Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ocha & Co: Organic Japanese Shincha 2016, A Tea Review

I had the strangest thing happen today, there was a package from UPS! I get a lot of mail, perks of tea-blogging, but usually I know when something is supposed to show up, so when I saw this mysterious package I assumed it was tea I had forgotten about. Nope! It was my heart monitor! I was expecting a call from my doctor to come in and get hooked up, but no, this is all done solo. So far wearing it is not a giant pain, it is only two electrodes and they are not too itchy (yet) and the monitor is not hugely bulky (in comparison to the short-term one I wore in high school where I was covered in electrodes and had to wear a huge fanny-pack) so far my only complaint is I have to either wear pants with pockets or carry a purse so I don't have to have the monitor in my hand at all times. Of course I have to wear this for 21 days, I might be singing a different tune by then!

You know what one of my favorite things about this time of year is? Shincha! That first plucking of the Sencha harvest, it is a thing that is hard to get and usually requires pre-ordering! Today I am looking at Ocha & Co.'s  Organic Japanese Shincha 2016, brewing it in my typical kyusu method, and also on a whim I decided to ice steep it. First let us examine the leaves before they go off to be steeped, they are vibrant and green, and the aroma is astoundingly fresh! Notes of raw spinach, lettuce, crisp fresh seaweed, and a touch of rice (specifically the aroma of water from rinsing rice) waft off the leaves. The green aroma of this tea is more marine and vegetal than grassy, so if you are a person who prefers their greens not on the grassy side, the aroma of this tea is very promising. Granted I don't mind the grassy notes, but I know plenty of people who do.

First up is brewing with my Kyusu, since it was just me I used my smaller one (I have...a few) and the aroma of the wet leaves is still very fresh and green, with notes of sweet hat, cooked spinach, bamboo leaves, fresh seaweed, and lettuce. Towards the end is a tiny bit of starchy rice water, but the aroma is mostly crisp green and gently sweet. The aroma of the liquid is light and sweet with notes of sun warmed hay, crisp lettuce, and bamboo leaves. There is a very gentle undertone of cane sugar, adding a nectar quality to the aroma.

The first thing I noticed about this initial steep is the pleasantly thick mouthfeel, usually something I associate with Gyokuro rather than Sencha, but I do admit it has been over a year since my last Shincha and I tend to pay extra attention to mouthfeel these days. The taste is a wonderful balance between green and sweet, notes of sweet hay and sugar cane blend with bamboo leaves and gentle spinach. Towards the end is a savory note of fresh seaweed that is replaced with lingering sweetgrass sweetness in the aftertaste.
For the second steep I decided to drink it outside, it was so fresh and green that I wanted to enjoy it under a tree. The aroma is a tad greener, stronger notes of seaweed and spinach, with undertones of cane sugar and bamboo leaves. The taste is still sweet, with gentle notes of sugar cane and sweet hay, but wow, the umami has arrived in force! Stronger notes of spinach and lettuce with crisp bamboo leaves dance in my mouth, it is smooth and rich! 

Lastly the much longer to prepare ice steeping! What you do for this is place the tea in the bottom of whichever tool you are using for brewing (I used the houhin style gaiwan I have) and then load the thing up with ice cubes (putting a few leaves on top for aesthetics is fun too) the tea steeps as the ice melts making for one intense cup. Of course you have to wait for the ice to melt, so it is best to occupy yourself with something else while waiting, unless it is heat wave time.

Tasting this tea was wow, like Gyokuro brewed in the traditional way, you can see why tea tasters officially call the liquid of tea the 'soup' because wow, the thickness is intense. Notes of buttery cooked spinach, edamame, and seaweed explode in an umami burst in my mouth, it is seriously intense and delicious! We are expecting a heat wave later this week (ewwww) and I am going to indulge in this at least once a day, it is so refreshing!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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