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Tea Tasting: Three Rare Pan-fired Japanese Teas

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Japanese Pan-fired teas?

Japanese Oolongs? Really?

Japanese Kamairicha tea - what's that?

Miyazaki - where's that?

Patience Grasshopper, all will be revealed.

Dan at yuuki-cha.com is providing three fascinating organic Japanese teas for this Tea Tasting & Discussion. The featured teas are grown in Miyazaki on the island of Kyushu, one of the traditional pan-firing regions of Japan.

Organic Miyazaki Oolong Tea Kuchinashi

Organic Miyazaki Kamairicha Sakimidori

Organic Miyazaki Kamairicha Okumidori

More details soon on each of these rare Japanese teas in the next three posts.

How This Tea Tasting & Discussion Works

Sets of the samples will go to up to three eG members active in the forums: if you have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past 12 months, OR if you have at least 10 posts in the Coffee & Tea Forum, and are interested in receiving the free samples and participating in this TT&D, please read on (this post and the three following soon) and then PM me.

The free 10 g samples are available to members who 1) will do at least one brewing session with each of the three teas, and 2) will begin to report on their experience within one week of receiving the sample and participate actively in the discussion with the other tasters and other members.

These teas may be brewed 1) in a gaiwan, or preferably 2) in a Japanese side-handle teapot. Please avoid brewing in a mug or western style teapot - it just will not be the same.

Preference will be given to eGullet Society members who have never received tea samples and participated in a Tea Tasting & Discussion, and who have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past year or 10 in the Coffee & Tea Forum. This preference will last five days, until Midnight, Thursday, September 29, 2011 (US Eastern). If that sounds like you, please PM me ASAP.

As always, everyone who does not receive a sample is welcome and encouraged to participate in the discussion.

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Image used with permission of yuuki-cha.com.

Organic Miyazaki Oolong Tea Kuchinashi

The yuuki-cha website describes this, the first of our three rare Japanese teas, as a Japanese Oolong tea grown organically in Miyazaki on Kyushu Island. The tea was processed using traditional pan-fired techniques - in contrast to the steam processing we are familiar with for Japanese green teas such as sencha. (Click here for a map showing Gokase Town, the growing area, in Myazaki Prefecture and click here for a map of Japan). As you can see Miyazaki Prefecture is on the southernmost of the large Japanese Islands.

Two Japanese tea bush varietals, Takachiho and Minami Sayaka, were used to produce only 20 kg during the first spring harvest in May 2010. Lightly oxidized, it was also lightly pan-fired.

This information was adapted from yuuki-cha.com where you will find more info on this Organic Miyazaki Oolong Tea Kuchinashi. More to come on brewing suggestions.

And more on the next two Japanese teas featured in this Tea Tasting & Discussion. If you would like to receive free samples and participate, please read the first post above and then send me a PM.

(Edited for Location/map correction.)

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There is now a waiting list for members who have participated in a TT&D in the past. You'll be in line if two TT&D newbies do not sign up by the deadline. Please send me a PM if you are interested.

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Photo used with permission of yuuki-cha.com

Looking down on this secluded tea garden surrounded by forest shows several varietals planted at slightly different elevations.

A little background on the two Organic Kamairichi green teas featured in this TT&D. Organic Kamairichi green teas are mostly grown on small family farms in hard to get to areas on the island of Kyushu. Traditional, pan-fired and rare, the two Kamairichi featured are from an area with a reputation for producing the highest quality Kamairichi - Gokase Town in the Nishiusuki District of Miyazaki. (Source: yuukicha.com, more here.)


Photo used with permission of yuuki-cha.com.

Organic Miyazaki Kamairicha Sakimidori

The first Kamairicha for our TT&D is made from the Sakimidori varietal, which was developed in Miyazaki from a cross between established varietals and native varietals. Source: yuuki-cha.com, more here.

Brewing suggestions to come after announcing the three Society members who will receive free samples of the three teas for this Tea Tasting & Discussion.

Info on the second Organic Kamairicha soon.

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Photo used with the permission of yuuki-cha.com.

Organic Miyazaki Kamairicha Okumidori

This particular organic Kamairicha comes from the same Gokase Town area in Miyazaki as the previous Sakimadori. The tea bushes, however, are grown from the Okumidori varietal and produce small-batch, first harvest leaves that are highly prized. Source: yuuki-cha.com. More here.


Photo used with the permission of yuuki-cha.com.

The top of the tea garden at about 700 meters has the most prized tea bushes and produces the highest quality tea leaves. Source: yuuki-cha.com. For more, click here.

Brewing suggestions to come - after the tasters for this TT&D have been announced.

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There is one set of free rare Japanese tea samples available to a Society member for this Tea Tasting & Discussion. If you think you may be interested, please read the first post in this topic carefully, and then PM me.

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Ta Da!

The three members of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters who will receive the free samples of the rare Japanese teas for this Tea Tasting & Discussion are...


Wholemeal Crank


You should receive your samples by the end of next week.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Brewing Guidelines

These brewing suggestions are a good place to start for the first session with each tea. After that, of course, adjust further to your personal taste.

For the Oolong

Much like you would brew a lightly oxidized Chinese or Taiwanese Oolong:

1 g leaf to 1 ounce (30 ml)water, in a pre-warmed kyusu or gaiwan. Three to four ounces water is a good place to start.

First infusion: 90C/195F for 30 to 60 seconds.

Second infusion: 90C/195F for 30 to 60 seconds.

Third infusion: 90C/195F for 40 to 60 seconds.

For the Two Karaimicha

.75 - 1.0 g leaf to 1 ounce (30ml) water...about 3 - 4 ounces to start.

Brewing in a Kyusu

First infusion: 60 sec at 65C/149F to 70C/158F.

Second infusion: instant pour to 30 seconds at 70C/158F to 80C/176F.

Third infusion and beyond: Hotter water with increasing infusion times.

Brewing in a Gaiwan

First infusion: 60C/140F for 60 seconds.

Second infusion: Shorter infusion than the first.

Third infusion and beyond: hotter water with increasing infusion times.

(Brewing guidelines slightly modified from the yuuki-cha brewing sheet enclosed with the tea.)

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Last night I tried both Kamairichas brewed in parallel in small gaiwans with about 75mL water, 2 grams of tea.

The teas are curly, very different from the needle-like bits of senchas, but a nice deep green appropriate to sencha. The leaves smell sweet and rich.

First infusions about 30 seconds because I checked the water temp just after I poured it, and it was hotter than expected--150 degrees. They're both warm, rich, vegetal (peas and corn and asparagus), but also a little lightly floral. Delicate yellow-green liquors.

2nd infusions about 30 seconds, temp about 150 degrees. A little more bite or astringency in the Sakimidori, a little smoother in the Okumidori. I wasn't sure at first if it might have been because the infusion times were a little off, but the differences were consistent through the next infusions. It's not anything unpleasant in the Sakimidori, more noticing an exceptional smoothness in the Okumidori.

3rd infusion, 45 seconds, 155 degrees: still seeing that same difference, more sharpness in the Sakimidori, more smoothness in the Okumidori.

4th infusion, 1 minute, 160 degrees: these are really, really nice teas. They are not senchas, but feel closer to a sencha in flavor than to a pan-fired chinese green tea: I'm imagining a line from Long Jing/Dragon Well to sencha, and these are probably 3/4 of the way from Long Jing towards sencha, and clearly distinct from both.

5th infusion, 160 degrees, 90 seconds: the differences are lessened again. Still both are sweet and vegetal.

6th infusion, still 160 degrees (got careless with this one and forgot to up the temp; the time also is unclear, but I was aiming for about 2 minutes). They're entirely delicious, and just the most subtle difference between them.

7th infusion: spilled the Sakimidori. Enjoying the 170 degree, 2 minute infusion of the Okumidori a lot. Would have liked to try for another infusion, but I need to let things dry after the spill that splashed lovely green leaves and tea all over the base of the electric kettle.

The leaves remain bright grassy green at the end of the infusions, obviously broken pieces but as I suspected when viewing the curly dried leaves, a bit larger on average than the fragments I find in senchas.

First impression is that these are really lovely teas, and quite worth seeking out in future orders.

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I just did a tasting with the Kamairicha Sakimidori. This is the first time I have had any tea like it. I used a small gaiwan which holds about 3oz of water, so I used 3 grams of tea. Overall, I thought the tea was very interesting. The first few infusions were a little challenging with the tannin coming to the front, but the tea develops in a very interesting way.

First infusion, 60C for 60 seconds - The tea was a bright yellow-green, almost neon. A slightly milky texture and light vegetal flavor, most notably, corn with hints of winter greens.

Second infusion, 60C for 45 seconds - Similar color with slightly less green. The milky texture disappears, but the tea still retains some body. It is much more tannic than I expected with just a hint of vegetal flavors and aromas.

Third infusion, 63C for 90 seconds - The color is getting more muted. The tannin is subsiding, but is still the dominate taste. Vegetal flavors coming through more almost reminding me of collards. The body has remained constant.

Fourth infusion, 63C for 90 seconds - The color is mostly yellow and has lightened some. The tannin has balanced with the vegetal flavors and now it really reminds me of winter greens. The body has increased slightly.

Fifth infusion, 63C for 120 seconds - The tannin has nearly subsided which makes the vegetal flavor taste more like a spinach than a collard. The body is slightly heavier than water.

Sixth infusion, 65.5C for 90 seconds - Lighter yellow in color with a milky texture similar to the first steep. A pleasant vegetal flavor follows the milkiness.

Seventh infusion, 65.5C for 120 seconds - Straw yellow with a slightly less milky texture. Not much going on in this cup, just a hint of veg.

Eighth infusion, 65.5 for 120 seconds - Did this just in case and we were happy we did. This was lighter in color, but had a slight citrus kick and had a very subtle sweetness. Very surprising.

Ninth infusion, 71C for 120 seconds - I was hoping to get more of the citrus kick, but ended up with pale tea that had little flavor.

Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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Followed up with the Okumidori tonight. I tried to keep the same quantities and infusion times as with the Sakimidori to get a good comparison. I really liked this tea, extremely smooth and great flavor.

First infusion, 60C for 60 seconds - Bright yellow green with a milky texture. Vegetable heavy (corn) with a slightly sweet backbone, a touch of tannin and a floral nose.

Second infusion, 60C for 45 seconds - Darker green with a stronger tannic flavor. The flavor reminded me of roses and apricots.

Third infusion, 63C for 90 seconds - At this point, I notice that there are many fines in the leaves making it hard to pour without bits falling into the gaiwan. Same color with a nice milky texture. The apricot falls back to a subtle floral flavor.

Fourth infusion, 63C for 90 seconds - More green color and much more smooth than the past infusions. A heavier milky body with a strong apricot flavor.

Fifth infusion, 63C for 120 seconds - Same color, subtle sweetness, apricot and grassiness.

Sixth infusion, 65.5C for 90 seconds - More yellow and a thinner more watery texture. Grass predominates.

Seventh infusion, 65.5C for 120 seconds - Lighter yellow, close to straw. Sweet and milkier than the previous infusion. Apricot is back.

Eighth infusion, 65.5 for 120 seconds - Light yellow and no real flavor left.

Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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Thanks for the detailed tasting notes avaserfi and Wholemeal Crank. It may be interesting to see what happens with a second brewing session for the rare Japanese Kamairicha teas...now that your palette has had an introduction to them.

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Tried the oolong tonight:

The leaves are curly green twists, with a rich sweet scent, and hints of chocolate

2.3 grams of tea in a small porcelain gaiwan with about 70 mL water, filtered tap water at about 195 degrees

first infusion, 30 seconds

pale yellow liquor, sweet, rich, warm summer meadow, grass just turning golden with caramel sweetness, with just a hint of a more astringent vegetal grassiness that adds interest without being at all unpleasant

2nd infusion, 20 seconds

this time the vegetal/grassy flavors are stronger, a bit in front of the golden meadow.

3rd infusion, 45-60 seconds (lost track of time a bit)

this is the moment the tea should bite back with bitterness if it were so inclined, but it is only a little sharper and more insistently green-like, yet still that clearly oolong backdrop that is so surprising in this Japanese tea.

4th infusion, 1 minute

Ok, a teeny bit of astringent bite-back. Teeny. Bit. But still the vegetal/golden warm meadow is stronger in the overall impression, with some astringent aftertaste.

Several more warm delicious infusions, astringency fading again.

I'm now on the 8th or 9th infusion, and out to 4 minutes, and we're at sweet water. But that was a lot of tea from just a few leaves.

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I thought I already posted this, but maybe I was tired and forgot to hit the post button.

Due to work, I won't be able to get another tasting done until Saturday. I hope to do the Oolong Saturday and follow up with brewing both Kamairicha on Sunday. Does anyone have any thoughts on how to tone down the Sakimidori?

Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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I've now enjoyed both the Kamairchas in my Petr Novak kyusu, with an unglazed interior of iron-rich clay. I enjoyed them in my large chawan, I haven't taken a lot of notes, because the teas were so delicious and I find this combination so relaxing that I keep finding myself sipping, slurping, and gulping them and then, they're gone. My notes on the Sakimidori are particularly sparse....

4.2 grams in the kyusu, about 150 mL of filtered tap water (proportions very like my usual sencha brewing in the same kyusu)

30 seconds, 140 degrees: drank this and the next one with such straightforward pleasure that I forgot to take notes. It was not quite sencha, but from my kyusu and chawan and I just unconsciously treated it like my morning sencha. It is delicious.

45 seconds ,150 degrees: nuttiness, grassy, vegetal; a silky warmth to the liquor.

90 seconds, 150 degrees: mmm….

I did not do very well with the notes on this one. It continued a little nutty, grassy, vegetal, sweet, delicious, though about 6 or 7 infusions.

This time I cut back on the temps, and it was pretty well tamed for me.

The Okumidori tonight....4 grams of tea, 30 seconds 145 degrees first infusion, 150 degrees 2nd infusion 20 seconds again--amazingly sweet, and deep, and delicious, as before.

20 seconds, 165 degrees (oops, didn't check temp before pouring, was going to be 45 seconds, 155 degrees!): still mmmmm

160 degrees, 1 minute…..so tasty I forgot to stop and write notes!

170 degrees, 75 seconds: sweet, light, fading a bit, but floral hints still present, not much astringent, delicious

180 degrees, perhaps 2 minutes: still worth drinking, again, very close to sweetwater, but such pleasant sweet water....went for one more at 200 degrees, and it was still sweet and delicious.

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I didn't have time to get a second go at the Kamairchas this weekend, but did try the Oolong which was delicious.

I used 3 grams for the gaiwan again.

First infusion, 90C for 30 seconds - golden/straw colored with a milky consistency, sightly sweet and subtle veg flavors.

Second infusion, 90C for 30 seconds - more mustard colors with a more intense veg flavor. More milky and slight floral notes.

Third infusion, 90C for 45 seconds - same color, but slightly more opaque. Very smooth, richer body and sweeter, but the veg flavor reduced.

Fourth infusion, 90C for 1 minute - slightly darker and more astringent with a subtle metallic flaor. Still milky with some sweetness and veg notes.

Fifth infusion, 90C for 1 minute - lighter yellow and more mild texture and flavor. Slight metallic notes persist.

Sixth infusion, 90C for 2 minutes - darker yellow again, more floral and sweet. Heavier body. Metallic note persists.

Seventh infusion, 90C for 3 minutes - Same yellow, very subtle flavor, mostly metallic sweet water.

Any ideas on what was causing the metallic flavor? I assume it was an off flavor, but have no clue what could be causing it.

Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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Another excellent session with the Organic Miyazaki Oolong Tea Kuchinashi by Yuuki-cha. Poised on the borderline between a typical green and a more typical 'green' chinese oolong tea, delicious delicate stuff. There is just a hint of red at the edges of the leaves, proving their 'oolong'-ness.

I'm not finding any metallic taste in the liquor, as brewed tonight in my porcelain korean pot, but a couple of times I've noted what might be a metallic aftertaste. I would never have noticed it without being 'primed' by the prior post.

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avaserfi - as Wholemeal Crank pointed out, you may need to tune your brewing of the Sakimidori to fit your tastes, although I would be surprised if you had to brew it as weak as WmC typically brews teas. Also note that she brewed hers in an unglazed clay and drank them in a chawan that I assume has a glazed interior. The unglazed clay most likely impacts the flavor and even the glazed clay may as well.

We have three basic variables to tweak a tea (other than using various unglazed clay teapots): the tea:water ratio, the time and the temp. My preference is to hold the tea:water ratio constant and then one at a time adjust the other two variables. You may find, for example, that simply lowering the temp will take the astringency to a level you enjoy more.

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When I am starting out with a new tea, if an infusion is unpleasant, the first thing I do is try a 50% or more dilution of fresh hot water from the kettle--transferring to a larger cup if necessary--to figure out if the problem is the concentration (due to excess of leaf or too long of an infusion) or the temperature. That is often a helpful step before changing temperatures, and doesn't "waste" any of the goodness of the leaf.

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I just rebrewed the Sakimidori tonight with very different results. As a note, I was in a poorly lit environment so I can't comment on colors.

First infusion, 60C for 30 seconds - milky, slightly sweet and vegetal with a pleasant bit of funk at the end.

Second infusion, 60C for 30 seconds - same as above, but more intense

Third infusion, 60C for 60 seconds - For some reason I didn't take notes here, but remember a slight (pleasant) astringency with similar flavors from above. Less body.

Fourth infusion, 60C for 90 seconds - again it has a milky consistency, with veg upfront and funk in the back.

Fifth infusion, 60C for 120 seconds - tasted like sweet water with a dry finish. Slightly more body than water.

Sixth infusion, 63C for 90 seconds - fairly similar to the last brew.

Seventh infusion, 63C for 120 seconds - not much going on.

This time there was much less astringency, but the tea was less complex. With the last brew I am hoping to find a middle ground.

Andrew Vaserfirer aka avaserfi

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