Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011 Zencha Nakai's Organic Uji Sencha Matsu

It's already been some time since this tea arrived to my place; more than three weeks, to be accurate. Since then, various things continuously prevented me from writing about it, most commonly those related to weather – for me, the best occasion on which to enjoy a good fresh green tea is a sunny, warm day, but the last week and a few more days before it somehow lacked this kind of weather almost completely. If there was a warm, sunny and free day, I usually haven't stayed at home and went somewhere out (such as the FesTEAval) and, therefore, the days left for me when I had time to stay at home and write about tea were usually those filled with cold air, rain, dark clouds and lack of natural light, during which I mostly weren't in mood for anything green and rather switched to roasted oolongs and puerh.

Today, finally, sun decided to shine a bit and the temperature is noticeably higher as well. There is an advantage of all the time I kept waiting for the right occasion to write about this tea – since it arrived, I've tasted it quite a lot of times (though mostly only as a quick morning session without that much time to concentrate on the tea itself), which helped me to make up my mind about this not-so-usual Sencha.

This light steamed Sencha comes from Mr. Michio Nakai's farm located in my favorite region, Uji, Kyoto and is certified organic. In Zencha's offering, it is the middle grade of Uji Sencha. Its leaves are a bit shorter and more broken than those of usual Asamushi teas, but still quite nice and shiny. Their smell is very fresh, very sweet and unusually nutty and creamy, much more than most Uji Sencha teas. There is also a slight hint of roastiness; overall, aroma of this tea unexpectedly reminds me of fresh Long Jing quite a lot.

The first infusion is yellowish-green in color and has a mild sweet smell and full, balanced taste, again different from what I'm used to find in most Uji teas – this one is much more bread-like, nutty and roasty, while still being very sweet. In this case, however, it isn't the typical Gyokuro-like, umami related sweetness, but instead something very reminiscent of sweet pastry or even freshly baked cookies. Just as smell, this tea's taste reminds me a bit of Chinese Long Jing while still bearing some typical Uji notes – very interesting combination of different characters. Aftertaste of this infusion is long and mouth-filling, mostly nutty, vivid and yet quite refined.

The second infusion is brewed with a bit hotter water for just a few seconds, resulting in much greener brew, which is now a little bit opaque. Its taste is basically very similar to that of the first infusion, though it now has a bit more fresh, “green” note of sharpness, making the taste of this brew more refreshing. The aftertaste is also a bit sharper and greener, but still very sweet and subtle.

Once again a little hotter water is used for the now mostly yellow third infusion, enhancing the already dominant bread-like, sweet taste and smell. The aftertaste is even stronger and longer-lasting than that of the previous infusion, now being quite crispy, sweet and slightly astringent, though not in any unpleasant way.

One more infusion is made of these leaves; this time, the taste is mostly woodsy, roasty and a bit astringent with less profound aftertaste – nicely finishing the session.

This tea is definitely different in an interesting way. While the vast amount of Uji greens tend to be on the deep, umami side of taste, this one, with its bread-like roasty character, is a nice, unconventional change – and still, it has the typical feeling of a good, traditional Ujicha.


  1. This was an excellent review - I enjoy your blog and find your reviews very thoughtful and exacting. Thanks!

  2. Nice review Michal.
    Uji is a region I do not know very well when speaking about japanese teas...

    When I began drinking japanese teas, A year ago, I really prefered them during warm days of summer...But now, I like to drink them whatever the weather, temperature...I like for example Hiruma-san's flowery fukamushi sencha in sunny days (as today in France, I will probably have a Sayamakaori), while I prefer a deep Kagoshima fukamushi with a warm umami and sweet taste during cold and rainy days...

  3. Marlena,
    thank you for your kind words, they mean a lot!

    Thanks - and you are right. Some Japanese teas are directly meant to be consumed during colder weather/seasons, particularly many teas from Uji - take for example traditional Gyokuro and also many kinds of Sencha, which are stored and ripened for a few months after being picked and processed and are made available on the market only after the Kuchikiri no Gi ceremony in October. As these teas are generally very warm, heavy and deep in character, the best seasons to enjoy them are definitely autumn and winter.
    Then, on the other hand, there are teas like the one I wrote about in this post - these teas are still very fresh and almost "Shincha-like", so the best time for me to enjoy them is on sunny, warm days.
    This is one of the aspects about traditional Japanese teas I enjoy so much - they may all be labeled as green, but under this label, many categories of tea exist, as different from each other as Chinese green tea and black Darjeeling. Thanks to this, they really can be drank all year long, in any season, any weather.