76 Tasting Notes
Gyokuro intimidates me.
Like anything higher-end and expensive, I worry about doing it wrong and wasting something lovely. I’ve brewed a gyokuro only once before, and I was too stressed out to even really enjoy it.
But… I’m too tired to fuss over the details. This is the second to last tea in this sampler and I have more tea coming Friday from Den’s (sigh, I wanted so badly to reorder of my favorites from this sampler but I just can’t swallow $30 in international shipping costs right now), and it’s been such a week, I need to stop putting off the nice things.
This is definitely different from the other sencha. The dry leaves smell….deeper, certainly a darker green, and …..something else. Something I haven’t sensed before. I really can’t believe how deeply emerald these leaves are.
135F for two minutes and… the cup is …. strangely both very pale and very cloudy.
It’s certainly quite unlike any of the sencha. Astringency— is it really astringency? There a lot of it, but it’s also very mild, somehow, It make my mouth water but it doesn’t dry me out nearly as much. It’s full and rich and brothy, savory, something in the aftertaste is almost meaty. Not grassy at all. Fascinating.
The second steeping is brighter, a little thinner, a little grassier, but every bit as savory. The damp leaves smell like dried dates and maybe nuts?
There’s a nuttiness to the third steeping too, I feel like, the richness is starting to fade, but that alkaline-noodle-soup flavor lingers on and on.
The leaves are just so pretty, floating there under the water, almost blue-green, watching them is so relaxing, like an underground jungle. It makes me sort of miss when I kept heavily planted aquariums.
I don’t think I quite love gyokuro enough to justify the price, but it is always a unique and wonderful thing to try every now and then when I get samples.
It’s been a stressful week, and I am trying really hard to slow down. I tried the Spring Sun sencha earlier and was too rushed to enjoy it, there was just too much going on. So I am making a specific effort to pay attention, this time.
The wet leaf smells like… well, sencha. I am having a hard time focusing on anything deeper than that, but there is something different in there, the first word that came to mind was ‘butterscotch,’ though I’m really don’t think that’s right.
Oh, wow. Okay. This first steeping is cloudy and physically thick. I’m not sure what I expected, but that thickness, it’s so heavy on the tongue like… not quite like cream, I don’t get a creamy flavor, but in texture… it’s certainly something. It’s got a mild brothy flavor, a little savory
The second steeping is similar, with some higher notes this time, but that heavy texture is still there. I usually enjoy these textures, but right now it feels like it is commanding such full attention of my tongue that I can’t seem to taste it.
Further steepings seem to be more or less the same. I am inclined to blame my scattered brain rather than the tea. Or maybe I am just coming down with something. It wouldn’t surprise me.
Yet, the wet leaf still smells so full of potential, there’s an almost fruity sweetness there, the aroma of new buds.
When I take a tiny, tiny drop of the tea and roll it out as thinly as possible over my tongue, I can kind of taste past the texture and find flavors similar to the ones I am smelling. Or maybe I am just smelling them this way, hah.
I guess regardless of the outcome, at least the process of focusing on the tea and paying attention in general is still deeply relaxing.
I need to order more tea soon. Specifically, I need to find an everyday sencha so that I can maintain the habit on days when I just don’t have the mental capacity to fully engage with new teas. Or… maybe what I actually need to do is maintain the habit of fully engaging with any tea, on a regular basis, regardless of whether or not I feel like I am up to it.
I haven’t felt up to it in a while, but it forces me to relax, and I know I need that.
I love this like I love any houjicha. It does taste a little ‘cleaner’ compared to most houjicha, like, I dunno, less on the earthy side, more on the peanut-butter-toast side. I don’t know that I’d necessarily prefer it over the basic houjicha, but I wouldn’t mind having it in my houjicha rotation for some variety.
I am trying too hard to do too much at once. This tea makes me slow down.
It does have a beautiful deep sweetness. It doesn’t kick in fully until later steepings but when it does, it really blooms.
Or… maybe it was there all along, but I only paid attention enough to catch it in later steepings.
It has a crisp, fresh vegetal flavor, like snap peas and summer squash, maybe young asparagus. Not terribly grassy or chlorophyllic. This might make an exceptionally refreshing cold brew, actually.
There’s a… floralness to this one, a rich nuttiness and a sweet honey aftertaste. I really, really like it. Like. wow. What even is this? The most glorious thing in a cup. What makes it so different…? I have had so many… still good, perfectly satisfactory roasted teas, but this?? What other level of ambrosia is this?? I feel like this is the roasted-tea ideal I have in my memory and have been searching for, and until now have been settling for less. And less is still… really good, but this is a perfection I have only ever dreamed of.
Smelling both the dry and wet leaves really made me want to sneeze, so I didn’t inhale too much.
The first steeping immediately coats the tongue. It’s thick and sour. Kind of a toasty aftertaste. which is weird. Maybe I should have washed my pot more thoroughly after drinking all those roasted teas. Interestingly it’s very mild overall, except when you’re hit with that… sour-astrigency? Maybe lot more sour than astringent, but it hits the back and sides of the tongue in such a thick and juicy way.
It’s…. extremely intense, though, I think a bit too much for me. Drinking it also gives me a weird…. headache/sinusy feeling, and a tickle in my nose, like I am going to sneeze. Is it possible to have respiratory allergies to tea? Did a bunch of pollen end up in this somehow?
I gave my housemate some of it and they also got the nose-tickly feeling from it, so at least it’s not just me.
I think this is the first tea in the sampler I just can’t drink past the first steeping. The flavor is complex and interesting, and I’d really like to explore it more, but it’s probably not a good idea to keep drinking a tea that is giving me such weirdly strong allergy symptoms. I don’t see any of the other notes mentioning this though, so maybe it really is just us for some reason. How odd.
I believe the Brightness tea I tried the other day was also a summer-harvest tea, so it’ll be interesting to see how this differs.
Dry leaves smell plenty grassy and dark green, sweeter, I think, than the last tea, and maybe there’s some milkiness in there. Wet leaves are foresty, mossy and…. why do I keep getting chocolate vibes in these teas?
For once, I don’t think I understeeped the first cup. It’s certainly…. interesting, starting out kind of sweet and brothy and turning astringent and … sour, like a hot and sour soup, maybe. It feels heavy and substantial in the mouth. The second steeping is a bit more immediate on the astringency but also… richer, more savory, less sweet. The sour notes are nearly gone, but seem to return in the third steeping, a umami-adjacent juiciness. It’s got some background grassiness, but that’s far from the focus. I’m not sure I can really define the focus, but it’s… it’s really good and just so interesting, competes with the Autumn Moon for my favorite tea in this sampler. I’d like to get more of each and try them side by side.
Looking at the website, it appears the only difference between this tea and Brightness is that Brightness is shaded for two weeks before harvest, while this tea is not. And I think I prefer this tea to Brightness, so maybe I just prefer unshaded teas? Brightness was still very interesting its own way, and might be excellent in certain applications, but this tea is more to my personal tastes, I feel. I love how so many of the teas in this sampler vary just slightly enough that I can start drawing conclusions like this.
I should start thinking ahead though, as I realize I’m about halfway through this sampler. While I still have enough houjicha to last me ~2 weeks, I should probably start shopping around for new sencha to try, given shipping can take a while. I’ll need to finish this sampler before I make any reordering decisions, so in the meantime I’m open to vendor or specific sencha recommendations, if anyone has any suggestions!
Dry leaves smell very.. deeply green, very chlorophyll-rich, with that bitter edge that tends to accompany darker greens, like chard and lacinato kale. Wet leaves remind me of a pond overgrown with algae and teeming with life.
Despite my attempt to brave my fears and not understeep this, letting it sit a whole 15 seconds longer, the first steeping is still quite mild, slightly green-bitter at the backend, otherwise, vaguely pondwater flavored.
The second steeping explodes. Green peas and spinach, a slight nuttiness and a vegetal sweetness, a pretty intense green flavor that makes me feel like I am getting a lot of vitamins in this. I don’t know how much of that is actually true. I guess for one they’d have to be water soluble nutrients, and probably only in very small quantities, equating to those in a mouthful of spinach at most. But, no matter. I’ve never been into tea for any alleged health benefits, but it’s a nice perk when it happens.
There’s a hint of a crisp mineral-ness to this too, brightening the dark-green depth just enough. I keep coming back to “pondwater” and believe me when I say I mean that in the most affectionate way. The minerally and algal flavors just meld into something I can’t think of a better way to describe.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s agreeing very well with my empty stomach. Some green teas are just… like that, and I don’t entirely know why. Maybe I can narrow it down, though, if I keep taking notes.
I will say, I am also getting a very relaxed headiness from this tea, what I used to (and I guess may as well still) call “tea-high.” It is also something that some teas do better than others, for reasons I’ve never really narrowed down. I think in the past I’ve most commonly gotten it from younger sheng, and once very intensely from a mid-grade silver needle. I’m uncertain if I’ve ever gotten this from a sencha before. It’s interesting. But for all I know, it’s nothing to do with the tea, and more to do with other biochemical factors of whatever else is going on in my body at the moment. I’ve never really scienced it out that far.
I really need to start noting whether or not I would purchase more of this in these notes, because otherwise I am going to forget. I think only very rarely do I re-purchase tea, though, it’s so much more fun to try new things than familiar things, even things that I know I love. And when I do want to repurchase tea, it’s usually for the comforting factor of it rather than the complexity or interest of it, and the comforting factors are usually factors that are present in teas of lower grades, so it becomes a matter of finding the most budget-friendly version of the tea rather than the version that most perfectly encapsulates what I am looking for.
And tea is so darn seasonal, really, especially sencha. who knows if a repurchase of this tea would be from the same harvest, it might be entirely different! But I guess one can assume that summer harvest teas from the same farm would at least retain similar enough characteristics.
Anyway… as for this tea, I’m not sure I would go out of my way for it, but if I did end up with more of it, I think I might like to try it with a hearty, smokey stew, or some kind of campfire-meal. It just tastes like such an outdoorsy sort of tea. I’d also like to try cold-brewing it, I think.
Measuring out genmaicha for a session in grams doesn’t really…. work. The brown rice is so heavy. You have to at least double it, if not more. So, some adjustments had to be made to get a flavor out of this 5 gram sample packet.
It’s really been a few years since I had a genmaicha. The delightful aroma of the wet leaves has me wondering why. It’s so satisfying, savory, nutty. The toasted flavor is entirely different from the toasted flavor of houjicha. Something in it just feels…. extra nourishing.