Monday, August 13, 2012

2012 Kabuse Yabukita Midori

This is another tea from Mr. Katahira's farm in Nunosawa, Shizuoka imported by Teamountain that I purchased on my recent visit to Brno's Probuzeny Slon teahouse. A classic tea found in their offering for years, this is a very high-grade Kabusecha made of Yabukita breed that, according to its description, competes in various tea competitions every year.

Its leaves are beautiful – long, uniform dark-green needles that really make this tea attractive on the first sight. Their smell is deep, milky and fruity, quite typical for good half-shaded teas – ripe fruit combined with fresh greenness.

Kabuse teas are ideal for experimenting – they are, after all, on a half way between Sencha and Gyokuro and using different leaf to water ratio and different water temperatures can lead to very different and very interesting results. However, I most commonly prepare them similarly to the way they're made – something between Sencha and Gyokuro, both in the amount of leaves, brewing time and temperature (slightly cooler water than Sencha and slightly smaller amount of leaves than in Gyokuro).
The first infusion prepared this way is light yellow in color, very clear and has a soft, complex taste made of various tones – plums, grapes, milk, nutty sweetness and nuttiness. Vivid umami note mixes with fresh greenness and creates an interesting combination – while the tea itself seems warmer in character thanks to the sweet, 'shaded' nuances, it has a cooling, fresh finish and long, similarly diversified yet complex aftertaste.  

The second infusion is greener in color, stronger in taste and still very sweet in character – I was originally expecting this brew to be more Sencha-like, but instead got another refined, creamy infusion with vivid umami and nutty sweetness. It also feels very heavy on tongue, reminding me of some lighter Gyokuros. The aftertaste may be a bit shorter than before, but still is a strong one with sweet tones of milk, caramel and just a hint of ripe fruit.
The following brew is light-green in color, sharper in taste and now dominated by spicy, fruity notes, though still strong on the sweet side without any trace of bitterness. In a way, it almost reminded me of apple in caramel and cinnamon. These notes are followed by a shorter, simpler aftertaste which is sweet, slightly spicy and nutty.

One more infusion is prepared - a simple, refreshing Sencha-like brew with green, fresh tones, spiciness and slightly drier, woody finish.

Friday, August 10, 2012

2012 Sencha Harukaze

On my recent trip to Brno, I have finally tasted and purchased some 2012 Japanese green teas. Visiting both of my favorite teahouses, I first enjoyed tasting Teamountain's Sencha Tsuyuhikari in Sklenena Louka (previously mentioned here) and then bought some other teas – also from Teamountain – for home consumption in Probuzeny Slon.
Sencha Harukaze is a light steamed tea from Shizuoka, grown by Mr. Katahira, whose teas have been in Teamountain offering for years and have been mentioned many times on this blog. However, last year saw unavailability of these teas as well as most other teas from Shizuoka – this year, though, all of Katahira's teas successfully passed radiation tests as safe and are, to my delight, back in offering.

Harukaze is a blended tea, consisting of three different breeds - 75% Yabukita, 15% Okumidori and 10% Kurasawa. Its leaves are good-looking, long, shiny green needles, typical for good Asamushi teas.
They smell fresh, fruity and deep – a bit like young, unripe peaches and grapes.

Water is cooled down for the first infusion which is light yellowish-green, mostly clear with just a slight opaqueness and fresh, sweet smell. This applies to taste as well – it's very sweet, mouthfilling, fruity and somehow heavy – heavier than many other fresh Sencha teas, this one inclines towards a taste bit reminiscent of grape must. Still, it's very refined and pure, with vivid freshness of a tea made just recently. The following aftertaste is a long one, slightly astringent (in a good way though) and reminded me of fresh red currant.

The second infusion is poured down immediately and shows typically greener, though still very clear infusion and sharper character. The taste of red currant and unripe grapes gets stronger, followed by a much cooler mouthfeel than before, giving the tea a new, very refreshing note. Its aftertaste has similar character – it's shorted and less mouthfilling as well as less sweet than that of the previous brew, but instead much cooler and fresher with predominant tones of young fruit and a small trace of sweetness.
The third infusion gets back to the more refined character of the first one, though being a bit drier and with a subtle woodiness. It also lacks most of the previously found sweetness, now being simpler and more refreshing than the previous brews with a shorter aftertaste.

One more brew is made of these leaves, now a very simple, refreshing drink with clear light-yellow color and spicy and woody tones in taste. A satisfying last sip.

Finally, a short note on some new members of my tea-ware collection, as seen in this post – I recently got three of these little teacups from Petr Novak during Bratislava's Festeaval. A beautiful, handmade thin white porcelain which evolves with every use, showing new cracks all over its surface, gradually creating a thick spiderweb – it is always a pleasure to watch tea ware live its own life like this, encouraging me to use it as often as possible.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012