- Yame Gyokuro (O-Cha)
- Kaboku Sencha (Ippodo)
- Kagoshima Sencha Sae Midori (O-Cha)
What I learned?
It is much harder to create consistent experiences with Japanese Green Tea than Chinese teas, specifically oolong and pu’erh! I found my opinions often varying wildly, session to session. Brewing parameters (temperature, time) are extremely important, and being even slightly lackadaisical can result in a ruined sencha/gyokuro session. This makes it very difficult to do comparisons as different teas will respond better to variations in brewing parameters (one size does not fit all).
One, unrelated thing I did learn was that the Shincha Teapot (great for the price) from Den’s Tea is actually quite significantly better than the smaller, more expensive sakura teapot (also from Den’s).
It become clear to me that a month is not nearly enough time to be able to remotely touch the world of Japanese greens. Including Gyokuro into this month was fun, but undoubtedly far too ambitious!
|Rimpo Gyokuro (Uji)||Ippodo||$15.00||1.76||$8.52||Alright.|
|Kaboku Sencha (Uji)||Ippodo||$12.50||1.76||$7.10||Excellent.|
|Kagoshima Sencha Sae-Midori (Kagoshima)||O-Cha||$22.00||3.53||$6.23||Excellent.|
|Yame Gyokuro (Kagoshima)||O-Cha||$26.00||3.53||$7.37||Excellent.|
|Organic Sencha (Uji)||Den’s Tea||$10.25||2||$5.13||OK.|
|Sayamacha Fukumidori (Saitama)||Yunomi||$17.50||1.76||$9.94||Nice enough.|
Next up for May: Yiwu Pu’erh (and four months of Pu’erh!).