Thursday, February 23, 2017

Yunomi: Furyu Batabatacha, Rare Bancha Tea, A Tea Review

Today feels more like what I expect the end of February to feel like, cloudy and chilly with a feeling of impending drizzle that never quite delivers. Yesterday it was in the 70s, so I decided to hand-wash my heated blanket...I *embarrassingly* admit to needing to wash it a while ago, but not wanting to because I use it for pain management and was waiting for warmth, like yesterday. Of course, it is still not dry, and since it is a heated blanket I can't toss it in the dryer, so I am full of joint aches and cold. Granted I could close the windows, but I value fresh air more than warmth, plus it is only in the 50s so it is not that cold, I am just sensitive to temperatures...and enjoying the fresh air before the deathly heat of summer comes too soon.

Today's tea is a really fun one, Yunomi's Furyu: Batabatacha, Rare Bancha Tea, one of several Japanese dark teas offered by Yunomi, and a must try on my quest to try all the dark teas of Japan. This fermented tea (which looks a lot like a mulch pile) is harvested in Autumn and is a tea very important to the culture of Asahimachi Birudan of Toyama Prefecture. I could go into long winded detail on the history, fermentation, and production of this tea, but My Japanese Green Tea has already done that, so go give it a read, it is my favorite blog for all things Japanese tea! The aroma of the adorable mulch pile is filled with notes I love, wet leather, decaying pine needles, old wet wood, autumn air, forest floor, and a wet cedar trunk. It smells like what I imagine a forest cabin in the dense boreal forest of Canada would smell like, but maybe I have an overactive imagination. I feel like this is the kind of tea I want to sniff when playing D&D and my character is adventuring in the woods, it is an evocative thing!

So brewing this tea is...special. No short Gongfu or even long-ish western steeping for this one, nooo. You boil the leaves for a whopping ten minutes, I actually had to set a timer. Definitely make sure you add enough water (Yunomi recommends 2.5g to 500ml) because there will be evaporation, but you are going for a dense tea. The aroma of the wet leaves is rich, strong loam and wet cedar wood with a distinct milky quality. Not all fermented teas do this, but I absolutely LOVE when I run into one that smells kinda milky, specifically like a cup of warm whole milk but heated in a wooden cup. The liquid also has a milky quality, with warm wood, cedar, and a bit of distant sweetness.

So, after you boil this tea for what seems like forever, you need to whisk it using a fluffy long handled twin whisk, not very similar to a Chasen, more like the bamboo wok brush I used to use. Yunomi does sell them, but at the time of brewing my sample I did not have one, so I improvised with my Chasen, sadly the whisking did not get the vibrant white and very fluffy foam that the appropriate whisk does, alas. The taste is fantastic and weird, it starts with a bitter medicinal quality, a bit herbaceous and camphor with a slightly dry mouthfeel. Then it moves it sweet pine resin and a killer awesome thick milky aftertaste that lingers for a while. I have mentioned it before and will say it again, fermented teas do weird things to my body, and this one was no exception! When I started the cup...err bowl...I noticed a relaxing warmth flooding out from my belly into my limbs, and then by the time I had the bow empty I had the chills and sweats...I don't sweat, part of my body being weird, but it can be in the hundreds and I don't sweat (yes, this has caused me to suffer heat exhaustion more times than I would like to admit) the only time I do is when I am sick and my fever breaks or on weird occasions after drinking fermented tea. I have no idea if this is at all normal, but I don't find it unpleasant, in fact I felt rather invigorated and after I drank my bowl of tea I ended up with a ton of energy and reorganized my room...again. Next time I order from Yunomi I forsee myself getting more of this tea and a fancy whisk so I can really go authentic!

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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