Sunday, February 25, 2018

TeaBento: Itatsi (Genmaicha Superior) A Tea Review

Name: Itatsi

Company: TeaBento

Type of Tea: Genmaicha made from Fukamushicha a deeply steamed sencha

Description of Dry Leaf: Tiny little leaves and rich golden rice. Fukamushicha has a tendency to look really cheap, since it gets broken up during its deep steaming, but I assure you, it is not a cheap 'tea dust' kind of tea, it is intense in its taste and aroma. The tiny leaves can be a problem for steeping baskets and clogging shiboridashi spouts though!

Aroma of Leaf: Oooh that is nice and green! Savory cut grass and fresh seaweed blend with sweet and nutty toasted rice, with a slight undertone of distant floral notes like apple or cherry tree blossoms. Brewing the tea, the leaves smell like senbei or arare, those delightful rice crackers with bits of seaweed and soy sauce, sniffing the steeped leaves make me super hungry! Man, I really want some rice crackers now.

Aroma of Tea: The first steep is somewhat light, being gentle savory grass and seaweed with nutty roasted rice as an undertone. Later steeps have these same aroma notes but cranked up past 11 for a very aromatic tea.

Preparation Style: So, those of you who cringe at the idea of using really hot water to brew a Japanese green might want to look away. I used 195F and did a very fast flash steep, pretty much pour water, put on the lid, then decant into the cup. I also brewed it at a much cooler temperature and the difference between the two was exciting. Hotter brings out more umami in the early steeps, where cooler brings out more sweetness. So adjust according to preference, this tea can handle the heat as long as you are fast.

Taste: The first steep is light and savory, with notes of rice crackers and seaweed and undertones of kelp. It tastes immensely clean and refreshing, feeling almost like a palate cleanser. Second steep is where things start to get really fun, the tea goes from light green in color to vibrantly green and the taste is an intense explosion, strong notes of sweet cut hay, savory seaweed (I am thinking specifically of the really delicious seaweed salad I had at dinner last night) and nutty toasted rice with a finish of lingering fresh soybeans. It still retains that immensely fresh and clean taste as the first steep. The best part of this tea I found to be its longevity, it just kept going for about six steeps, five really solid ones and one very light but very sweet sixth. I find genmaicha to be one one of those teas that usually dies too early, so I was so glad to have one that went the distance.

Oddball Notes: I admit I am a sucker for genmaicha made with things other than either low-end sencha or bancha, like making it with Fukamushicha, my favorite ever style of sencha, or with hojicha, or tossing in other ingredients like black soybeans or sakura petals. It takes a daily drinker or sushi restaurant style tea to a slightly fancier level, showing that no matter what type of tea it is, it can still be a work of art. This genmaicha also happens to have the distinction of being one of the few that Ben really liked!

How I Acquired The Tea: Sent for review

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