Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Japanese Green Tea In: Issaku, A Tea Review

Ugh, Fibromyalgia is giving me a good walloping again, my usual constant pain is up to a level where I am immensely unhappy with it. Fibro is weird, at least my case is, this particular disorder affects everyone differently (which is why it is so hard to treat) and mine is no exception. Each time I flair it seems some part of my body goes into stupid mode, and this one seems to be bad (though not unusual) abdominal pain, like my entire abdominal region is one giant pulled muscle and catch. Now the reason I am saying all this is because my dear little Espeon is amazing. She always gets very worried when I am flaring, becoming extra clingy, just a moment ago she hopped into my lap and started kneading my abdomen, and the little kitty massage was so nice. I have no idea if she comprehends how soothing that was, but it certainly made my foul mood a bit better.

Today's tea is a green one, continuing my acknowledgment of the early return of spring,  Japanese Green Tea In's Issaku. From the Arahataen Green Tea Farm, this tea is grown using the Chagasuba Method, an old technique using local grasses and sugar cane to make a mulch, which in turn makes a really good soil. As anyone who gardens will tell you, soil health is vital to plant health, a real skilled gardener (like my mom) can tell you the health of the soil by looking at it and then tell you what it needs to flourish. As a side note, can I just say how entertaining it is to be from a family of champion gardeners and the only thing I can grow is moss (sometimes) and fungi? Another fun thing about this tea is it is processed as Kuradashi Cha 'Tea taken out of the granary' another old technique! Back in the day the tea was harvested in spring, and we all sadly know that Japanese greens (especially Shincha) does not have a ton of shelf-life, especially back in the day before proper storage, so special warehouses were built to store the tea keeping them cool while also subtly aging them. So, now that I have cleared up what this tea is, let me tell you what it is like! The aroma of the vibrant leaves is very intense, I feel like when I opened the pouch I was hit with a full on wave of green, I didn't need to stick my nose in this tea to get the aroma. Notes of toasted nori, fresh kelp, tomato leaves, buttery spinach, sesame seeds, and edamame waft up in a green cloud towards my nose. It is very savory with just a hint of sweetness from the nutty quality.

Into my shiboridashi the leaves go, and this is the first tea that has given my shibo problems, they are very fine and the pour ended up being sluggish at the end, so I let the last slow trickle fall into a separate cup since I was worried about over-steeping. The aroma of the steeped leaves is so savory, strong buttery green spinach and bok choy with kelp and edamame. The aroma of the brewed tea is pretty complex, it has a sweet almost floral (think really light flowering fruit trees) and sweet snap pea quality with a strong savory burst of spinach and edamame, the finish is sea air and kelp, I can almost taste the salty ocean spray when I sniff it.

The first thing I notice when I take a sip is wow, that is an immensely smooth tea! Similar to a Gyokuro in thickness and smoothness, it is quite soupy in its texture and I love that. This tea is an umami bomb, intense kelp, toasted nori, cooked buttery spinach and bok choy, and edamame explode in my mouth, I am pretty sure while drinking this I just saw a green haze, it was so savory and intense. But here is where it gets fun, see Japanese greens are more likely to reach cool temperature before you finish the cup more so than other teas, thanks to the cooler brewing temperature. I put my cup down for a couple minutes to take some notes and when I came back was greeted with quite the surprise, the umami bomb is still pretty umami at the front, but the finish is an explosion of sweetness. Sugar cane and distant apples creep out of the savory and linger for quite a while, I was in the end torn if I liked it better hot or cooled a bit.

This, of course, means I had to cold steep it. The result was a tea that was not as smooth or thick (unsurprising) as the standard brewing, but it was quite sweet! I think I preferred the sweetness from the slightly cooled version more, since it had the umami explosion at the front of the taste, where cold steeping just gave me a delicate umami taste. It is a solid cold steeped tea, but I definitely think I will brew the last of my sample in my shibo for sure, granted I have to admit that cold steeping a Japanese green was never my favorite, if I want it cold I will (assuming I have the time for it) ice steep it, which gives you an immensely intense small shot of tea.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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