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Richard Kilgore

Tea Tasting: Sencha Select, Japanese Green Tea

23 posts in this topic

Kyle Stewart at The Cultured Cup is providing their Sencha Select for this Tea Tasting & Discussion. The bag was opened at The Cup just two days ago and this Japanese green tea smells wonderful. Kyle is providing 10 gram samples to me and three other members of the eGullet Society.

The three free samples are available to members who 1) will do at least two brewing sessions from the sample, 2) will report on their experience and participate in the discussion within 7 days of receiving the sample, and 3) who have previously posted at least ten (10) substantive posts (questions, answers, comments that add to discussions) in the Coffee and Tea forum. The 10 g sample is enough to brew four first infusion cups western style in a teapot or infuser cup (about 2.5 g to 6 ounces of water), or it may be brewed Japanese style in a kyusu (about .6 g per ounce of water). More brewing suggestions to come.

Preference will be given until midnight (EDST) Monday October 26, 2009 to those who have not participated in the last two tastings.

As always, everyone is welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion, whether or not you receive a sample.

So, please PM me now if you would like to receive one of the the free samples and participate in the tasting and discussion.

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I would love to taste and post comments on this tea.


slowfood/slowwine

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There are still two free samples of the Sencha Select provided by eGullet Society member Kyle Stewart at The Cultured Cup. Please PM me if you are interested after reviewing the first post.

As I have mentioned in other topics, I have known Kyle Stewart, co-owner of The Cultured Cup, for some time now, having bought tea from his shop for many years, at least 10 years I believe it is. And for the past three years or so Kyle has been instrumental to my tea education through the T-Bar Club at The Cultured Cup. Kyle attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas this summer and completed his three years of training with the Speciality Tea Institute to become the first certified tea specialist in Texas. I have had many pleasant times with Kyle and his staff - Adam, Kelly and Sam, trading teas and sharing new tea discoveries. More than just a tea merchant I happen to buy tea from, Kyle is a culinary friend as well as a tea friend - the wonderful tea pairings at Sharon Hage's York Street restaurant and a shared interest in Asian food.

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Got mine last night, intend to start the day with it shortly, after I evict the cat from my lap so I can get to the kitchen.

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[cat-ectomy completed]

2 grams in 6 ounce glass pot, preheated, water 160 degrees*, 30 seconds first infusion

sweet, just hints of asparagus/vegetal, trace astringent; delicate yellow green liquor with silky body

45 second second infusion, more astringency/vegetal and some slight bitterness, but still immensely sweet

30 second third infusion, sweet still there, astringency milder, aftertaste of sweet grass

LOVE this tea!

*will try warmer next time, but the denstea site recommends 160-180, and I'm a bitter wimp, so started low, and so rewarding


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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You're already in the right range on temp, WmC. The Cultured Cup recommends 155 F for one minute for the first infusion. I have been doing that and 30 - 45 seconds for the second infusion and 60 - 90 seconds on the third. For the fourth infusion I add about 30 seconds to the third, and for the fifth I add about a minute to the fourth. This is a fairly flexible sencha, but I have not brewed it higher than 160, so let us know what happens if you do.

You all may not care for the fourth and especially the fifth, since they are usually thinner. But if you go really short on the second infusion (10 seconds), the third and fourth ones may sing to you.

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Well, I took note of the amount of tea and water to use up thread but did not note a suggested time.

I steeped 3 grams of tea in a make shift gaiwan with 8 oz water (approx 185 F)for 3 minutes.

The color of the liquor is a beautiful yellow/green, almost chartreuse.

The aroma is very green and vegetal. It struck me as smelling like raw pumpkin.

The taste is lightly sweet and green. It is green and vegetal but in a tender, fine, not robust way. I kept trying to put my finger on the flavor I was getting and all of the sudden it hit me, it tastes like spaghetti squash.

At the moment I am drinking a second steeping, 8 oz- 4 minutes. The leaves gave most of their glory to the first cup; this one is pretty thin.

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You're already in the right range on temp, WmC. The Cultured Cup recommends 155 F for one minute for the first infusion. I have been doing that and 30 - 45 seconds for the second infusion and 60 - 90 seconds on the third. For the fourth infusion I add about 30 seconds to the third, and for the fifth I add about a minute to the fourth. This is a fairly flexible sencha, but I have not brewed it higher than 160, so let us know what happens if you do.

You all may not care for the fourth and especially the fifth, since they are usually thinner. But if you go really short on the second infusion (10 seconds), the third and fourth ones may sing to you.

Wow, I brewed at a much higher temp (around 180-185) and for much longer (3 min.).

I liked the tea the way I brewed it. It seems like it would not give me all that I want at such cool, short steepings. I will nevertheless try cooler and short next.

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I just tried it shorter and cooler, 45 sec. at 170 F- 3 g to 8 oz, and I feel like only half of the goodness has come out of the leaves.

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One minute at around 160 in a pre-warmed pot is the usual starting place for any sencha, but whatever pleases your tastebuds is what counts. At higher temps and longer times you are unlikely to get 3 - 5 infusions out of it, as you found.

That said, your 3 g to 8 ounces is weaker than the usual ratio for sencha, which runs .6 g up to about 1.0 g per ounce. So for your 8 ounces I would be using 4.8 g and up. But I'll try it at your higher temp, longer time and see what happens. Later though, since I am on my fourth infusion lower and slower.

Edited to add: I realize I wrote in the first post something about 2.5 g per 6 ounces, and your ratio is similar to, though still a little weaker than, that.


Edited by Richard Kilgore (log)

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I did not give this tea enough credit--did only three infusions the first time. After reading the other notes, started over with smaller quantities--1 gram in about 2 ounces of water in a small gaiwan--and still 160 degree water, and did 30, 10, 45, and then another 4 or so 30-40 second infusions, good to the last one. The shorter 2nd infusion did cut down on the bit of bitterness I noted the first time around.

Gorgeous stuff.

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1.4 grams to 2 ounces of 160 degree water* today, and the result was excellent, but not so different from the one gram per 2 ounces version as to really justify the extra quantity of tea.

The best part of this tasting for me is that it confirms that senchas can be pretty amazing without going all the way to the gyokuros.

Again this time, the 2nd infusion, very short, but after a break of 2 minutes or so to prep some toast, seemed to pull out most of the bitterness, but still just a little, and the first and remaining were nearly all bitter-free. Now suspecting it is a timing thing--the sweet elements are drawn out first at these temps, and the bitter starts to come out a little later, and a short infusion captures a lot of that but the sweet is coming out at a steady rate and so the short infusion gets a lot of the bitter (again, not that there is much there) and less of the sweet, so is relatively less sweet, but the remaining infusions are again dominated by the slower, steadier release of the sweet.

At any rate, a delightful tea, and a marvelous companion to my brother's honey on sourdough toast.

*had meant to try hotter but the water had cooled to this by the time I started brewing and the toast was ready. Oops.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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Before I finished off my sample, I wanted to share how pretty this sencha is, from this morning's brewing:

4095884486_96d9757f3a.jpg

4095124543_711250f2cf_m.jpg

4095885978_c5a26c7878_m.jpg

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I finished my sample today. A little more than 4 grams to 8 oz. water for three minutes again. I got three nice infusions from the leaves.

After focusing on oolongs and drinking the pu erh we're also currently tasting, each time I've had this sencha it has at first struck me as very green and vegetal but after a few sips I happily settle into it and greatly enjoy its sweetness and the vegetal qualities mellow out on the second infusion.

WC's description of this tea's liquor as silky is right on.

Thanks to Kyle for having us sample this tea. This tasting has me eager to do more tasting in the world of senchas.

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Silky - I agree with you and LuckyGirl - that's a good description of this sencha, WMC. BTW, at a tea pairing lunch at Sharon Hage's York Street restaurant today, Kyle mentioned that there are something like 51 grades of sencha (that may not be the exact number, so if I am off, blame me, not Kyle). Don't know where this one stands exactly, but it is one of the best senchas he has carried and I have been drinking senchas from The Cultured Cup for several years. At times when he has carried a "Sencha" and a "Sencha Select", the Sencha always has been very good, but the Sencha Select has been noticeably more intensely flavorful and smoother.

WmC, I agree that the difference between 0.5 g and 0.7 g per ounce of water would not make much if any difference at all at your very short brewing times. I think, however, some people could detect a little difference at more standard infusion times.

LuckyGirl, your experience of the first infusion is fairly common I think. Sometimes the second infusion turns out to be my favorite, and I don't think that's unusual.

Thanks to both of you for participating in this Tea Tasting and Discussion, and to Kyle Stewart and The Cultured Cup for providing the Sencha Select tea samples.

More Tea Tasting & Discussions on the near horizon, so be sure to sunscribe to the Coffee & Tea forum so you'll be among the first to know when free tea samples are offered next.

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