Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Tea Review: Kakegawa Polymerized Catechin Tea (Nakamura Kouryokuen Co. Ltd./All Japan Matcha & Organics)

Kakegawa Polymerized Catechin Tea/掛川産 重合(じゅうごう)カテキン茶
Nakamura Kouryokuen Co. Ltd./株式会社 中村香緑園 & All Japan Matcha & Organics
Type: Unspecified/Oolong
Origin: Japan, Shizuokoa Prefecture, Kakegawa
Product Description: 

A tea, tasting like wulong or puerh, full of polymerized catechins and gallic acid without any fermentation is developed by processing leaves with extra high heat steam. Unlike normal green tea which is full of flavor, this tea is lighter and fragrant, so it is probably easier to like for people who usually drink other kinds of teas. No astringent taste for catechin is polymerized. Bancha which contains less caffeine is used.
Temperature: 195° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3-5 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of fragrant wood and spices with a faint hint of ume (pickled plum).

The copper-orange infusion has a mellow and sweet aroma with notes of fruit, wood, baked yams, and a hint of cinnamon.  The taste has notes of nutshells with a hint of fruit and berry in the back and light plum-like notes in the finish.

This tea was provided in 5 gram nylon mesh sachets, intended for use in a 17-33 ounce teapot.  I removed the leaves from the sachet for this review.  This was an intriguing tea that I can't easily categorize.  It has an appearance similar to hojicha and is similar to roasted oolong in taste and aroma when brewed for 3 minutes at 
195° F, yet a 5 minute steeping brought out notes that reminded me of sheng puerh.  The results are pleasant and approachable with no notable astringency, becoming lighter and sweeter with each successive infusion.  

All Japan Matcha & Organics is a cooperative providing wholesale products direct from small Japanese tea farmers, tea makers, and tea shops to businesses in the US.

This tea was provided as a free sample without guarantee of a review.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Tea Review: Obukucha (Ippodo)

Obukucha/Good Fortune Tea (Genmaicha)
Ippodo Tea Co
Type: Green
Origin: Japan
Product Description: 
Obukucha is a genmaicha that combines the light sweetness of high-grade yanagi leaves with the heartiness of roasted rice.
Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2 minutes 

The aroma of the dry blend is sharply green with roasted rice notes.

The light green infusion has a savory aroma with notes of roasted rice, nuts, and green vegetables.  The taste is toasty with light rice and green vegetal notes, little-to-no astringency, and a sweet green finish.

The high-grade bancha with a higher ratio of leaf to genmai prevents the genmai from taking over and makes this blend stands out nicely compared to standard genmaicha.  This is a fairly forgiving tea, so you can let it brew a little longer than 2 minutes with good results.  While I doubt many will portion their tea by weight like I did for this review, if you do go that route feel free to use a bit more than you would with regular sencha because genmai weighs almost nothing.

This tea was purchased by me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Tea Review: Uji-tawara Organic Gyokuro (The Tea Crane)

Uji-tawara Organic Gyokuro
The Tea Crane
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Kyoto Prefecture, Ujitawara
Product Description: 

A well-balanced organic gyokuro from the Uji-tawara region in Kyoto.  Predominantly herbal notes, making it a light and refreshing gyokuro, yet maintaining a good body.  A refreshing gyokuro with distinct herbal notes, balancing well between a not too heavy nor too light character. Organic Gyokuro from Kirishima infuses to a golden-green hue, and is a smooth tea with good mouthfeel, nice amami (sweetness), a slight ocean air taste, and low astringency.

Temperature: 140-175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: .5-2 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of nuts and nut shells.

The pale jade green liquor is clear with an aroma that is savory, butter, nutty, and marine green.  The taste is sweet and savory, nutty, and spring green with a long sweet green finish.

The first infusion of this gyokuro had mild astringency which balanced nicely with the savory and sweet notes.  The second infusion was thicker and sweeter with a deep, rich aroma, and a bright green liquor.  While I most enjoyed the slightly more nuanced results from steeping for 2 minutes at 140° F, a shorter steeping of 45 seconds to 1 minute at 175° F is also very pleasant.

This tea was received as a backer reward for The Tea Crane's flagship tea shop Kickstarter campaign.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Tea Review: 2015 2nd Flush Thurbo (Leafull Darjeeling House)

2015 2nd Flush Thurbo (Shiny DJ-265)
Leafull Darjeeling House
Type: Black (FTGFOP1)
Origin: India, Darjeeling, Thurbo Tea Estate
Product Description: Not provided.

Temperature: 195° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaf aroma is sweet and tart with notes of muscat grapes, dates, and fragrant wood.

The bright copper-orange liquor has a heady aroma with sweet muscatel and floral notes.  The taste is mildly astringent with floral and tart fruit (muscat grape) notes and with a long finish.

I purchased this tea during a visit to the Leafull Darjeeling shop in Ginza, Tokyo several years ago and am only just digging into it.  Fortunately, the years have been very kind.  The first infusion was a delight with complexity in flavor, a heady aroma you can almost sink into, and a non-drying finish that goes on and on.  A second infusion produced more astringency and a sweeter aroma with less nuance in flavor.  By the third infusion, color, flavor, and aroma had weakened significantly which I suspect is due to age.  While those looking for a more robust experience will enjoy this steeped at 208° F, I was most impressed with the results when steeped at 195° F.

This tea was purchased by me.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tea Review: Cinnamon Rock Tea (Cha Le)

Cinnamon Rock
Cha Le Tea Cafe
Type: Oolong
Origin: China, Fujian Province
Product Description: 

Grown semi-wild in rock cracks high on a mountain in the Fujian Province, this woody oolong tea expresses a cinnamon-like flavour. Tea from the other side of the same mountain, Narcissus Rock Tea, has a floral flavour profile reminiscent of narcissus blossoms.

Temperature: 195-208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2-3 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of smoke and fire-seared wood with notes of pepper and an underlying sweetness.

The dark red liquor has a smoky aroma with cinnamon and pepper notes and a hint of stone fruit.  The taste is roasty and mildly smoky with a hint of sweetness and a smoky cinnamon finish.

A friend kindly gave me a sample of this rou gui purchased during a visit to Cha Le a couple years ago.  It aged a bit before I had the opportunity to taste it so some of the original nuance is missing, though I'm sure a re-roasting will revive it nicely.  Steeping for 3 minutes at 208° F produced a dark liquor with heavy notes of smoke.  Results were more nuanced with a 2 minute infusion at 195° F and I especially enjoyed the smoother and sweeter third infusion at this temperature.

Unfortunately, Cha Le Tea Cafe closed for business in September 2019.

This tea was received as a gift from a third party.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Tea Review: Organic Mountain-Grown Nara Native Sencha (The Tea Crane)

Organic Mountain-Grown Nara Native Sencha
The Tea Crane
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Nara Prefecture, Tsukigase
Product Description:

This tea is a high-quality sencha produced on organic farms, and is therefore both safe and unsullied: free of anything known to be unhealthy, and uncontaminated as to flavor. Consequently, it tastes as sencha really should.

Temperature: 175° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 1.5-2 minutes

The dry leaves have a buttery and nutty aroma with light grassy and marine notes.

The clear green liquor has buttery, spring green, and light salty marine notes.  The taste is savory, nutty, and green with a long, sweet green finish.

I found the best results to my preferences by steeping this sencha for 1.5 minutes for the first infusion, 1 minute for the second infusion, and 2 minutes for a third infusion in which the taste had developed a pleasant sweetness. A longer initial steeping time of 2 minutes also produced nice results with moderate astringency and a slightly cloudier liquor.  The finish is delightfully refreshing and goes on a long, long while.  

This tea was received as a backer reward for The Tea Crane's flagship tea shop Kickstarter campaign.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Tea Review: Lively Tea Instant Fuzhuan Heicha (Zhenxi)

Lively Tea/轻轻茶 Instant Fuzhuan Heicha
Type: Heicha
Origin: China, Hunan Province
Product Description: Not provided.

Temperature: 208° F
Tea Amount: .5 gram (single packet)
Water: 6 ounces

The red-brown liquor is clear with an aroma that is rich with notes of roasted chestnuts and a hint of earthiness.  The taste is roasty with notes of nut shells and a mild bitterness toward the back that reminds me of coffee.

Per the company website, this instant fuzhuan heicha is a concentration of 8 grams of leaf into 1 gram of powder containing approximately 2.1 million cfu of jin hua (golden flower/Eurotium cristatum) probiotics. There is no stirring necessary and no residue. Unlike some of the other instant teas I've tasted, this does have some of the heicha character. While I much prefer loose leaf heicha, this is a very handy mess-free and travel-friendly alternative that I would drink again.

I received this sample during a presentation at World Tea Expo. At the time of this review, it is not available in the North American market.

This tea was provided as a free sample without guarantee of a review.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tea Review: Bitter Melon Tea (Phoenix Tea)

Bitter Melon Tea/Ku Gua Cha/苦瓜茶
Phoenix Tea
Type: Oolong
Origin: China, Fujian Province, Anxi
Product Description: Not provided.

Temperature: 195-208F°
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 2 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of sweet green vine, cucumber, walnuts, and a hint of smoke.

The copper red infusion has a sweet and spicy aroma with notes of nuts, melon rind, vine and a hint of smoke.  The taste is sweet and roasty with notes of roasted nut shell and a long sweet finish.

The packet contains one slice of bitter melon that has been packed with roasted Tieguanyin and dried.  I initially prepared this tea at 195° F and again at 208° F with similar results.  While the best results are in the first infusion, allowing the tea to cool after a second and third steeping brings out a pleasant sweetness.  

This tea was purchased by me.


Monday, September 28, 2020

Product Review: Kawaii Zipper Bag (Yoshimura Package Partners)

Kawaii Zipper Bags are produced by Yoshimura Package Partners in an effort to promote Japanese tea through fun and beautiful packaging.  The zipper bags come in a delightful variety of colors and designs ranging from traditional patterns to seasonal scenes.

I was fortunate to receive a few samples of Kawaii Zipper Bags and used them to store and display tea for a Rare Japanese Teas tasting event that I presented.  The bags look attractive, stand up easily, and the aluminum interior and sturdy zipper seal help to keep the contents fresh and safe from moisture.

These bags are washable and reusable.  Due to their shiny or textured surfaces, they don't hold adhesive labels, so any identifying labels or greetings for gift giving should be tied on, attached with a clip, or written with permanent marker.

Wholesale orders for Kawaii Zipper Bags can be placed through Super Delivery International.

Wholesale custom designs and heat-sealable options can be order through MYPAKE.

This product was provided as a free sample without guarantee of a review.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Tea Review: Miyazaki Native Kamairicha (The Tea Crane)

Miyazaki Native Kamairicha
The Tea Crane
Type: Green
Origin: Japan, Miyazaki Prefecture, Gokase
Product Description: 
Organic seed-grown native cultivar kamairicha from Miyazaki, Gokase, Spring 2020.  Although green tea, in comparison to sencha it presents a much stronger fragrance due to it being parched instead of steamed during the first stage of manufacturing.
Temperature: 175° F-208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 30 seconds-2 minutes

The dry leaves have a savory, toasty, and green aroma.

The liquor is pale green and clear and the aroma is savory with buttery, nutty, and sweet green notes.  The taste is savory, nutty and green with light astringency and a long, refreshing green finish.

This had the pleasant toasty and savory notes I look for in kamairicha, while the flavor had a more bold sencha-like greenness than in other examples I've encountered, providing a unique tasting experience.  Steeping for 2 minutes at 175° F had full-flavored results with the beginnings of astringency and a slightly shorter steeping time of 1.5 minutes maintains the flavor while reducing the astringency.  I especially enjoyed the results when steeping at 208° F for 20-30 seconds which produced full flavor, increased the toastiness, and almost no astringency.

This tea was received as a backer reward for The Tea Crane's flagship tea shop Kickstarter campaign.