Have a Sweeter Breakfast Blend with Aso Black from Mellow Monk

Aso Black from Mellow Monk is technically a black tea but it is processed a little differently that most black teas.  If I understood their description correctly, Aso Black tea is made from the tea leaves that would normally go into making sencha green tea.  Picked in the mountains of Japan, these leaves are less processed and less fermented than traditional black tea.  Aso Black is also called “kocha” or “crimson tea”, perhaps due to its medium level of oxidation.  But I digress.

The leaves in my sample were small and flat, though very dark in color.  As it brewed, the tea smelled distinctly starchy like oats or bread.  It had none of the citrus brightness I associate with other black teas.

Mellow Monk recommends letting this tea cool slightly before drinking to let the flavors come forward, so I stepped away from my cup to let it cool down.

When I took my first sip of the tea, I was once again hit with the starchiness of the flavors, though this time it also had quite a bit of sweetness.  In an abstract way, the tea reminded me of oatmeal raisin cookies if they could be turned into a breakfast tea.

In the aftertaste there is a vegetal note that I expect more often from green teas.  It reminds me of the sweet and sour fermented green tea note that I often taste in kukicha green.  With all the sweetness and smooth mouthfeel of the rest of the blend, the green tea aftertaste is less grassy and more fruity, complimenting the sweet oat flavors in the overall smell and taste.

This is a unique tea, worth a taste by black tea and green tea lovers alike.  If you are tired of ceylon’s sharpness, or assam’s full fuzziness, try Aso Black for your next breakfast blend and maybe you’ll find it makes for a sweeter morning.

Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black and Green
Where to Buy: Mellow Monk

How about a nice change of pace? Aso Black™ is black tea (kocha, or “crimson tea” in Japanese) made from the leaves of green tea varietals grown in the pristine foothills of Mt. Aso. Gently harvested leaves are only lightly fermented compared to conventional black tea, for a sweetness not found in ordinary black teas.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Superior Sencha – Compass Teas. . . . .

Hello tea friends,

It’s always nice to drink something with the word superior in it’s title. From what I understand; superior Sencha is one of the highest grades of Sencha. It is also more refined and elegant in general, from those that I have tried anyway.

This tea is no longer sold by Compass Tea but it may be something they restock in the future, or have something similar to.

The leaf is dark green with a high shine and a sweet, floral scent with a touch of grass. The leaves are of medium size with some broken pieces present, overall it looks as expected ie no discolouration or holes.

Steeping this at a lower temperature around 65C for one minute to try and draw out some of the umami and sweetness.

A golden brown/green liquid is produced (again typical of Superior Sencha) and it bares a toasted grass and seaweed scent, also slightly vegetal.

Flavour is medium strength with sweet grass highs and toasted peony lows, with a salty seaweed and kale type mineral after taste that lingers and becomes dry.Only a touch of astringency but some umami is present. Half way down my yunomi and it becomes so sweet and floral it’s picked up a perfumed quality has real mouth feel to it. Also slightly bitty at the bottom of my bowl.

A second steep of the same parameters reveals: less sweetness but more umami, mimicking soup broth in this steep. More mouth feel and dryness in the after taste and less perfume. Still it bares little astringency as such and it remains vegetal. It reminds me of Matcha, has a similar sort of flavour and feel about it in this steep. Just a very watery and non foamy Matcha.

Overall I was impressed. The quality was expected (average for a Superior Sencha) but it steeped well and had wonderful characteristics and flavours. A nice example of Sencha and pleasing to drink. I recommend low temperatures if your an umami fan though, at least to start with, I’m an umami fan at heart.

A nice introduction to Compass Teas for me and while this is no longer sold I will certainly keep my eyes open to see what line of Sencha it has in the future.

Happy Steeping!



Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Green Tea
Where to Buy: Compass Teas
Description: This tea is no longer available for sale but they have many other teas for sale.

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!

MatchaStick by Magus Brands

Hello Tea Friends,

I adore Matcha and was giddy to be sent this sample to try; I was even giddier to learn that this Matcha stick’s contents are organic. I haven’t tried anything from Magus Brands and I always enjoy drinking from a vendor that is new to me.

The MatchaStick is a handy pocked/bag size that contains “2g of matcha, which contains 70mg of caffeine (equal to a cup of light roast coffee) and 137 times the antioxidants of a cup of green tea.” They have a lovely guide for brewing on their home page for those that are new to Matcha. With two method examples given (Usucha and Koicha) I will be using the traditional Usucha method as I like my Matcha frothy and bubbly.

Opening the stick the Matcha appears a vivid green colour that bares a grassy, sweet pea scent.

Once prepared the Matcha has created a lot of lovely foam (with very little effort on my part) and is a bit lighter than the natural raw state.

Flavour wise the first few sips reveal sweet grass, seaweed and thick umami notes among the light and frothy foam. Slightly bitter but in a pleasant way. The after taste is clean and light which sweetens the grass and umami even further. Half way through the bowl/chawan the flavour remains consistent, also the foam still remains thick.

Overall: This Matcha was a handy packet size and was easy to prepare. It claimed to be of ceremonial grade and organic which from the foam proportion and colour I am inclined to agree with. You could certainly taste the quality and it made for a very nice Chawan of Matcha. The umami in this was strong and I savoured every sip with a smile. For new Matcha drinkers or seasoned fans that like to travel I recommend you consider these fantastic MatchaSticks, they are Matcha-tastic!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Matcha Green Tea
Where to Buy: Magus Brands
magusbrandsDescription: Our MatchaSticks™ are made from the highest-grade, premium organic matcha. We’ve partnered with a network of centuries-old, small family-owned farms who cultivate the tea by hand on the island town of Kagoshima. The island soil creates a vibrant, refreshing strain of tencha, a shade-grown tea that is transformed into matcha.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Premium Sencha from Aiya

Premium Sencha from Aiya
Premium Sencha from Aiya

Tea Information:

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Buy: Aiya 

Tea Description:

Premium Sencha is one of the most prized Sencha teas available in the Japanese tea market. Enjoy the depth of authentic Japanese green tea flavor. The emerald green tea leaves are tightly rolled into long strips to retain their freshness and taste.


Bring the water to a boil and allow it to cool to 80°C/176°F. Steep 1 heaping teaspoon (3g) of Premium Sencha for 1.5 minutes in 1 cup (240ml/8 oz) of hot water. With this tea, one can pour more hot water over the tea leaves and enjoy another cup.


Japanese Green Tea – Premium Sencha

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The best way that I can describe Premium Sencha from Aiya is fresh delicious perfection. I have sat here with this cup so immersed in it, just allowing myself to become a part of it, and it is just the freshest sensational cup of tea ever. There is a nutty sweetness with just a slight astringency that gives it almost a citrus like zest. The left over flavor on the palate is lingering, nutty, and  a little tart. Yes, you will find a grassy flavor in the tea, but it is not grassy like other green teas I have experienced, this tea is more like a seaweed with a slight saltiness, a vegetal flavor that is really special. The aroma is equally pleasing. I can only describe the aroma as something you would experience in a prairie meadow on a breezy, warm, summer’s day.

When I received my tin from Aiya I was really surprised to find that under the lid was a secondary sealed pull back lid. I was so excited and impressed I made my daughter and husband come look. Upon pulling off the sealed lid by the ring (like an older style soda can) and hearing the freshness seal open, with an airy sound, the aroma of the dry leaf was mesmerizing! The lead is dark green and almost shimmery silver looking. No wonder this is the freshest tasting sencha I have ever experienced!

Now I love green tea, although I must have my morning black tea, but during the day, as I am working, or running errands, I must have my green tea. Green tea energizes me in such a positive manner. It does not over excite me, or make me nervous, nor does it relax me so much like a white or yellow tea which I reserve for early evenings. Green tea makes me feel like I can conquer everything on my “to do” list. It just feels healthy to drink, and of course, it is, but green tea like this, from Aiya, well, it really makes me feel as if I am drinking something special, because I am. If you have not tried a tea from Aiya please do yourself a favor and get yourself some right away! You won’t be disappointed in their teas.

Also be sure you check out their blog here. They have so many great articles and keep you apprised of their latest harvests, with a lot of wonderful photos, not to mention recipes and other wonderful things, such as how to make Matcha ice cream!

As I am finishing up my review of this tea I decided to go read my SororiTea Sister’s review (apologies for not having read it yet) and I have found that she too discovered the same qualities in this tea that I did from the citrus flavor, to the freshness, and even the awe and surprise of pulling back “the ring”! This made me smile because when you have a tea so spot on, so delicious, it is not confusing or too complicated to describe, it is just darn good!