The first Japanese tea is a Sunpu Boucha - 2010 1st Harvest Hon Yama Kuki-Hojicha.
Text and image used with permission by norbutea.com.
Sunpu Boucha is the name given to this excellent Kuki-Hojicha, or roasted stem tea. Shizuoka was known as the Sunpu Domain until 1869, and Boucha literally means "twig tea." This particular tea is comprised of stems, twigs and leaf material from the Hon Yama growing region taken during the first Spring harvest of 2010. Hon Yama is a bit of a confusing appellation, since it denotes tea grown on the hilly/low mountain slopes along the banks of the Abe and Warashina (a tributary of the Abe) rivers in Shizuoka instead of a specific county or prefecture. Hon Yama is one of the oldest tea cultivating regions in Japan, and its foggy, mountainous terrain is reputed to produce some of the highest quality & sweetest tea in Japan.
Stem teas are not very widely known or appreciated outside of Japan, but they are well loved in Japanese tea circles for their nutty & sweet flavor and their reputation of having a lower caffeine content than all-leaf tea.
This is a lightly roasted Kuki-Hojicha that has a good amount of green leaf material blended in with the stems. The production of this tea is done in phases, combining several different roasts into the final product. Basically, they roast small batches of stems and leaves at different temperatures and for different lengths of time and then blend them together to create more complexity of flavor in the final product.
To my taste, this tea delivers a very complete drinking experience that balances sweet & roasted flavors with some of the elements of a greener tea. When tasting this tea, I get a warm, toasted, sweet and slightly "creamy" flavor on the front end from the roasted stems, followed by a refreshing "green" astringency on the back end from the leaf material. The infused liquor is a light copper color with a lovely & penetrating toasted aroma. It's not an easy tea to describe for me, but I was completely hooked from the first time I tried it.
Because some of the leaf material is still quite green, we do not recommend steeping this tea above about 160°F in order to avoid extracting any bitterness from the green leaves that might throw off the balance in the steeped liquor.
The next two posts will describe the second and third Japanese teas for this TT&D, and the fourth one one will provide additional important information on how to request the three free teas. Stay tuned!