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

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
  • 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!

Nakazen: Hibiscus Tea Herbal Tisane from Yunomi

HibiscusTeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal

Where to Buy:  Yunomi

Tea Description:

Hibiscus tea bags are made with high quality roselle (a kind of Hibiscus) grown in the tropical region. Enjoy hot or as iced tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Hello tea friends, I do hope you are all well.

Recently I received an order from Yunomi of which they were kind to include this tisane as a free gift. While admittedly hibiscus is not something I would usually order it is nice to try something different. Plus I feel tisanes are something I should drink more of, going caffeine free every now and then sounds like a good idea.

They do offer this as two versions on their website: loose leaf and teabag. This is the teabag version.

The bags are a good quality thin polystyrene (very typical Japanese tea bag design). They are white and a little bit see through with 1/5 filled with small, chopped petals. As I sniff the bag I am met with a dry, sweet, tangy and herbal scent. Very hibiscus strong and herbal but also not overly thick.

Steeping: Popping one bag into boiling water for three minutes.

Colour is deep, deep red. Scent is floral, sweet yet sour and overall rather soft.

Flavour is stronger than the smell though it’s not as thick as I expected (or feared). The hibiscus is sweet with sour after tones and a touch of dryness, this leads to a herbal after taste. The sourness is actually rather minimal considering, likening this to sherbet. ie. More sweet than sour.

Half way down my mug I’m finding this to remain consistent with the first sip. The dryness is not increasing and nor is the herbal tang that tisanes tend to have.

Overall I thought this was nice, more pleasant tasting than I had imagined being generally a non hibiscus fan. This was of fair quality and strength which complimented the hibiscus. A simple tisane but a nice companion on this warm night.

Product Review: Return of The Mega Matcha Showdown! Part 1

topmatchaphotoIt’s that time once again!

I have taken the (perhaps crazy) task of reviewing even more matcha than I anticipated:  Red Leaf Tea has asked me and a handful of skilled bloggers to take on the task of testing and comparing 30 or so different matcha in a large price range. I have been lax on comparing them, with traveling and whatnot, but I need to get cracking. Without further ado, here is the basic criteria in with I will be judging the teas by: Color, Texture, and Sweetness.

Note:  All the teas were provided to me for review by Red Leaf Tea. I was not aware of which brands were which beforehand.

Starter Matcha

Starter Matcha

  • Color: 3
  • Sweetness: 5
  • Texture: 4

The first sample I had was a light olive drab. The matcha woke up a bit with some hot water, but did not foam very well. Even though this tea was a tad gritty, it was smooth and grassy, in a good way.

Deluxe Matcha

Deluxe Matcha

  • Color: 6
  • Sweetness: 5
  • Texture: 6

I would recognize RLT’s matcha anywhere, thanks to the last taste test. This floral and sweet matcha this one was an improvement.. A muted grassy color, I got some really nice foam from it, but it may have just been through practice, heh. The mixture was surprisingly tart, but still quite smooth.

JK Tea Shop Ceremony Grade Matcha

JK Tea Shop Ceremony Grade Matcha

  • Color: 6
  • Sweetness: 5
  • Texture: 5

Third one up! This one had a bit of a wet paint smell to it. The powder was a lighter, pastel shade of spring green. Not a favorite.

Classic Matcha

Classic Matcha

  • Color: 6
  • Sweetness: 7
  • Texture: 6

Phew. At this time I realized that I had made a grave mistake. I hadn’t eaten before starting testing these, and I sure was feeling the effects. This one was the sweetest so far, with a lemony, acidic finish. It was a happy green color, which was promising.

Kiwami Supreme Ceremonial Matcha

Kiwami Supreme Ceremonial

  • Color: 7
  • Sweetness: 7
  • Texture: 7

This one smelled and tasted just like pistachios! There was some strong marine notes as well, and a smoothness to round it out.


Yunomi Excellent Kitchen Grade Matcha

Yunomi Excellent Kitchen Grade Matcha

  • Color: 7
  • Sweetness: 8
  • Texture: 7

A really good one in the bunch. It also has a good color, not as neon as #4, but what this one lacks in color, it makes up in taste.

Thanks for tuning in folks! Will it ever end? Stay tuned next time for another installment of Matcha Madness!

Sencha of the Wind Green Tea from Yunomi

SenchaoftheWindTea Information:

Leaf Type: Green

Where to Buy:  Yunomi.us

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!