07 April 2009

Sencha Showdown

As I've mentioned over and over, Japanese greens are my favorite teas. But it never hurts to get a refresher (although that didn't seem to produce a pony on my birthday, and I must have reminded my parents that's what I wanted every single day for a decade). While gyokuros are forever at the top of my list, senchas do wind their way into many of my mornings.

Sencha is Japan's everyday tea as well as the country's most popular, commanding 80% of its tea production. Even beyond sencha, though, all Japanese teas are remarkably uniform- compared to Chinese or Indian, for instance- because the sole processing method on the leaves is steaming via hot water (as opposed to other techniques like pan or wood firing, or hot air).

You'd expect such monoteaism to lead to boring, indistinct cups, but that's really not the case. It just means that to fully appreciate the differences between senchas, you need to slow down and concentrate on subtleties- incidentally, a behavior that summons calm and relaxation. And unless you're a Buddhist monk, you probably could use some of that.

So I set up a tasting this morning of two senchas new to me, both from Ito En and just a few weeks old: hoshino hatsutsumi (above photo, right), and organic kagoshima (left). As the picture shows, the two brewed up the same light, yellowy green hue.

I did note a subtle difference in the leaves- while both have that rich pine-green color, the kagoshima (left) is flatter, the hoshino hatsutsumi (right) finer and more needlelike.

And the difference in taste, once I closed my eyes and focused just on what my mouth and nose were telling me, was remarkable. Where the hoshino was bright, lightly grassy and touched with astrigency, the kagoshima was incredibly smooth and round, with a velvety texture and even, pervasive sweetness.

What was most surprising was how much I loved the kagoshima. I did have a cup a few days ago and found it a pleasant tea, although not very striking. But I was tasting it in the middle of doing a thousand other things (and not even sitting down), so I missed that delicate, balanced flavor.

So this reminder is as much for me: pay attention to your next cup of tea. It won't take more than five minutes, but it will have a lasting effect on the rest of your day.


Anonymous said...


David said...

a lovely post, you've got me wanting to tuck into some japanese greens now! We've just got some new japanese teas in stock if you would like to sample them? I can arrange for them or any other teas we have to be sent to you.


David (JING Tea)

Heavenly Housewife said...
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