Monday, May 30, 2011

2011 Zencha Fuji Superior Shincha

Since I've already fulfilled all of the numerous duties I had this month, I can finally enjoy free time with all of its pleasant advantages – in my case, this means I have much more time for proper enjoyment of tea and for this blog.

This Shincha arrived from Zencha almost two weeks ago, as I've ordered it few days after enjoying their highest grade of Shizuoka Fukamushicha, Fuji the Ultimate. Ordering again, I kept in mind that this time, I want to try something much simpler from their offering, something fresh to drink often and in large quantities as the spring is quickly changing to summer outside. Therefore, I've chosen the lowest grade of their Shizuoka Shincha offering, called Fuji Superior and was looking forward to seeing what does Zencha offer for the modest price.

Compared to this year's Fuji the Ultimate, this Shincha expectably has much more straightforward, sharp and simple smell, less sweet and more vegetal – just as I would expect from nice fresh example of this grade of daily Fukamushicha. The leaves are also a bit less shiny and uniform, yet still seem quite nice and, most importantly, lively and fresh.

Brewed with quite hot water, the first infusion is bright green in color, transparent and has a gentle, more subtle smell than the dry leaves. In terms of taste, this tea corresponds with its scent very well, being round, quite simple and refreshing, or, in one word, once again literally green. This is exactly what I fancy the most about Shincha and am looking forward to every spring – the chance to really taste liquid, concentrated natural greenness, which can be found exclusively in form of Shincha. The aftertaste of this brew is somehow dry and sharp, yet still cooling and refreshing, lacking most of the typically sweet, noble notes – in case of this tea, after all, these aren't the tones to search for.

The second infusion is poured right as the water touches the leaves, resulting in much more opaque, vivid-green brew with slight astringency in taste, similar to that of young, just picked fruit. The taste is still very straightforward and simple, though not inevitably flat, preventing the tea from being boring. The following aftertaste is longest of all infusions, filling the mouth with pleasant, mild astringency and simple freshness.

The third and fourth infusions are very much alike – yellowish green in color, opaque and humbly simple in taste, now with predominantly dry notes and, especially in the fourth infusion, also a typical sharp woodsiness.

Fuji Superior is a nice, fairly inexpensive daily Fukamushi Shincha and I've been enjoying it in that manner for the past week and something. Finally, I'm glad I found some time to play with it a little bit today, confirming the opinion that even though there isn't much specialness to discover in this tea, it's exactly the humble, unpretentious simplicity which makes it worth drinking.

Friday, May 6, 2011

2011 Zencha Fuji The Ultimate Shincha

Shincha – what a great thing to find in mailbox. The first picking of fresh green tea in Japan started just a while ago and is still in progress, yet we are already able to try some of the earliest birds.

So far this year, I've ordered my Shincha from Zencha – “Fuji The Ultimate” originates in Shizuoka, was hand-picked at the end of April and processed as Fukamushi-cha (deep-steamed tea). Though I've previously mentioned favoring Asamushi over Fukamushi teas, I can't deny their sharp, fruity green taste is possibly one of the best ways to really enjoy the taste of liquid spring.

The package is opened and ultimately fills the room with vividly sweet, fresh smell, typically much stronger than that of Asamushi teas and almost aggressive – however, this aroma keeps its nobleness, being very fine and, literally, green. It belongs to small leaves comprised mainly of short needles and a bit of tea-dust; their color is almost jade-green and seems slightly lighter than in normal Sencha – a frequent sight for Shincha. In terms of Fukamushi teas, they seem very attractive and well-made.

These leaves are placed into the preheated kyusu teapot and their smell immediately intensifies, underlining the fresh, sharp sweetness.

The first infusion is prepared with a bit hotter water than I usually use for Sencha (though still not really high in temperature) and shorter brewing time – this should get more of the typical refreshing taste I enjoy so much in these fresh teas. As a result, its color is vivid-green and just a bit opaque. The taste is very similar to smell – fresh and strong, lively green and sharp, yet very refined – it starts as a sweet, green sensation on tongue, full of milky and fruity tones, especially of young green apples and grapes and ends in pleasant, sweet and smooth aftertaste, long and cool.

The second infusion is brewed only for a few seconds and already results in almost non-transparent, opaque green brew, quite different from its predecessor in terms of taste, which is now significantly sharper, spicier and heavier. Still, the fruity, refreshing tones are preserved and so is the soft sweetness in aftertaste, now even longer and more intensive.

The third infusion is still very opaque and vividly green in color, though already a bit milder and rounder in taste. In this brew, the fruity, sweet freshness returns as a dominant tone, making the overall feeling of this infusion much smoother. The aftertaste is shorter and lighter, showing some new woodsy tones.

In terms of color, the last infusion is similar to the first, being just a bit opaque and even lighter in color. The taste is now drier, more woodsy and lacks the fruity notes as well as any milkiness, though it still possess the cool, refreshing body.

One more thing to say – a personal wish of mine. Please, do buy this year's Shincha, do buy this year's Japanese tea. I am aware of what happened and of the fact that many people decided not to buy them this year – not considering the fact that while the power-plant is located in the northern part of Japan, most of the tea-producing prefectures are located in the south, hundreds of kilometers away. The country's economy has already been damaged a lot by the disaster – if we moreover stop purchasing Japanese products, we won't be of any help in its recovery.

I am not a nuclear physicist and may not understand the whole accident properly – instead, I want to say that I believe I understand Japanese mentality at least a bit. And it's exactly their perfectionism and seriousness that makes me say this and get rid of any fear that they would let any harmful product on the market. So please, keep shopping for Japanese teas – judging from this Shincha, it seems like there really is a lot to look forward to about this harvest.