Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms’ January 2019 Tea Box | Tea Review

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As a past intern at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms, I always think of my time there fondly, so I love drinking tea from the farm because it transports me back to Japan.

Obubu Tea offers is a subscription tea club (box) service. However, unlike some of the subscription boxes I’ve tried in the past, this one is sent quarterly and lines up with the tea picking seasons (spring, summer, autumn) and then one for the new year. This means that you get the freshest teas as possible straight from Japan! It is also a way for me to continue to support a place that means a lot to me.

Each box is slightly different in terms of content: sometimes it just tea, and other times there are things like candies or snacks. This time it was 5 things: Obukucha (New Year Tea), 3 green teas, and matcha noodles. The box also included a calendar and a postcard. The calendar is normally replaced with a newsletter in the other boxes when it is not the first box of the year.

With all that out of the way, let’s get into the goodies!

 

Obukucha

Description: “The person who started to drink is the emperor Murakami so we understand it has a long history. It was called “obukuchia” (tea drunk by the king)” but they change the kanji with the same pronunciations and meaning turn to be “a great fortune tea” for common people. It’s depends on the place or families but we still drink Obuku tea, and it bring good fortune.” 

Review: I had never heard of Obukucha until I opened my box. Based on what I understand, it was said that people were told to drink it in the past to help with curing diseases. 

When I was looking online, it seemed like there were variations on how to prepare this. Some are blends, whereas some are more like this and each ingredient comes individually.  I personally I enjoyed that I could make it myself. The instructions were in Japanese, but luckily it wasn’t difficult to get the gist of what to do based on the pictures and Google Translate.

The sencha base had a nice, clean, fresh spring smell. The dark infused leaves brought me back to the tea fields with their bright fresh grassy smell and woody undertones.

As instructed, I warmed the cups. As I was steeping the tea, I added some of the salted plums and knotted kelp at the bottom of each cup. I poured the tea into the cups and then added a few gold flakes in each. I really didn’t know what to expect taste-wise, but I have had salted sakura tea before which has a bit of a salty floral taste, as expected.

The liquor of the Obukucha was bright yellow with some cloudiness. It smelled grassy with a hint of savoury. The liquor was very pretty with the knotted kelp and the gold flakes. Due to the ingredients, it had a nice range of flavours starting off with a burst of saltiness, then leaning towards more grassy, umami, and sweet. It reminded me of a savoury meat dish.

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to eat the kelp, but seeing that Japan is generally a non-waste culture when it comes to food, I ate it and I enjoyed that as well! It had a nice springy texture.

Overall, it was a great experience and I am so glad that I was able to try it. I am not sure if I prepared it 100%  correctly, but it was fun to both make and drink (5/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origin: Japan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea, salted plum powder, kelp, gold flakes 
  • Company: Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

 

Sencha of the Spring Sun

Description: “A Sencha of the highest quality, Spring Sun is comprised of lovely dark green needles that create a sun-lit golden liquor.”

Review: This is a tea that I am rather familiar with because it was something that is served during tea tours. As the name implies, this tea was picked in the springtime.

The straight leaves were mostly dark with some yellow tips, accompanied by a deep mossy and earthy smell. After infusion, the leaves became a lighter olive colour and leaned towards more sweet and grassy smelling. The liquor was a very pale yellow with a few particles and faint grass aroma.

I personally like less astringent/bitter teas, so I brewed it under the “warm water” parameters which are 60 – 70 C for 60 – 90 seconds. I have a shiboridash from Secret Teatime and it fits around 80ml, which was perfect!

The liquor was a bright highlighter yellow with a green undertone. It had little particles which made the liquor slightly cloudy. It had a strong rich grassy, spinach notes and minimal astringency.  Lastly, the liquor had a sweet finish and it coated the tongue and the taste lingered in the mouth.

Steeping it with hot water for a second infusion brought out the more savoury smell and less pronounced grassy taste. However, there was a fair bit more bitterness. It also left the mouth feeling a bit dry. I personally enjoyed the “warm water” infusion better because I liked the range of flavours (3.5/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origin: Japan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Company: Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

 

Sencha of the Earth

Description: “Sencha of the Earth is medium-bodied with a smooth quality.”

Review: I have tried this once or twice in the past. However, I am not familiar with it. While still being a spring harvest tea, it is from the older tree bushes (they normally are trimmed down every 5 to 10 years based on).

This means that the tea tends to have a more mellow flavour, to me. The light and dark green leaves are larger and coarser and there is a wider range of sizes. The smell is much more mellow and there is a stronger woodsy note that intermixes with the grassy notes. It reminded me of freshly cut grass.

After infusion, the wet leaves had a similar smell. The liquor was very similar in colour to the Sencha of the Spring Sun with larger leaf particles. I also steeped this with “warm water.” Like with the Spring Sun, the Earth had a very similar colour liquor – highlighter yellow with a green tinge.

I found that it had a similar taste, but this was a much more mellow version. The liquor started off grassy and ended off sweet. Additionally, I didn’t detect the umami as strongly.

I resteeped this in hot water for a second infusion. The liquor was much cloudier this time around as there were more little particles. It tasted less grassy but with more astringency. However, it wasn’t unpalatable. I think that this would be good for someone who isn’t as fond of the very strong grassy tastes typical of Sencha/Japanese green teas (3/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origin: Japan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Company: Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

 

Kabuse Sencha

Description: “One of Obubu’s highest grade teas, Kabuse Sencha is shaded for two weeks before being harvested in early spring.”

Review: I admit, I already know going in that I have a soft spot for this one. This is the tea that really taught me how to appreciate what umami is – something in between savoury and sweet.

The dry leaves were a dark emerald colour and it smelled like a combination of the sea and freshly cut grass. After infusion, the leaves were a bright green with a similar smell. The liquor was slightly darker than the other two. It was pale yellow with small leaf particles floating in the liquor.

While I know that this tea can handle multiple infusions, when I review teas, I try to base it solely on the recommendations of the company. Therefore, I did two infusions: warm and hot water. After I poured out the tea, I could already smell the grassy aroma lingering.

The second the liquor touches the lip, there is very strong umami taste which coats the mouth. It can be almost overwhelming the first time. This is due to the tea being shaded for two weeks. Once that dissipates, the more grassy sweet notes become more present. It then ends off with some mild astringency. The liquor had a strong staying power and the taste lingered in my mouth.

I gave it a second infusion with hot water. The umami was still very present, but much more subtle. The liquor had a very clean taste and I was still able to taste the grassy notes with a faint sweetness. It took a while for the astringency to set in. While I personally have come to really enjoy the umami qualities of this tea, I can see how it can be a bit of an adventure for someone who isn’t expecting it (4.5/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea
  • Origin: Japan
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Green tea
  • Company: Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms


Toshikoshi Soba

Description: “The origin of the new year’s buckwheat noodles and how to eat it In Japan it became popular to eat buckwheat noodles on New Year’s Eve in Edo era. It is said that we became to eat the noodles because when we make it, we spread it long and cut narrowly so the noodles is thought symbols of “longevity with health” and “long lasted good fortune of family.”

Review: This will be another product that I have to confess that I really enjoy. I still remember being on the Obubu farm and the staff making soba for the interns. It was such a pleasant moment for me, so I was very excited to see it in my box!

I must have enjoyed the soba so much that I forgot to take pictures! We had tried it three different ways: soya sauce, dashi, and sesame paste. There picture above is from a local restaurant, Take No Ko, that makes their own matcha soba. That was my first time trying matcha soba!

That being said, Obubu’s soba were thin and bright green with a slightly coarse texture. Care needs to be given because if it cooks for just a bit too long, it can become limp and gummy. However, when cooked correctly, the soba has a nice springy chewy elastic texture that is very delightful.

That being said, it doesn’t really have a “tea” flavour, and is actually a bit salty, but I enjoy the colour and the texture. The noodles also have to be eaten quickly or it takes on too much soup and becomes limp.

The noodles I had were not in a dashi broth, but I wish that I had thought of that because I looked up afterwards what ‘toshikoshi soba’ is. It is part of Japanese New Year tradition to reflect on the past year and to enjoy a simple soba noodle dish in a dashi broth.

I think that it would shine a bit more that way, and I am excited to try it again. When I was on the farm we tried it with dashi  (4.5/5 rating).

  • Type: Green tea base
  • Origin: Japan
  • Caffeine: Caffeine-free 
  • Ingredients: Flour, matcha (3%)
  • Company: Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

 

Final Thoughts

I have to say that I am super happy with my box! I was able to try a lot of teas and even learn more about the New Year culture in Japan. I enjoyed the Obukucha followed by the kabuse sencha. The noodles were also a nice touch!

No complaints here and I can’t wait for my next box!

The question of the post: How do you celebrate the new year?

9 comments on “Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms’ January 2019 Tea Box | Tea Review”

    1. I also loved how it is quarterly. While I love sample sizes, with this one, I am glad I get more tea. 🙂

  1. Wow, I didn’t know that the Obubu tea farm had a subscription box! The concept seems really different from the “usual” tea subscription. The only problem with those boxes in Italy is that shipment and taxes make them extremely expansive, and they are not worth it, so I don’t think I will ever have the chance to try out it, unfortunately! 🙁

    Luckily I found a box from Mountain Stream Teas (Taiwan based) that has a really nice teaching-based approach, and it is cheap enough to sneak through the expensive import fees (hopefully). It will start in March, and I plan to do an unboxing and review somewhere on the internet. If you are interested, I will keep you updated 🙂

    By the way, it is always interesting reading about those product, very interesting article!

    1. I was considering that one as well! Debating about breaking my buying tea ban for it! If you post about it, make sure to tell me. I am very excited to see what is in the box. 🙂

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