• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Richard Kilgore

Japanese Green Teas - Sencha, Gyokuro...and more,

170 posts in this topic

Haven't found a source yet for the hand made stuff, but have decided I need more time and experience just with the senchas and gyokuro.

It took me two infusions to start to 'get' the Yuuki-Cha Kumamato Sencha Yabe from the tasting, and due to spillage I only got two infusions from that; and then I tried the highest grade of Sencha Zuiko and Gyokuro Suimei from denstea, and have tried each of them a couple of times, and still haven't gotten the best of them yet.

It still takes me at least 2 infusions to 'get' a new tea, and it would be horrible to buy a super-fantastic hand-made sencha and not be able to do it justice from the get go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not to worry. I find that while it's possible to get an okay result with little effort, it often takes me 3 or 4 brewing sessions - and sometimes more - to discover the best parameters for a specific sencha for my taste buds. For me it's part of what makes exploring tea interesting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have no worries about not getting it right the first couple of times--when I'm using 4-5 grams of the 56 grams in a 2 oz bag. But if I were using half of a 10g order of a master's handmade tea? The same degree of experimentation would be a criminal waste. Hence, decided not to seek such tea until I have a higher likelihood of really enjoying it. After all, it's been only a year since my first order from dens, which convinced me I do have a future with sencha and gyokuro.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've seen quotes of something like $2-3 per gram, but when sold in 10 gram lots, that's suddenly a somewhat affordable luxury, like a decent but not fancy bottle of wine.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's one source: Sugimoto has it for $15/10g, but you must order by 4/15/10. Tempting, but I'll wait for next year.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wholemeal Crank, thanks both for the link to that video and the info on the tea from Sugimoto.

What do you know about Sugimoto? Have you ordered teas from them before?

I am tempted to order the Temomi Shincha.

Our tasting of the Yuuki-Cha Kumomoto Sencha really sparked an interest in green teas for me. I ordered more of it at also Yuuki-Cha's Organic Kagoshima Kabusecha.

When I first looked at Yuuki-Cha's website I saw many teas that I wanted to try but was sorely disappointed to discover that there were no sample quantities available.

I was even more disappointed when I first brewed the Kabusecha that I had ordered and found that I strongly disliked it.

I am happy to report that my strong dislike of the Kabusecha was completely due to user error.

My first cup of the Kabusecha was horrible. It was strongly vegetal in a way that I had extreme dislike for and it had a good bit of astringency. I didn't get the special sweetness from the tea.

I decided that for the price of this tea I needed to drink my way through it.

The second time I brewed the Kabusecha I cut the time down from about 2.5 minutes to just over one minute and I dropped the temp. I found that the tea was much more drinkable. I have further reduced the temp to about 165 F and am only steeping the tea for a minute. Surprise, I am actually enjoying this tea!

Bigger surprise is that while writing this post I looked at the receipt from my Yuuki-Cha order and noticed on the brewing page sheet that I should only be brewing this tea at 149 F!

I now love both the teas I purchased from Yuuki-Cha. Spring is definitely the time for green as far as my palate goes. I have tried a few oolongs over the past two weeks but I just am not enjoying them right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been brewing the Kumomoto with water around 170 with results that make me happy and I thought the Kabusecha would be the same. The Kabusecha definitely likes cooler water than the Kumomoto.

I brewed the Kabusecha at 158F this morning but in my usual large cup with 7G tea to about 11oz water for one minute and the tea is weak and watery. I have a hard time seeing how reducing the water to the prescribed 7 oz per 7G and dropping the temp an additional 10 degrees of tea will produce a cup that gets all that this tea has to give but I will try that later today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, this morning I steeped the Kabusecha according to Yuuki-cha's suggestion of 7-G to 7-OZ at 149F for one minute. I did not care for this brewing at all. The tea was thin and insipid. I feel like I only got about a third of what it has to offer.

I steeped the leaves a second time with water that was much hotter at 165F for one minute and I probably used about 12-OZ of water. This gave me a lovely cup of goodness that was sweet, mildly vegetal with no astringency.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My brewing set up is about as rag-tag as you can get. I brew it in one mug then pour through a tea strainer into another mug. I do weigh the tea and measure the temp of the water. I eyeball the amount of water unless like this morning I want to precisely follow a brewing recommendation.

I have a cast-iron tetsubin but I don't bother with it when I am just brewing tea for myself. It is a pain to make sure the outside is dry so that it doesn't rust.

For a while I was using a sweet little antique Lennox porcelein teapot but sadly I broke it a few months ago.

I have contacted the Japanese company that Wholemeal Crank recently posted about and am waiting to hear back from them about ordering two of their teapots.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two mugs and a strainer works okay for some teas, and that's a set up that I often recommend to friends who want to try fine leaf teas for the least expense. Too bad about the Lennox, but I think you'll enjoy using a Japanese clay teapot for Japanese teas. I'll look forward to seeing them if you can take a pic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Today I am trying the gyokuro suimei from Dens tea again. This time I am measuring per their instructions: 6 g tea for my 6 oz pot, water 140 degrees for 150s first infusion, 160 degrees 60s second infusion, with the timer.

I think I am getting what I am supposed to get: a strongly vegetal, briny, deep green flavor, no hint of bitterness. But not a lot of sweet. A lot of vegetal, briny, deep green. And when I set it down for 10 minutes to go out and shoot my blooming protea when the morning light hit it at the most flattering angle, coming back, the sweet was less and the briny overwhelming.

I will have to try more of this brewed closer to my earlier parameters--a little hotter, a little shorter, to see if I can bring out more sweet. But I suspect that what this really means is that I do prefer the brighter flavor of sencha, in general.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is puzzling, since their site says it should be super sweet in addition to the other elements you are finding. What do you make of that? Perhaps you could ask them if this gyokuro has lost some sweetness since last spring.

I am not sure what to make of this.

Several possibilities come to mind: am I making it a bit too concentrated? I am using a kyusu with a nominal capacity of 6 oz and filled it nearly to the brim this morning, and measured 6g of tea, so kept the 2g/2oz ratio they suggested. But my actual volume in the kyusu was under 6 oz, then I may be overdoing the leaf to water ratio.

Also, it may be past its prime, but I've come across suggestions in a few places that gyokuro tends to improve with a short aging, so one should concentrate on sencha in the spring and summer, when it is freshest, and gyokuro in the fall and winter. By that calculation, the gyokuro should be better than the (last year's) sencha right now.

There's also a question of water to investigate: I have been using my LA city tap water for all of my teas, and this might be one more sensitive to that than my usual oolongs and puerhs.

I am tempted also to conclude that the ratings of the teas are more consistent with their umami than their sweetness, and that I may be happiest with a good but not best quality gyokuro or sencha, those with a bit less umami to overwhelm the sweetness. This would be consistent with my experience to date, but I am so new at these Japanese green that I'm just not sure. I'm a little hesitant to make my first forays into ordering straight from Japan before I figure this out.

I'm planning another couple of sessions with shorter infusions, more dilute, and perhaps starting with the water temps in 160s, to get a better idea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of these teas benefit from playing with small tweaks of the parameters, as you know. (And it would be interesting to see what would happen if you used filtered water for a month for all teas. Inexpensive experiment.) It will be interesting to see what else you turn up.

It also may depend upon how long ago you opened the bag of gyokuro. I find that I can tell a difference after even a week, with gradual changes through about two months of worthwhile brewing. I try to finish a bag within a month, but can't always do it.

Another consideration regarding the umami. Non-organics tend to have more pumped up umami, whereas the organics have a more traditional profile, apparently similar to all Japanese teas before the 1950s. I have had non-organics paired with food to heighten the umami and certainly enjoyed it, but the organics have been growing on me increasingly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good point about the organics.

Doubt freshness since opening is an issue, because it was opened just 10 days ago, and my impression the first time was virtually identical to this time.

Will try some filtered water tomorrow, have a new filter in the brita pitcher. And will try a couple of different concentrations of leaf in some smaller brewings in gaiwans.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First attempt with brita-pitcher-filtered water at 160 degrees F, 1.5 grams and 1.2 grams in 2.5 oz gaiwans, infused for about 1 minute, with sips tasted at 20, 30, and 45 seconds too: more dilute, but still stronger umami/briny/vegetal than sweet.

2g 160 degrees 1 minute: sweeter, some bitter, still strong umami/vegetal/briny

2g 150 degrees 30 seconds, then 2nd infusion 20 seconds: best yet, sweeter, not bitter, better balance of sweet and umami.

And one more time: 2 g, 150 degrees, 30 seconds, compared head to head with the sencha zuiko bought and opened at the same time, and the gyokuro again gives the impression of umami over sweet, and the sencha sweet over umami, with a bit of sharpness--not bitterness, really, just a hint of an edge--that accents the sweet further, and with a bit more *tea* flavor, while the gyokuro is more understated and mellow.

I think I just like sencha better than gyokuro.

Next up, annotated tasting of the lemon myrtle rooibos, because I will need something not caffeinated after this!


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After my mildly disappointing session with the gyokuro vs sencha yesterday, tried a head-to-head tasting of the two Dens senchas I have right now, and I can't tell the difference between the Sencha Zuiko and Sencha Shin-ryoku. Infused 2 grams in the 75mL gaiwans with water at 160 to 170 degrees, infusions about 30 seconds to a bit longer, was being a bit sloppy without timer or counting off precisely, but the end result after 4 infusions is that both are sweet and taste brighter than the gyokuro did, and will bring much morning happiness over the next couple of months.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My first two shinchas have arrived! A Magokoro Shincha from yuuki-cha and the Temomi Shincha from Sugimoto. More on these later. I'll probably wait to open them until I can brew with a tea friend or two.

Has anyone else ordered any of this season's celebratory Shinchas?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm suffering decision paralysis as I consider my first order of japanese tea directly from Japan. I'm not sure how to parse the desciptions to figure out which teas will best fit my taste. I'm getting better at that with the chinese teas I've been drinking for a while, but this is a whole new realm. Shincha on top of that is extremely confusing. I've been reading contradictory information on whether it is mroe umami than regular sencha, or more delicately spring-sweet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.