Friday, March 2, 2012

Awaiting the Season with 2011 Sencha Yabukita Miyazaki

Seems like the spring is already beginning here in the middle of Europe. For the last week or so, we've been enjoying mild, awakening sun and and pleasant temperatures, allowing us to stay outside more than before. This weather naturally also awakens my desire for fresh, spring green teas – these aren't available yet, though, but luckily, there still are some last year's green remains worth drinking before the season begins.

The tea I'm going to talk about today is an inexpensive one; from Teamountain's regular offering. It originates in Miyazaki prefecture of Kyushu island, is made of first flush Yabukita leaves and is medium-steamed (chumushi). What distinguishes it from most regular Sencha teas is the fact that this one was shaded for a few days before picking, putting it somehow on a halfway between Sencha and Kabusecha.

The appearance of these leaves seems to correspond with its chumushi processing – there are some longer needles, though most of them are quite short. Other than that, they are shiny, ranging from light to dark-green and with very sweet, fruity and almost caramel-like smell, somehow unusual for Sencha - I suppose this is a result of shading.

The first infusion is lively green in color, very clear and smells even sweeter than the dry leaves. Its taste, though, is quite different – very refreshing, light and not so sweet, with mild tones of nuts, slight spiciness and fruit – though, in this case, as opposed to the smell which reminded me of ripe fruit, in taste it's something young and refreshing. The aftertaste is medium-long, pleasantly mild and made of various nuances; hazelnuts, caramel and white grapes.

The second infusion is brewed with slightly hotter water and has a bit more opaque green appearance and sweet smell. This time, the taste is sharper, greener and even more refreshing than before, though I've noticed one thing while drinking this brew – while refreshing, this tea lacks the cooling character many Sencha teas have, especially during spring and summer. Instead, this one feels warmer, nuttier and even a little bit roasty. Once again, I think this might be a result of shading – and it indeed ads to the tea's unusual character. The aftertaste is very long, full, fruity and nutty with enhanced sweetness, when compared to the previous brew.

In terms of color, the third infusion is similar to the first, being light green and transparent. Its taste is crispy, nutty and roasty; compared to previous brews, it lacks most of the refreshing tones. Now, the main tone seems to be reminiscent of freshly baked bread, slightly sweet and mouthfilling. The aftertaste is shorter, though still very pleasant and offers the former sweet, caramel-like and ripe-fruit tones, mainly of plums.

One more infusion is prepared with significantly hotter water; its clear, light-green brew gives simple, slightly woody and roasty taste and quite a warm overall feeling.

This everyday Sencha is one of the teas making my wait for first teas of 2012 at least a little bit easier. I'm quickly running out of it, though; but then, it's already March, the sun is shining and fresh Chinese greens are soon to be seen (and tasted), I believe.

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