Kyobancha by Yunomi.us and Obubu Tea Farm captures the idea of Winter in a different way than most teas. From Kyoto (that is where the Kyo part of the name comes from) this Bancha is plucked in March, having spent the entire Winter curing on the bush and then roasted. A rare tea, even hard to find in Japan, I knew I had to try it because the idea of this tea's Winter journey makes me think that a little bit of the season is captured in the leaf. I am nothing if not whimsical in my way of looking at nature. The aroma is that of old leaves, like it is late Autumn and you are walking through a forest where all the leaves have fallen and there is that distinct aroma of old leaves and crispness. There is a roasted aroma but it is faint compared to other roasted teas and there is also a mild loamy aroma that ties it in with the forest imagery. I really enjoy where the aroma of this tea transports my mind.
Once the leaves are steeped the aroma of loam becomes stronger, as does the roasted aroma. I can also pick up notes of umami as I move the leaves away from my nose. It is savory and rich with also an earthy note and a very delicate hint of smoke. The liquid has a strong roasted aroma, but also notes of buttery sweetness.
Time for tasting! The first thing I notice is the buttery and very smooth mouthfeel, it just slides down my throat and I have be careful to not chug it! The flavor is sweet and rich with notes of earthiness and loam with a hint of wood. It reminds me a bit of brandy but without the alcohol, hard to imagine alcohol without the alcohol, I know. There is of course a roasted taste as well, it is mild, I could see someone who is not a huge fan of roasted teas enjoying this one. The flavors in this tea, while being distinct are also very subtle, it is a soothing tea for when you don't want to be overwhelmed by flavor and just want to enjoy the delicate. As the tea cools it becomes sweeter and smoother. This tea is wonderful for cold days or right before bed (especially since it has almost no caffeine) and is very soothing to the stomach after a rich meal.