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

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Not sure where to put this review, because this is such an in-between-y tea:

Sunpu Boucha - 2010 1st Harvest Hon Yama Kuki-Hojicha

Got a little sample of this free with my latest Norbu order, and because I want to get to sleep early tonight, I figured a low-caffeine tea was just the ticket for my first taste of the new stuff. I very much enjoy a roasted toasted flavor in my teas, but the first genmaicha I tried was overwhelmingly toasty and not at all to my taste. I think this tea must be what genmaicha wishes it could be: warm toasty but also sweet and surprisingly, fruity!

I started with 2.4 grams of tea in my small gaiwans (about 75mL or 2.5 oz water per infusion), with water at 150 degrees. I used shorter infusion times than Greg recommends just because I’m a tea wimp and like most of my teas a little more dilute than average, and for the same reason I started on the lower end of his suggested temp range.

I started 30 seconds, then 15, 30, 45, 45. All infusions were warmly toasty, but not so toasted as to be bitter (in this very different than that genmaicha that I couldn’t really enjoy at all). They were also sweet, and where I was expecting some vegetal flavors from the green leaf, something alchemical happened with the toasted stems transmuting it into fruitiness. Wonderful, odd, but wonderful. Very very nice. The sweet n’ fruity faded with later infusions, but even at my fifth it was delicious (probably lasting so long because of my short infusion times).

This is a very nice tea.

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Spring 2010 Hon Yama Zairai Sencha

from Norbu Tea

This is a sweet, nutty, vegetal sencha without the strong briny umami that I so often find offputting in more heavily steamed senchas and gyokuro.


The leaf is deep rich green, medium long fragments--not quite as long as the Sayamakaori from Yuuki-cha, but longer than my average Asamushi sencha, very sweet smelling, even a bit nutty.

2.5 grams of leaf in a small gaiwan, about 2.5 oz or 75 mL of tap water per infusion

1st infusion, 30 seconds

sweet, vegetal, nutty, very nice

2nd infusion, 10 seconds

vegetal, sweet, nutty--the nutty is a hint of astringency, I think, but not bitterness, and a hint of toasted/roasted flavor

3rd infusion, 45 seconds

again, the toasty, vegetal nuttiness, astringency, but light

a 4th infusion, 1 minute

still nutty, vegetal, now fairly astringent


The finished leaves are bright green, and moderately broken up, although I did fine one or two small whole leaves


I think part of the astringency is the brewing, here, because just for accuracy's sake, not really for comparison, I'm brewing up some of the Yuuki-Cha Sayamakaori sencha at the same time, and finding some of the same elements in it--not the roastedness, but more astringency than I'm used to. I think my leaf-to-water ratio is really not quite the same as in the kyusu. But I've got a pretty good idea that this is going to be a very nice sencha, and am looking forward to first proper session with the Tokoname kyusu.

Both with this and with another new green tea I tried this weekend, it's quite clear that despite attempts to control conditions, changes in brewing conditions for the purpose of doing these comparisons--brewing sencha in my gaiwans instead of my kyusu--sometimes distorts the results, because I'm moving outside my usual comfort zone.

A 2nd set of infusions, in the 5 oz kyusu with 4 grams of leaf, tap water 160 degrees at first, infusions 30", 15", 30"; raised temp to 170 degrees for 45 seconds and 1 minute infusions, worked out better, still some astringency but not as much.

This is a nice, vegetal nutty sencha.

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Another brewing of the Zairai sencha this morning, and at Greg's suggestion, I tried a lower temperature: 145 degrees, and it is quite entirely lovely. This is the sweet spot. 30", 10", 30". Upped temp to 155 for the 4th infusion. Sweet and nutty and lovely. The nutty was decreased in the first infusion vs the last time when I started 160 degrees, but came back in the 2nd and third infusion; the fourth, with hotter water, brought back the sweetness over the nutty. Still, the nuttiness reminds me a lot of Long Jing.

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After that very nice session with the Norbu Zairai sencha two days ago, today I tried my Sayamakaori cooler than usual--starting at 145 degrees, ending up at 160, instead of starting first infusions 160 and gradually increasing to 180 degrees.

It was lovely--a little sweeter, mellower, but still rich and vegetal. Very nice.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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  • 4 weeks later...

Finished off the Zairai sencha last week, so now starting a new one from Norbu:

Yamakai Sencha - 2010 1st Harvest Shizuoka Sencha

One sniff and I'm already in love: the scent is sweet and rich. 5 grams of tea to my 150mL kyusu, prewarmed, water to 140 degrees per Greg's brewing recommendation.

Brewing 2 minutes first steep, throwing caution to the wind…and it is sweet and rich.

30 second 2nd steep, delicious and sweet, a bit astringent and nutty too.

For 3 steep, heating the water to 150, just to play a little more, and steeping 1 minute--similar to previous infusion, but a bit lighter in body and richness--really think it's done at 3.

I may play with it a bit more next time, because I am concerned that the very long first steep took a bit more of the punch that should have been left for the later steeps.

Overall, this is a lovely sencha. Without a head-to-head comparison, it's hard to rank it other than saying it's right up there with my top-tier senchas. Lovely for breakfast this morning with toast with honey-butter.

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  • 5 months later...

This week I tried my first shincha of 2011:

Uji Asamushi Sencha "Aoi" by O-Cha.com

Finally finished off the last of a 2010 packet of sencha, and have now started my first 2011 shincha:

Very deep green leaves, most fairly small pieces, sweet rich scent

between 5 and 6 oz water, 160 degrees in my Petr Novak kyusu, about 45 seconds first infusion

sweet, nutty, vegetal, lightly grassy, and delicate green color but can’t judge that well against the blue glaze of the teacup

2nd infusion, 20 seconds, 160 degrees, very similar, some grassiness a little more prominent towards the end of the infusion

3rd infusion, 170 degrees, 30-45 seconds, sweet, vegetal, a little less nutty, sugar snap peas rather than asparagus

4th infusion, 170 degrees, 1 minute, sweet, light, astringency absent

There was a 5th, but I was too distracted to note much—it was 180 degrees, for about a minute, quite light and tasty.

Addendum: 2nd series of infusions, about the same setup, except I started lower, 145 degrees, working up to 180 at the sixth, still all delicious, perhaps even a little moore so than the first time. Nice that it’s so flexible.

One sad note: my packet is 100 grams, so given my 2-4 times weekly sencha habit, it may not all be drunk while still ‘shincha fresh’. And that would be sad. Will have to step up the sencha-brewing.

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  • 3 months later...

Another new sencha to me today: Organic Sencha "Warashina Supreme" by O-Cha.com

Opening the pouch, first notice a sweet rich scent, with hints of cherries & chocolate.

Preheated the kyusu (iron-rich clay, unglazed interior) for the 4 grams of leaf, typical sencha appearance of the dark thin pieces of leaf.

First infusion 160 degrees, about 30 seconds, pouring into my big chawan, lots of leaf bits come too—probably will strain the next infusion. Thick, silky, rich mouthfeel with sweet, delicate vegetal flavor, oh my. It is a little less leaf than I usually use in this 160mL kyusu, so the richness of the mouthfeel is surprising.

Really enjoying this one a LOT, now about the 5th infusion, and temp upped to 180 degrees for this infusion: it’s still sweet, light, rich. A bit of astringency has crept in, and I probably should have kept this one a bit shorter.

One more infusion, 180 degree water, and about 1 minute infusion, and we’re back to sweet, light, rich, with astringency retreating again into the background. I agree that this one is ‘Supremely’ good.

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  • 3 months later...

Today I opened a new package of Organic Miyazaki Haru Bancha by Yuuki-cha. Tastes like newly mown spring grass smells: deeply, richly, grassy. A little sweet, a hint of briney, but not umami, gently herbaceous without being astringent or bitter. A delightful surprise. Several infusions in, starting as suggested at 175°F (about 80°C), still very neat and interesting tea.

It is so cool that someone figured out how to use the leftovers to make something as bright and lovely as this.

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  • 4 months later...

My favorite sencha for daily drinking is made by Yamamotoyama. Lately, I have been drinking a lot of macha.

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I haven't been drinking much sencha for the past few months.....got out of the morning sencha habit. Happily, I'm now sufficiently well equipped at work to make afternoon or evening sencha a reasonable choice, so I'm getting some in here and there. But I've got some new sencha samples lined up to taste, must get going with them.

I'm still officially agnostic re: matcha. Haven't yet had the 'aha!' moment that came so easily with oolongs and puerhs and white teas, and not so easily for green and black teas. It's too expensive to waste on 'meh' results, so until I can get to a matcha party with an expert and a selection of great matchas, I'll let the rest of you enjoy it and use my chawan for other teas.

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  • 1 month later...

Dens provides good teas for the price. I have enjoyed several of their senchas. I also feel like I've gotten pretty nice tea for the rice from Yuuki-cha, and O-Cha. Each of these companies offers a range of tea prices, and I've rarely bought the fanciest, but I've enjoyed all of them.

Do you know if you prefer a lighter or darker steamed sencha--asamushi or fukamushi?

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Then I'd recommend Dens Shin-ryoku, and while you're there, toss in some Kukicha, for toasty contrast; and from Yuuki-Cha, including a pouch of the lovely Haru-Bancha for variety (out of stock now, bummer), and probably any of their organic senchas--the selection this year have different names than the 2010 teas I've ordered before, as suits your budget, but I have been happy with both their lower-end and mid-priced teas; and for O-cha, well, I've liked all the selections I picked from them last year, but I was buying their fancier teas--Warashina supreme, 'Aoi'.

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  • 2 years later...

Definitely Matcha, I love em, with milk I use the powder and for the day I use leafs. I use to be drinking Coffees until green tea came by and at first i thought it was not economically but then quickly find out that I don't need as much tea to stay awake and energized as coffee (since tea slowly releases caffeine instead of giving shots like caffeine to the body like coffee does).

Love Matcha cappuccino, green tea beats coffee any day of the week :)


Robert C.

Have a Green Day,

Robert C.


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