Friday, October 3, 2014

Yunomi: Furyu: Bancha Goishicha, A Tea Review

I feel much better today! It is delightfully chilly, my Minecraft Hoodie is out of my trunk, and my cat is nestled in my lap. Pretty sure all my problems were being caused by allergies, after a really scary asthma attack last night I decided to take some allergy meds and oh man, such an improvement. I forget that my allergies go bonkers in Autumn in Kansas City, I am so glad I am escaping to PA, I might avoid the worst of it. Allergies or no, I love this time of year...being under blankets and having a snugly heat-seeking cat make it extra wonderful. I am in an excellent mood.
Roger the Tea Frog looks dubious 
 Today's tea from Yunomi might have the distinction of being the most interesting tea I have ever reviewed, I cannot tell you how excited I was to try Furyu's Bancha Goishicha! This rare dark tea from Kochi Prefecture in the town of Otoyo, it is named Goishicha because the chunks of tea are reminiscent of the game of Go. For a while this tea was extremely rare (having only one producer) but recently thanks to the local government there are more producers of this unique tea. One of the things that makes this tea so fancy is the way it is made, using a method called after-fermentation, first the leaves are steamed, stacked, and covered with a mat to allow it to ferment, but wait...there's more! After that the leaves are stuffed into a barrel with a rock on top to continue fermenting it, lastly the leaves are laid in the sun to try. You can see that a lot of work went into making this tea. Sniffing this hockey puck of tea is awesome, it smells more like food than tea, with notes of old oak wood, soy sauce, salty sea air, a tiny bit of smoke, wet leather, and a bit of a savory meaty finish. I can certainly see why this tea is used to make Chagayu, because it smells like food! I kinda want to eat this tea instead of putting it into my kyusu.

So, after giving the chunk of tea a five minute steep, my kyusu is leaking some powerful aromas, I am not sure the word pungent fits, but wow, that is fascinating! The aroma of the wet leaves is sauce, seriously guys, it smells like sauce, like someone blended soy sauce, Ponzu Sauce, Mirin Sauce, kelp and old wet leather. The liquid smells like food too, the same saucy concoction but with a hint of rice and more of an aged, oak cask aroma.

Wow! Ok that is so weird! It does not taste like any tea I have ever had, and I have had a lot of tea! It starts off very sour, like lemons mixed with soy sauce, a nice dash of kelp, with a finish of leather and mushrooms. It tastes like a mix of my favorite sauces and is really intense, I decided to try it chilled as well so I refreshed my cup and put it in the fridge for a few. Cold takes the edge off the sour, so if you find that lemony sourness is too much for you (I eat salt covered lemons as a stomach soother, so it is totally not too much for me) I suggest chilling it.

Guess who is going for a round two? Yeah, it is me, I want to see what this chunk of aged tea can do! The aroma of this steep has a sweetness to it, along with of a leather tone with a great combo of saucers from the previous steep. This steep is much milder, it is still sour, but instead of tasting like an entire lemon, it is like a little squeeze of lemon with notes of Mirin and Soy sauce. The aftertaste is smoky and leathery with a lemony quality that lingers for a long time. I am amazed at how refreshing this tea is, I feel rather invigorating, but not in a caffeine way, but more of a I just dove into a mountain creek in summer kind of refreshed.

Oh man, the third steep is where it is at! The aroma is pretty much identical to the second steep, so no new observations there. The taste however, well, that is just fun! It is the perfect balance of sourness, sweetness, and savory. The notes of sweet plum wine, leather, mushrooms, soy, lemon, kelp...it is awesome! The lemony sourness lingers along with gentle smokiness, again I feel really refreshed after this steep. I had a great day with this tea, I sat sipping it all day being enamored by the uniqueness of this tea. I certainly want more, I want to make all my tea friends try this, I want to cook with it, I want to have it around when I need a pick-me-up tea. This tea is absolute love.
Espeon is a lap hog


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