Monday, December 1, 2014

Yunomi: Obubu Tea #14 Houjicha Amber Roast

You know what is just crazy awesome to me? The tea group that I created back in early 2013 on facebook is 12 members shy of 600. That is mind boggling! I started it at my friend's insistence as a place for us to babble about our shared obsession and as a place for me to teach them about tea, or at the very least point them to the books and websites I used to learn stuff. It started out pretty slow, just some friends and friends of friends, and then it really took off. Before long I enlisted the help of my mom as an admin, and it was only a couple of weeks ago that I was telling the group how awesome it was that we hit 500 members. It is a labor of love, I get frustrated with it at times but my little tea group is awesome, I have met some amazing people because of it.

So, remember back in June when I reviewed Sencha of the Summer Sun? Well, I am drinking the same tea, except this time it has been roasted into Yunomi: Obubu Tea #14 Houjicha Amber Roast. This is really exciting to me, it is like visiting a new friend who got complete facial reconstruction and is still the same person but is also totally different. Ok, that analogy failed utterly, but I hope the gist of what I am saying comes through. Unlike my experience with Obubu's Smoky Roast and Dark Roast I did not get to know the tea pre-roasting, so being able to taste and smell the pre-roasted Sencha is pretty amazing. Enough of my tea geeking out, on to the sensory analysis of the tea leaves. Ok, the aroma of this Houjicha is fun, it starts off as sweet roasted marshmallows and a touch of campfire, it then transitions to toasted sesame, burnt grass, and lastly a tiny wisp of distant sea air. I very much so had a vision pop into my mind of roasted marshmallows on a beach, the fire made from driftwood and sea grass. What is it with roasted teas and their ability to send my brain to such wonderful places?

I decided to brew the tea in my trusty basket inside a teacup, I know I am betraying my kyusu, but when I took the tasting notes for this tea it was really close to me leaving to come out to PA and my breakable teapots were packed away, must keep safe from the cats! The nicely steeped tea smells like a seaside campfire, complete with the slight aroma of toasted seaweed. It is not as sweet as the dry leaves, mostly savory and toasty with a distinct umami. The liquid is a blend of soothing toasted sesame, a touch of seaweed (kelp, specifically) and a bit of smoke. As smoky teas go this is pretty mild, none of those strong char and burning things notes, more like a fire in the distance.

Ah, this is a nicely savory Houjicha. There are, at least that I have experienced, two kinds of Houjicha, the ones that taste sweet like roasted marhsmallows, and the ones that are savory and rich. Obviously this greatly depends on the tea, and since Sencha of the Summer Sun was not a sweet Sencha, this totally makes sense. Yunomi uses the word robust to describe this tea, and I agree, it is a good description, the umami mixture of roasted kelp and campfire washes over your tongue, again it reminds me of a seaside bonfire. At the very finish transitioning into the aftertaste you get a touch of toasted marshmallow, this delicate sweetness with a bit of smoke lingers for quite a while. I can see this being the perfect end of summer beginning of autumn tea, it reminds me so much of that last visit to the ocean before summer is over, but you can start feeling the chill in the air at night.

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