TEA REVIEW: Yunomi’s Sencha, Gyokuro, and Kabusecha Teas [Part 1]

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Today is Comparing Thursday! Over the course of the next month, I will be trying 12 different Japanese teas from Yunomi. Yunomi is a Japanese company that features a wide range of tea farmers, factories, teaware artisans, and small-scale independent merchants and creates an access point between the Japanese tea industry and tea lovers around the world!

The teas I’ll be trying are part of Yunomi’s 12 Japanese Green Teas Variety Set. The set comes with sencha, gyokuro, kabusecha, kukicha, mecha, konacha, fukamushicha, aracha, bancha, hojicha, genmaicha, and tencha. I will be trying a flight of three teas each week of April.

Being very new to Japanese teas, I emailed the Yunomi about the teas. Ian, the CEO, kindly suggested teas that would be good to try together. Since each set is packaged on demand, even if you buy the same set, you may not get exactly the same teas I have.

For each type tea, I will provide a definition which has information about the tea, and how it was grown and processed. I found them very helpful when understanding the different teas and how the connect. The definitions are from Yunomi’s website.

I hope you join me on my journey trying Japanese teas!

 

Yunomi Factory Direct: Sencha No. 40

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Definition: “SENCHA – 煎茶 – The standard and most common form of Japanese tea, a green tea that is “fixed” by steaming, then rolled into a needle-like shape, and dried. Sencha, depending on the season of harvest and cultivation process, will have a mix of catechins that create astringency and amino acids (particularly L-theanine) that create a sweet savoriness called umami (the fifth taste).”

Review: The packaging noted that the leaves were harvest in the summer in the Wazuka, Kyoto. Additionally, it was recommended that the tea could be steeped up to three times.

When I hear others talk about sencha, I’ve seen my fair share of people using the word ‘seaweed’ but never understood why until now. The dry blend smelled salty and moss like, however, when wet, the leaves were much more grassy.

Steep 1: The liquor had a very faint grass aroma and taste. It was a pale yellow-green.

Steep 2: The liquor was the same pale-yellow green colour. However, the grassy notes become much deeper and pronounced.

Steep 3: In the first two steeps, the liquor was slightly thicker, this steep was much thinner. The liquor was still the same colour and the grassy notes were lighter.

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Cold brew: I thought I would try cold brewing again rather than re-steeping the last recommended steep. I’ve only made cold brew tea once, but I tried cold brewed sencha at a restaurant and loved it.

I put the 5 grams of steeped leaves into a cup and 1/4 of water and left it in the fridge overnight. I wanted to try to make a concentrate. The cold brew tea was refreshing and had a faint grassy taste. I assume that cold brew sencha I had the restaurant had some sweetener, and also would have used leaves that were not steeped already.

Overall, I liked this tea. I think it had the strong grassy taste I was expecting from a sencha. I liked this tea much better as a cold brew (3/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origins: Japan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Other: Organic
  • Company: Yunomi

 

Nishide Tea Factory OG 18: Organic Uju Gyokuro

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Definition: “GYOKURO – 玉露 – While the processing is the same as sencha, gyokuro is cultivated by shading for approximately three weeks prior to harvest. Various agricultural techniques are also used to create a concentration of flavor in the leaves. The result is a leaf that has much higher amino acid content, and will steep into a rich, savory tea syrup.”

Review: Since all these teas come directly to Yunomi, each package has information when and where the tea was harvested. For example, this tea was collected in May 2016 in Ujitawara, Kyoto. The dry leaves smelled mildly grassy smell and were forest green.

Also, as part of the set, there was also a booklet called ‘Steeping Guide for Japanese Green Teas.’ In the section about gyokuro, there are instructions for steeping a truly ‘syrupy cup of tea.’ This is apparently only for shaded tea leaves like gyokuro and kabusencha.

Steep 1 – The recommendations suggest a smaller tea to water ratio than normal. The texture of the liquor was very much like syrup and had a thicker consistency. It tasted extremely grassy but not to the point it was overpowering. It did linger in the mouth for a while time. The liquor was a pale yellow-green.

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Steep 2 – The liquor was like the first steep, but since the following steeps recommend more water, the flavour was not as concentrated. The texture was also thinner but there was still a strong lingering aftertaste.

Steep 3 – The consistency of the tea was thinner, and tasted less grassy. It also lost some of its lingering notes.

Steep 4 – I personally like this steep the best and found it the most pleasant. It was a nice combination of savoury and sweet and the constancy was smooth.

Overall, I enjoyed trying this tea. It had a stronger grassy taste than the sencha, but I didn’t find it overpowering (3/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origins: Japan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Other: Organic
  • Company: Yunomi

 

Kurihara Tea Farm: Kabusecha Shaded Green Tea

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Definition: “KABUSECHA – 被せ茶 – Like gyokuro, Kabusecha is also shaded before harvest, generally about 2 weeks, and thus has a higher amino acid content. Originally used for blending to increase the quality of a sencha or the volume of a gyokuro, in recent years it has been cultivated to achieve a perfect balance between sencha and gyokuro.”

Review: The packaging noted that this tea was from Yame, Fukuoka and was shaded for two weeks, machine harvested, and steamed for 40 seconds which is considered ‘regular’. I steeped this tea three times based on the instructions on the packaging. The dry leaves smelled grassy and mineral.

Steep 1 – The booklet also mentioned that you should use higher temperatures to enjoy the shibumi or astringency of either kabusencha and gyokuro. I am not a fan of astringency, but I wanted to try out how the tea would taste at its full shibumi since I normally don’t come across teas that recommend it.

When I first sipped it, I was very shocked. It was a burst of bitter grassy-ness. However, it wasn’t to the point it tasted like bitter medicine. The flavour slowly faded and I was left with a thick dry texture in my mouth. It took a few tries to figure it out, but the steeped leaves smelled like cooked greens. It also shared the same colour liquor as the sencha and gyokuro and was a pale yellow-green.

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Steep 2 – While the taste was still very strong, it was a tamed down version of the first steep. It still had the same thick mouth feel and grassy taste.

Steep 3 – The liquor was much thinner and had lost a lot of the flavour.

Overall, if you like teas that are very grassy, this might be a good option. I am not a huge fan of very grassy teas, therefore it was a bit strong for me (2/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origins: Japan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Company: Yunomi

Overall

Being new to straight Japanese teas, I feel like this set will be a good primer for myself or even someone who is a familiar with Japanese teas because there is, as the name of the set implies, a variety. I tend to not like my teas overly grassy, but I think for the most part I enjoyed the teas and found the experience very informative. I am excited for next week!

Part Two – Konacha, Kukicha, and Mecha Teas
Part Three  – Aracha, Bancha, and Fukamushi Teas
Part Four – Genmaicha, Hojicha, and Tencha Teas
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4 thoughts on “TEA REVIEW: Yunomi’s Sencha, Gyokuro, and Kabusecha Teas [Part 1]

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