5 Tasting Notes
I bought some of this tea on a whim since I read it was a cross between a shou puerh and a houjicha. I love a good houjicha and have been meaning to dip in to the “aged wine” class of tea for a while now. My first impression of the leaf was intrigue, as the leaves were completely unfurled and had a nice sheen about them; they smelled lightly roasted and sour. The instructions said to use 4-5 heaping tsp. per cup and steep for 4-5 minutes so I did just that with a mug, tea basket, and silicone cover. What I found most interesting about this tea, is that with each steep, I felt I could pick up/taste different notes in the brew. I got 3-4 steeps out of this but I enjoyed the first 2 steeps the most. The steeps represented in minutes/steep was 5-6-10-12.
The first steep was very reminiscent of a regular sweet, caramel-like houjicha with a light roast. The roast smelled and tasted more smoky, other than what I usually deem a “toasty” flavor I get from a houjicha.
The second steep is where the notes start transforming from sweet to sour: in which it still tastes like a houjicha, but leaves a subtle sour, earthy/mushroom-y aftertaste.
The third steep required to be twice as long as usual to get the brew to the same tone as the last two. The result was a brew where the suble sour, mushroom-y aftertaste became the predominant notes with the houjicha flavor becoming much more subtle. The sourness lingers after drinking which turns in to an aftertaste taste of smoky mushrooms.
The third steep is where I stop for this tea in particular, but for the sake of logging, I tried the fourth steep a second time around. The brew is lighter than the past three, but it is still amber with a tinge of brown, albeit a weaker aroma. The body of the tea is also less smooth. As for the tasting notes, it tastes like watered down houjicha (go figure) mixed with rice & meaty mushrooms. The sourness is still present but much weaker as well.
Overall, this tea has grown on me and I do enjoy that it is like a more complex houjicha. It also holds up like an houjicha, but this one can get an extra steep in with hotter temperature and a longer steeping time, whereas an actual houjicha is much less forgiving in that aspect. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who dislikes fermented foods and drinks, as per the astringent notes that come out in the later brews, but I would recommend it to others looking for a thought-provoking tea experience.
Flavors: Caramel, Mushrooms, Smoke, Sour, Sweet
This is my absolute favorite tisane and my favorite company to get guayusa from, as I can order by the kilogram as whole leaf. The cherry on top being that it is fair trade from an Amazonian tribe this company works with. They first sent a sample of this tea to me as a gift and since then, it has been an everyday staple of mine for a quick pick-me-up tisane. This tea is a light golden color and has virtually no tannins -meaning that it won’t stain your teeth. It also has a light taste with a strong punch of caffeine and l-theanine, that seems to last for much longer than a tea or coffee buzz. Another interesting fact is that it contains theobromine, just like chocolate, making it great for blood flow. I absolutely love how calm, focused but energetic I feel on this tisane and it never causes me to feel jittery. I tried sourcing this tea from another place, though they only had it shredded and I felt it didn’t taste or hit me as well as this whole leaf provider. I used to share this with the night crew I worked with and all of them loved it as much as I do. Although its rich in caffeine and other beneficial compounds, I can still sleep soundly after drinking this. A very good tisane for circulation and a calm energy.
Flavors: Grass, Smooth, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass
This is the first “dark” tea I have tried. Alistair from What-Cha says this tea is produced like a shou pu-erh so I have no comparisons to draw with tea of that variety being my first. I have the September 2020 harvest of this tea and I do wonder what aging will do to it. This brew was definitely an acquired taste for me given its strong medicinal, clean, damp and earthy clay taste on the first couple steeps. It was nice to drink this tea in the morning to wake up, and the feeling it imparted was enjoyable. It left a warm feel in my upper chest that felt like a relaxing hug lasting for an extended duration during and after the session; a different feeling from just hot tea traveling down the gullet. On the third steep, the strong medicinal feel starts to fade into a sweeter dough-like, lighter mossy clay/ loamy taste. I would say that from the third steep to the fifth steep was where the tea shined brightest, as the medicinal taste got weaker. It feels rewarding to get to those steeps in a sense.
The body of this tea is outstanding: very thick/creamy & smooth lasting all five steeps in my session. I brewed this tea western style in a porcelain pot and tea basket, as it is the only one I have currently. I am working on getting a clay pot or two for pu-erhs and roasted oolongs for gong-fu sessions in the near future, as I do wonder how much the teaware and brewing method affects the profile of the tea experience, but I am still learning about what’s what with unglazed pots, clay, and pu-erh tea, scrounging Reddit and forums for affirmation (lol), guidance and ideas, since they all cost a pretty penny. Off that tangent…
I did a 10 second rinse before my first steep in my teacup and I did end up drinking that supercharged, clean loamy brew. My first 3 pots were all 2 minute steeps, it held up and kept its dark brown hue for those steeps. Overall my 5 steeps, represented in minutes were: 2-2-2-3-6.
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Clay, Creamy, Loam, Medicinal, Mud, Thick, Wet Earth, Wet Moss
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This is the first houjicha tea I have tried, so I have no comparisons to draw with this review. I was pleasantly surprised by this low-caffeine dark roast for my introduction in to houjicha. The brew has a buttery smooth body, with a delightful, roasted sweet & nutty taste. (Alistair from What-Cha got the tasting notes for this tea quite spot on). This tea is now part of my everyday rotation for the evenings. It is a quick, tasty brew to unwind to and now is a staple tea for me. I would love to taste other variations of this tea sometime down the road when I exhaust my tea reserves.
I am a big fan of heavy-roasted oolongs and this houjicha reminded me of one of those, to an extent. I used to prefer more tart, fruity/astringent oolongs until I started trying more of the heavy roasted variety. I am also trying to get in to sheng & shou puerh tea, although it is intimidating given all the different “varieteas” involved with raw and ripe puerh.I steeped this tea western style following the instructions on the stickers: 185 degrees and a steep time of 60-90 seconds, usually starting with a minute and adding 30 seconds on each proceeding steep. This tea can be resteeped 2-3 times in total, although the body and smokiness leaves by steep #3, this can be fixed by of course by steeping for a bit longer.
Flavors: Caramel, Nutty, Roasted Nuts, Smooth, Sweet, Toasty