Top Leaf from Mellow Monk . . . . . .

Within this past week, I have come down with the slight flu. Resulting in which I couldn’t for the life of me taste anything for my nose was not cooperating in the slightest. So when I became able to taste something that wasn’t my mentholated cough drops I looked to tea for a safe hot beverage to soothe my illness. I turned to Mellow Monk’s Top Leaf tea blend.

This tea is a sort of Sencha (fukamushi, which means deeply steamed in Japanese) and compared to the sencha I have had in the past this tea is a softer variant. It was a nice cup to soothe my stomach and a pleasant change to my taste buds, other than crackers and soup. I would have to agree with the description that is on the Mellow Monk’s site for this blend has a slight earthiness to it but just enough to have a modest sweetness.  Now I don’t seem to catch the grapefruit overtones that is described but that could be because of my previously deadened taste buds.

Now on to the price of this tea. It seems to only come in one size and that is a 100 gram (3.5 oz) bag retailing for $15.95 which is a little over four dollars per ounce. Which I believe that is pretty fair compared that I usually pay $4-7 for an ounce for other loose leaf blends.

In closing, I believe that this is a good blend for any green tea/Sencha lover. It is moderately priced for the amount you get, it is direct from the source, and if this has any leverage with you dear reader Top Leaf won first place in its category in the 2011 North American Tea Competition. As for me, I don’t think I will be picking this up anytime soon but I will definitely keep this blend in mind for the future. I may even explore their other blends from Mellow Monk.

See you for the next cuppa!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type:  Green
Where to Buy:  Mellow Monk

This is our top-of-the-linehoncha, or traditional green tea. Top Leaf™ Green Tea, a fukamushi (deeply steamed) sencha, is specially pampered in its own separate corner of the tea orchard. Not only does this tea receive extra fertilizer (organic, of course) during the growing season, but at harvest time, the growers pick only the top layer of young tea leaves. The result is a distinctive, more subtle, gentler flavor. This tea is alwaysfirst flush.

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
  • 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!

Sencha of the Wind Green Tea from Yunomi

SenchaoftheWindTea Information:

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Buy:

Tea Description:

A tea popular with female customers in Japan, our Sencha of the Wind or 風の煎茶, is a sencha with a soft sweetness. Grown on southeast facing rolling hills at an altitude of 500 meters (1640 feet) and harvested in late May, the cultivation technique is very similar to our Kabuse Sencha. However, in addition to being harvested slightly later than the Kabuse, this tea does not use the Yabukita variety of tea plant (said to be the most suitable for Japanese tea) and is instead cultivated on standard tea plants. The difference is in the leaves as these leaves produce less amino acids than the Kabuse and therefore less bitterness.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I have heard that green tea is perfect for hangovers, and I suppose today is a good day to find out.

I went to an amazing show with my man last night, and one drink led to another, and another… at the end of the night I was somehow dancing on a ladder, my boyfriend trying to get me down before I fell off. Needless to say, I am feeling the effects of it today. I woke up groggily, and googled drinkable hangover cures as I dug through my stash of teas. I read on a couple of random websites that green tea is better than the hair of the dog that bit you. Even if it was a load of hogwash, it never hurts to drink a good sencha.

Sencha of the Wind from Yunomi is one of the teas produced by Kyoto Obubu tea farms. They always have an amazing selection of teas that they produce from year to year. I have the 2014 version that I got in a sampler pack a while back. I used all 10g in my large kuysu, which is (probably?) 16oz. Using warm water, 65C I flash steeped a couple times and then brewed in increments of 30 seconds. I was really surprised at how much I could get out of those leaves! I think I made it to 9 steepings before I had to call it quits.

The smoothness and richness of this brew is simply incredible. Plenty of people new to green tea in general usually say that green tea has no taste, it’s just colored water. This is going to be the tea that I will use to change their mind. All Japanese greens are so strong and flavorful, this is no exception. I love how sweet and smooth this is. I even uttered an audible, ‘wow!’ when taking a sip.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who is a little put off by the astringency of some senchas, this is a very rich and sweet brew, buttery smooth to the last drop!

Matcha Infused Genmaicha Green Tea from Aiya


Matcha Infused Genmaicha from Aiya
Matcha Infused Genmaicha from Aiya

Tea Information: 

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Buy: Aiya

Tea Description:

Matcha Infused Genmaicha is a traditional Japanese Sencha blended with toasted brown rice and premium Matcha green tea. The refreshing flavor of Sencha combined with the nutty flavor of toasted brown rice, plus the resilient color and mild sweetness of Matcha make this tea distinctly delightful.


Japanese Green Tea,

Japanese Genmai (toasted brown rice)

Matcha Green Tea


Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I got my Matcha Infused Genmaicha Green Tea from Aiya sample in the mail I had to brew it right up! I love Genmaicha but I really love Genmaicha with Matcha! It has been a long time since I had a Genmaicha with Matcha from a new company to try so I was really excited to get a sample of this one, from Aiya, who sources excellent tea.

When I came to the site here to do the review I noticed my sister LiberTeas had just posted her review, which you can see here. I almost decided to wait because generally we don’t do reviews of the same teas back to back, but in this case, I already had my sample steeped up and was happily sipping, so back to back it shall be! It can’t hurt either to see two tasting notes on the same tea one day after another.

This Genmaicha with Matcha is far more vegetal and grassy than others I have tried. Others have had a bit sweeter taste. No one can deny the quality of this tea, although I am rather used to the sweetness I have found in others, this is a really excellent cup.

There is an abundant amount of genmai (rice), and while my sister did not get much loose powder from excess matcha in her cup, I did, especially on the first steep. However, like my sister, I also did not see any cloudiness, and the cup was remarkably clear.

The scent of the tea filled the entire house, not just my kitchen, and my daughter remarked how good it smelled, like puffed rice cereal, which I love.

The notes I detect are of grassiness, nuttiness, and rice. There is a creaminess to the mouthfeel as well.

The sencha, crisp and lively, is one of the better sencha I have tasted.

I found this cup extremely relaxing and soothing.