Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ippin: A Pair of Japanese Herbal Teas

Japan is very well known for its green teas, you get it when you go out for sushi, #matcha is trending everywhere, and for a lot of people it is the first thing that comes to mind when you ask them about Japanese tea. But there is more to it than that, they have some amazing black, fermented, and oolong teas...and of course they have herbals! And just like all cultures, they have some that are very distinct to Japan, two of which I am looking at today. Both come from Ippin, an online Japanese Mall, their prices look a little scary at first, but the products are in bulk and ship lightning fast, so if you know what you want then they are a great place to shop and you get really good deals. It is kind of like a tea themed Costco!

Yomogi (Japanese Mugwort) Tea from Miyazaki via Japanese Tea Shop Yamaneen

Artemisia princeps or Japanese Mugwort, man, where to begin? The Artemisia family is pretty vast, cooks will recognize Tarragon, boozy types recognize the incredibly bitter Wormwood (thanks bitters and absinthe) and I am overly fond of Sweet Annie as my mom would put it everywhere at Christmas to make the house smell amazing. All members of the family are very aromatic, and luckily not all of them are as bitter as Wormwood, which is good because yowza. Japanese Mugwort, or Yomogi as I am now calling it, is also used in cooking, like making the Kusa Mochi green, or the green part of Hanami Dango, or just fried up as tempura, which is delicious. The aroma of the really quite pretty and fluffy leaves is surprising, it almost smells like candy and sugar, underneath the sweetness are notes of dill, mint, anise, and a green hay quality. The aroma reminds me a lot of Sweet Annie, so if you have sniffed that there is a point of comparison for you. The taste and mouthfeel are a bit crisp and rather refreshing, tasting notes of anise, mint, dill, sweet grass, hay, and a bittersweet finish that lingers. It is a soothing and refreshing herbal, one that I like drinking in the afternoon since its crisp taste wakes up the mouth and senses.

Mulberry Leaf Tea Made in Kumamoto via Kawamotoya

Yes!!! Kuwacha!! One of my favorite herbal teas that evokes so many happy memories, mostly because there was a mulberry tree in my yard in one of the houses I lived in as a kid and the smell of the leaves and fruit was amazing, a sure sign of summer. I sometimes see this listed as green tea for people who can't actually have green tea, and it is not hard to see why as it is vibrant in its greenness, though the taste is not entirely similar. I get cranky because this stuff is hard to find in the states, and usually places that carry it cost a fortune, this is the first place I have found that has it at a price that seems reasonable, and that pleases me because it just might be my favorite herbal tea...ever. Yes, beating out chrystanthemum, fireweed, osmanthus, oksuscha...all of them, it is amazing. The aroma is green and starchy, like fresh grass and hay blended with mochi, it smells like summer. It is almost hard to describe its aroma and taste because it is one of those that evokes an experience and memory rather than a set of notes, though I will try! The taste is sweet, subtle green grassy and tree leaves blend with starchy mochi and a hint of green beans and lettuce. It tastes and feels very warm, not warming like a shou or roasted oolong, but warm like sun warmed leaves falling on your face while you are perched on a mulberry branch on a lazy Georgia day. It does not fill me with a warming qi, but left me feeling immensely comforted after drinking it. I adore this herbal tea and I am so happy to have it in my life again and to be able to talk about it!

Teas sent for review

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