Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2010 Kanbayashi Sencha Premium

After a week of cold rain and weather that seemed almost like Winter was already on the way, this is one of those days reminding me that there still is a lot to love about Fall. It's sunny and windy, with this constant breeze being chilly in a positive way, molding the idyllic autumnal atmosphere.

This tea is the first of two samples kindly sent by Calogero of which arrived to my place at the beginning of this month. Both of these are Sencha produced by Kanbayashi and originating in Uji, Kyoto.

Among two Kanbayashi Senchas in Ochaya's current offering, this is the higher grade, labeled “Premium”.

The package reveals very nicely processed, medium-long uniform needles, dark-green in color with typical plastic-like shine and soft, deep smell full of sweetness, nuts and ripe fruit.

The first infusion is light green in color, its taste is complex, buttery and creamy with quite warm character and tones of almonds, pears and milk, among others. Typically for high-grade Sencha, this taste is humble in its complexity and deepness; with countless notes, yet creating a perfect harmony with no tone being vivider than the others.

The second infusion, brewed in a bit warmer water for just few seconds, has more yellowish color and once again reveals buttery, warm character, now sharper and more fruity, mouth-filling and juicy with strong umami and long-lasting, intense aftertaste.

The third infusion is yellowish-green and opaque in color, more woodsy than previous infusions, piquant and strong, still warm in body with dominant tones now being slight dryness, pears and hint of pleasant spiciness. Its aftertaste is longest and most intensive of all brews.

The fourth infusion brings out mainly harsh, sour notes with dry woodsiness dominating the taste, which now lacks the remarkable sweetness found in previous infusions and indicates that this is the last brew.

After the session, this tea left my mind clear, aligned and concentrated – just as good teas tend to do.

Thanks for an opportunity to try it, Calogero.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wood-fired Ceramic Tea Tray by Mirka Randová

Yesterday I've returned from Brno, Czech republic, where I had visited Daniel Klasek's My goal had been set days before this trip – as soon as I saw this tea tray in the e-shop, I knew it has to be mine.

A work by Czech potter Mirka Randova, this tray is quite big and heavy, with rough surface and overall rustic feeling. Even so, it demonstrates mastership of its creator – with no fancy garishness, it is beautiful in its balanced simplicity, in its unique spirit and energy, so typical for wood-fired pottery.

Mirka is Petr Novak's partner and co-worker and this fact can somehow be clearly seen when you put some of his works on her tea tray – they are in complete harmony, just as two parts of one set.

This Shiboridashi now even seems strangely incomplete, whenever it isn't lying on the tray – same goes with the cup belonging to it.

The tray's surface is black on the top – that kind of black which cools down in summer and warms up in winter. In contrast, the bottom maintains color of bare clay, even conducing to the overall rustic, natural look of this work, which is a key element of this piece's unique beauty.

Quietly prepared on this tray, even tea tastes better than ever.


Apart from the tray, I also received two generous samples of quite unusual teas from Daniel Klasek – some 2010 Balhyocha from Hadong and 2010 Nepal Jun Chiyabari „Himalayan Jade Oolong“. Will talk about these later.

Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 Horaido Sencha Tokiwagi

Finally, another sunny autumn day. This is the last Sencha in sample set from Peter Stanik of, being the third highest grade of Sencha sold by Horaido. As all previously mentioned teas from this shop, Tokiwagi also originates in Uji, Kyoto and was traditionally stored until the beginning of this October.

Its dry leaves are typically narrow, straight and shiny-dark green needles. They seem a bit shorter than those of Shuppincha HG, though still can serve as a beautiful example of Asamushi (short-steamed) processing. They have a soft, clean smell of pears, pines and conifer forest, accompanied by typical creamy deepness.

The water is left cooling for quite a while in chilling November air before it's poured on these leaves. The first infusion is of very clear, light green color, being a bit opaque and with taste that is rich, milky, smooth, creamy, cooling and intensive, being deep and light at once. It noticeably possess the characteristic so typical for all higher grade Horaido teas, having vivid atmosphere and spirit of forest and mountains – this makes the consumption of these teas literally a spiritual experience.

The second infusion is then prepared with warmer water and left brewing for just a short while, delivering more yellowish color, intensive aroma and heavy, fruity taste with notes of plums, pears, nuts and menthol. Typically for the second infusion, its aftertaste keeps lingering on tongue for many minutes after drinking and is still present when the third infusion is prepared.

The third infusion is yellowish-green in color and is as rich in taste as both previous, now dominated by nutty, milky tones, rich softness and a bit warmer character. The aftertaste is a bit milder than that of previous infusion, yet still being very intense and long-lasting.

Last two infusions maintain the color and warm character of its predecessor and remain nutty and intensive, now being more woody, flat and generally much less complicated.

High quality of this tea can also be seen on the infused leaves, which are refined, lively green and quite entire (for a machine-processed Japanese green tea). Typically, I ate some of these after the session – it would be a pity not to do so with such leaves.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2010 Horaido Sencha Shuppincha HG

Another Horaido tea so far? Yes, indeed.

This time, I have chosen the highest grade of Sencha in collection of samples from Peter Stanik, as well as in Horaido's offering - Shuppincha HG.

This tea comes from high-mountain plantation in Uji, Kyoto and, as well as all other Horaido teas mentioned on this blog, was traditionally stored until Kuchikiri no Gi ceremony, held on the first Sunday of October.

Expectably, these dry leaves are perfectly sorted, alike and in form of flat, shiny dark-green needles. They have noble, intensive scent of fruit, pines, almonds and hazelnuts, notes typical for Sencha of this high quality. It somehow even reminded me of another great tea from the same region – Marukyu Koyamaen Sencha Unjyo. Both of these teas share smell which is deep, complex and perfect in every way, while still maintaining beautiful, mild humbleness.

I decided to brew this tea in a bit colder water than I usually use for Sencha and extend brewing time instead to get out taste which is more intense and, for me, has much more to offer.

The first infusion is very light green in color and immediately hits the tongue with its sharp, yet completely harmonic taste with countless nuances and tones, most outstanding of which are pines, nuts, fruit and gentle touch of fresh mint, leaving aftertaste reminiscent of menthol. Overall, this taste is incredibly full and complex with deepness almost similar to that of Gyokuro or Kabusecha. Drinking this tea feels just like taking a walk alone in mountains full of conifers on cold and windy, yet sunny autumn day.

The second infusion is also light green in color and is, despite of much shorter brewing time, even sharper in taste, which is similar in character to the first infusion, dominated by deep, full nuttiness, peppermint coolness and long, intense aftertaste that lingers on tongue and doesn't seem to ever end.

The third infusion differs a bit from both previous in its color, which is now more yellowish-green, yet still very clear and beautiful. Its taste is fruity, full and still quite sharp, though the cool, mint tone as well as Gyokuro-like deepness seem to be absent. The aftertaste also seems shorter and less intense with new, flower-like undertone; however, the tea itself still isn't on wane, as this infusion tastes just like first infusion of some other type of high grade Sencha – in other words, it now tastes even more like Shizuoka tea than one from Uji. The sudden change makes this tea even more interesting; it's just like experiencing two different teas in one session.

As the third infusion caught my attention in such unexpected way, I decided to take this tea into two more brews – the fourth infusion is even more flowery, piquant and, in contrast to the first and second infusion, literally warm in character.

The fifth infusion doesn't show much difference from fourth, just being weaker overall, indicating end of this session.

Shuppincha HG exceeded my high expectations, being absolutely well-balanced and beautiful in its complicity, offering hundreds of nuances in every sip, differing from one infusion to other; leaving my mind and body relaxed, calm and concentrated, just like the tea itself.