Whisky Barrel Wood Smoked Black Tea from Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden (Yunomi). . ..

The tea of the moment at Sororitea Sisters is Whisky Barrel Wood Smoked Black Tea from Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden – available from Yunomi! I know the wordage seems like a mouth-full but wait until you EXPERIENCE this tea!

A little background on this unique Whisky Barrel Wood Smoked Black Tea from Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden…it’s a loose leaf black tea from the Shimada, Shizuoka, Japan region. The black leaves are smoked using wood from Japanese Whisky Barrels.

This tea is a Silver Medal Winner of the 2014 International Tea Tasting Competition. I can totally see and TASTE why this was a winner! This tea fascinates me! A lot of effort and hard work went into this one! Special nod to Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden as it is a family business, farm, and tea factory!

This is highly scented because of the whisky barrels used. It’s reminiscent of a Lapsang Souchong but it doesn’t leave the same aftertaste as many (or most) LS’s do! It leaves a sweeter, more pleasant lingering flavor and subtle hints of citrus, even!

I don’t know if it’s because I have been binge watching American Pickers or because I live in an area that has a sizable Amish population but I can’t help but think of a wooden barn on a damp, wet, rainy day. Regardless this tea awakens ALL of the senses! It forces you to pause and think. It’s a great way to take a short break from your busy day! This is a VERY MEMORABLE tea!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Black
Where to Buy:  Yunomi
Description

Silver Medal Winner of the 2014 International Tea Tasting Competition, Matsumoto-san smokes his black tea using the wood from Japanese whisky barrels. No flavorings or additives used.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

NaturaliTea #01: Hatsutsumi Handpicked Midori Shincha First Flush from Yunomi

Konnichi wa ocha no yūjin! 

Or if that made no sense:

Hello tea friends!

Japan is a country that inspires me to the point of being in awe. The culture, the technology, the religions, their traditions, and especially their tea. I thought I had experienced everything a few years ago that had to do with tea, until I went into the world of Japanese tea. There is nothing like it! If you have never tried Japanese tea for yourself then I highly recommend trying it. Part of this reason is because Japanese tea contains umami which is the fifth taste which translates to ‘pleasant savoury taste’. It may sound strange for a tea to taste savoury but I tend to liken it to a soup broth, completely unique and bursting with flavours. This is why I am so taken with Japanese tea in general.

I am happy and excited to be drinking some First Flush Midori Shincha by NaturaliTea as sold by Yunomi. No idea what Midori or Shincha is? Let me break it down: Midori means green and Shincha translates to ‘new tea’ which refers to when it was picked. Basically a Shincha is the first harvest of Sencha leaves which is also known as Ichibancha ‘ the first picked tea’. Besides the fresh aroma of the young leaves, Shincha is characterised by its relatively low content of bitter catechin and caffeine, and relatively high content of amino acid. This makes the Shincha harvested limited in size of the batch and also the time it is picked. And to finish off for Japanese tea newbies Sencha is a ryokucha or green tea cultivar that is indigenous to Japan, so much so that Sencha is Japans most commonly consumed tea with Sencha production being 80% of all tea  produced in Japan.

Now it’s time for the tea itself. Opening the sample pack reveals bright, glossy green leaf shards that are loosely broken. They bare a gorgeous sweet grass and mineral scent.

Steeping a Japanese tea is rather different than steeping a general green tea, the water temperature and steeping length can either enhance the umami or bypass it. A lot of it comes down to experimentation and preference; I like a nice umami which often comes through in low temperature water and short steeps. So I will be trying to find the umami goodness. Another thing you often find is the change of temperature, an example being the first steep at 80C, the second at 40 C and third at 70C. Again that would be because it enhances the umami quality.

My Steeping Parameters: 200ml Yunomi (Japanese cup), 360ml Futanashi Tokoname (lidless teapot used to enhance freshness and scent), 10g loose leaf. 

I want another note: my teapot is larger than my yunomi but I will only be using my teapot to 200ml. Also this is a sizeable yunomi that needed to be adjusted for. Otherwise I would recommend 3g of leaf to 60ml water.

Also, Yunomi bared this note: Our recommend steeping method is to use water cooled to about 40˚C/105˚F steeped for 2-3 minutes for the best balance between sweetness and umami (savory) flavors.

For that reason my first steep will be 2 minutes at 40C. (Room temperature is usually around 20C).

Once steeped the resulting tea liquid is cloudy, golden yellow colour that bares a vegetable (broccoli) and sweet grass scent. Not dissimilar to it’s raw state.

The first sips reveals a strong, broth like flavour packed with sweet grass, spinach, kale and mixed flowers with a pleasant, bitter aftertaste that lightens and becomes sweeter. That was the first sip, as you can see it packs a lot of different flavours and information in it. The after taste is lingering for very long in my mouth. I say broth because it reminds me of a strong, hearty, soup broth full of green vegetables.

The umami is very strong, so much so that I feel like I’ve jumped into an ice cold bath with every punching sip I take. But I can’t stop myself from sipping. The umami washes over me with warmth and wide eyed energy. A few sips more lighten the tea while my tongue adjusts to this unique flavour. It detects sweet honey and salty seaweed notes among the ever growing broth blend.

Second Steep – 80C for 45 seconds (see the jump in temperature?)

So the shorter steep at hotter temperature is mostly because I want to test the body of the green tea. Umami comes out in the first steep but it gets weaker over time, that is why I Umami the first steep and green tea the rest of it.

Yes, the umami is less than half of what it was. The punch that it packed is now a shadow of it’s former self; that being said it’s still a strong steep. It still has strong sweet grass and vegetal tones, and it’s also a little bitter; but it is lacking as much depth and oomph as the first steep. This is a good example of how much water temperature and steeping time can change a Japanese tea.

The sweetness is less so it’s not honeyed in this steep but it is hay like and grassy. In terms of broth this is mid level, like the vegetables are in a pan with water and steeping for a while, enough to have flavoured the water, but there is still more flavour left to go.

Third Steep – 60C for 30 seconds (another temperature change) 

Why the change? I want a lower temperature to increase any remaining umami that is left, whilst lessening the steeping time a little to try and reduce the bitterness. This is another example of why I said it’s best to experiment with Japanese teas, it’s all down to personal preference. Some people will read this and think I had it too strong or perhaps don’t agree with my parameters at all. I didn’t plan on the times for my second or third steep but I read what I wanted from the tea and it’s potential.

Was it a good decision to change? Yes. This steep is very light in taste but some umami can be found admidst the sweet, bitterness. This cup is more raw cabbage like than broccoli. It bares the same mineral, green sort of taste. While it’s immensely weaker in strength I feel if it was warmer it would have been too bitter to appreciate the remaining umami. As such just before the bitterness kicks in and the powerful sweetness I can taste the broth.

Final Thoughts

This was a nice Shincha that packed an incredible umami punch. Sweet yet savoury, vegetal yet bitter, it was a delicious combination in one tea. I would recommend it to umami lovers or those looking to experience it for the first time. If you are then stick with short steeps and 70-80C temp until you find it at your desired level. Don’t be put off if you dislike it the first time around, it may take time to get it to your personal taste. And once you do it will grow on you! Plus not forgetting that this is Organic I can tell the clarity of the flavours once prepared. There is nothing in this tea that tastes chemical or unnatural.

If you haven’t experienced many Japanese teas before then I hope I have given you insight.

Until next time, Happy Steeping!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Green
Where to Buy: Yunomi
logo-1Description:
  • Name: Handpicked Midori First Flush
  • Ingredients: 100% Shizuoka-grown green tea leaves
  • Harvest: Late April harvest
  • Cultivation Notes: Grown pesticide free. Fertilized with organic compost. Machine cut trim of the youngest, topmost leaves, and handpicked leaves.
  • Region: Fujieda, Shizuoka
  • Vendor type: Family-operated farm cooperative.
  • Established: 1976
  • Producer: Toshiaki Kinezuka, President, Hito to No, Shizen wo Tsunagu Kai (NaturaliTea)

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Morita #02: Sayama Sencha Green Tea from Yunomi

KakureiSayamaSencha2Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: Yunomi.us

Tea Description:

The Morita family’s quality sencha is a result of 10 generations of tea farming. This Sayama region green tea is can be steeped to be very astringent with a touch of umami (savoriness) using hot water, or with a great balance between astringency (shibumi) and umami savoriness using warm water.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Yes! Green tea season is here! It is in this blogger’s personal preference to drink tea by the seasons. I often find myself craving one specific type of tea throughout a single time frame. And it makes perfect since too, I like higher oxidized teas that require hotter water in the winter, and lower or non-oxidized teas in the spring and summer for their fresh vegetal notes and their lower brewing temperature. With the weather turning warmer I have not even thought about boiling my water for a shou or a black tea, and have turned instead to Japanese greens, Taiwanese jade oolongs and sheng. The Morita family’s Sayama Sencha from Yunomi fits the bill quite nicely.

I love the smell of sencha tea every time I open a package and dive in. It just smells so buttery and fresh… like hot off the bamboo steamer steamed edamame, salty and so hot that it burns my tongue. Except that I use cooler water than I would for steaming the legume… but, I digress.

This tea lays all it’s cards on the table when I pour out the steeped leaves into my yunomi tea cup. The smell is fresh and intense. It’s so vegetal and marine-like, I can almost picture myself sitting on the beach while downing each sip.

Morita Tea Garden’s is a great Japanese green that hits all the right notes. I have yet to be disappointed by any of the farmers’ teas and offerings at Yunomi, and really, anything you choose will surely be a hit. I’d drink this all day everyday if I could! But then all of my other teas would get lonely.

Cha Ginza: Roasted Matcha Green Tea from Yunomi

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Tea Information:

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Buy: Yunomi.us

Tea Description:

Have you ever heard of matcha that is roasted? This extremely rare Roasted Matcha is sold only in the Cha-Ginza store located in Tokyo, but we will be offering this to the Yunomi.us tea lovers!

The unforgettable taste of roasted matcha attracts many people that have tasted this at the Cha-Ginza tea room. The process of making a good-tasting roasted matcha is difficult, but the Uogashi Meicha factory was able to make this into a great tasting matcha.  Because it is so rare, roasted matcha is hard to find even in Japan.

Taster’s Review:

After reading about the brick and mortar store in the heart of Tokyo on the Yunomi website, Cha Ginza is now on my bucketlist of tea shops to visit before I keel over in my old age.

This Roasted Matcha from Cha Ginza is the most unique matcha I have ever encountered. The brilliant green powder is the same color as young spring grass. The roasted element is intense. There is still an element of extreme freshness underlying the roasted scent. I was so confused at first, I felt like I was sniffing a high-quality hojicha instead! But no, my nose was simple mistaken.Cha-Ginza Matcha

I whipped this up in my large black chawan to share with my fella. I used 1 and 1/2 scoops using my chashaku, and made a paste using a smidge of warm water. Whisking with my chasen with more water, I made a nice brilliant green froth to share with my mildly impressed boyfriend.

At first sip we were hooked. It had a great full-bodied roasted flavor, and the fresh green marine vegetal notes still very present. It reminds me of wakame or nori. This tea has really got that whole umami thing down. It’s also the smoothest match I have ever encountered. It even has a hint of sweetness that rounds out the intensity of the roast. It’s also a plus that there is virtually no smokiness to this tea. I think that I would not have enjoyed it as much if there was even a small element of smoke.

While this is not a tea to begin your matcha journey with, I would highly recommend this tea for those who have had plenty of good match experiences and wanted to try something unique and high quality.