I first tried this sencha as a by-the-cup purchase at Fava on my way home from the Trivia contest I participate in every year. The Appleton, WI Fava store is a must-visit if you’re in Appleton or on your way to Green Bay, by the way. Although I haven’t been to the other two Fava stores in the Milwaukee area, I am pretty sure they are the only rivals in Wisconsin to the sheer size/variety/quality of the offerings and the customer service at the Appleton Fava. This store (which also has a pretty nice online catalog) specializes in loose leaf teas of all kinds and really not much else, though as I mentioned they will make you a cup on-the-spot, and they also sell teaware, a small line of tea-scented soaps, and flavored sugars. No coffee, no pastries, no section of bagged teas purchased from other companies, no milk-tea or bubble drinks: just looseleaf tea, and lots of it.
I immediately noticed the gyokuro-like vegetalness and brothiness in this particular sencha, perceptible in smelling the leaf. Fava sells two unflavored senchas and the other one (Chumushi) doesn’t have these qualities. Fava also sells a gyokuro, which I haven’t tried, at $12/ounce, so if you are looking for a gyokuro-like tea, the sencha Fukamushi is a real steal at $5/ounce.
The leaf is crumbled or chopped rather small (not a CTC cut, but definitely not a full leaf) in dark emerald green; not sure of the process for this, but it left a powdery residue when I brewed it in the filter basket in my teapot. The basket is admittedly a fairly standard wide-ish wire mesh, but this residue is very fine, much like matcha powder. This does mean that if you’re a slow sipper, the residue in your cup will continue brewing in the tea and the flavor will change while it sits. In my case, the vegetal flavor got stronger, but there was also an overall increase in bitterness. Also I would assume there is more caffeine intake in this case, since if you drink the whole cup you are ingesting the leaf residue along with the tea. Next time I make this I might choose to use a t-bag paper filter in an individual cup or in the teapot, to try to eliminate the powdery residue. That’s the finest filter type I can think of.
Visually this is a lovely deep yellow with pea-green tones. If it looks watery it probably is (I tried a taste from my teapot at 2 min. and it was yellow-y and under-flavored, which is why I gave it almost another minute). The package says 2 min. at 180, but my Cuisinart tea-water boiler says green is 175, which might account for the under-brew at 2 min. Have not yet tried this as a gongfu brew, but I bet it would be wonderful all around.
As I implied earlier, this tea tastes almost like a good gyokuro, with strong brothiness and a taste of greens, almost spinach-y. I like this, but you might not! The flavor keeps my interest through a couple of cups, which is really all the caffeine I personally should be ingesting at one sitting, since I’m pretty sensitive to caffeine and also have sleep problems. The aftertaste is pretty faithful to the original taste, though it also has a little bit of a dry/clean sensation in the mouth ( a little bitter in the current cup I’m drinking, too, but then that is probably due to the residue as I mentioned). Other senchas I’ve had do have the dry finish (and a little bitterness depending on brewing conditions) but aren’t remarkably vegetal or brothy, and I don’t find them very interesting in flavor, so this one is a real revelation to me. No idea why it is different from other senchas, but it is, and it’s great!
Flavors: Broth, Spinach, Vegetal