3 Teas from Senbird Tea: Fukamushi, Gyokuro, Sobacha

I appreciate the strength Japanese tea provides in my tea journey, and seek the bold, balanced flavors sought through fertile cultivation and precision in processing techniques. When Senbird Tea, a Japanese family-owned tea business who utilizes independent tea farmers reached out to offer a balanced selection of teas to try, I felt the calling to try something unique and powerful in flavor and passion. I’ll be sharing my experiences with each tea below; providing details and opinions. I’ll be diving further into Japanese teas in general in another post!

Moriki Fukamushi ( 深蒸し茶 )

A deep-steamed Sencha that yields a more broken leaf than normal, it also lowers the astringency – resulting in a rich yet mellow brew that is sure to make anyone fall in love with green tea. It doesn’t produce as light of a cup due to its thicker nature but that’s personally what I love about this style of green tea!

DETAILS

Season: May 2019
Cultivar: Yabukita
Origin: Shizuoka, Japan
Picking/Processing: 120 sec. steamed as opposed to the common 30-90 sec. found in Sencha
Elevation: 200m

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 9 g for 220 mL
Starting Temp – 70°C
Infusion time(s) – 60 sec. +5 (4 infusion total)

Eyes Dry: Rolled with light green leaves
Nose Dry: Melon rind, warm hay, squash
Nose Wet: Asparagus, salted butter
Eyes Liquor: Thick and cloudy grass-green and limoncello brightness
Mouth Texture: Full-bodied and dark chocolate intensity along the sides of the tongue
Mouth Taste: Slight cantaloupe sweetness, steamed broccoli, mineral water, asparagus
Nose Cup: Granny apple sweetness and savory sea salt
Mouth Finish: Clean with umami salt turning to candied fruit sweet
Eyes Wet: Fresh greens and unfurled brightness
Body Sensation: Cheerful and contemplative, cooling sensations

A lovely Sencha, the broken material in the sample required caution as to not clog my kyusu or strainer. My second infusion was slightly over-brewed from a blockage but a correction in the third kept the session going strong. This is a green tea that maintains a mellow and balanced profile, even when packing the kyusu. The fact that the leaves in Fukamushi Sencha are smaller and broken means that the brewing times can be shorter, allowing for great experimentation in infusion duration and contrasts steep to steep.

Kotobuki Gyokuro (玉 露)

Now, I have to say, there are few things I love more than tasting a Gyokuro that effectively balances the hits of umami that comes from well nurtured L-theanine, and the lingering sweetness that begs me to take another sip. This particular Gyokuro from Senbird is a great representation of just how much depth there is in Japanese tea. Translated as “Jade dew”, this tea has undergone 20 days of shaded growth – ramping up levels of theanine and chlorophyll which provides minimal astringency and a balance of vegetal and sweet characteristics.

DETAILS

Season: Spring first flush 2019
Cultivar: Asatsuyu (considered natural gyokuro)
Origin: Asahina, Shizuoka, Japan
Picking/Processing: 20 day shade-grown
Elevation: 200m

My Brewing Parameters:
Leaf to Water Ratio – 6 g for 220 mL
Starting Temp – 50°C, 60°C, 70°C, 70°C, 75°C
Infusion time(s) – 2 min, 2 min, 2 min, 3 min, 3 min

Eyes Dry: Deep forest blue-green leaves, slender and overall consistency in material length, moderate level of dust
Nose Dry: fresh basil, vine tomatoes, subtle tangerine zest
Nose Wet: damp moss, sea salt air, egg yolk cream. Last infusion brings watermelon to mind
Eyes Liquor: blue-green vibrancy
Mouth Texture: clean, chicken stock rush along the tongue
Mouth Flavor: algae covered stone, mineral sweet, newly grown spring grass
Nose Cup: light hint of daffodils
Mouth Finish: clean with a short aftertaste
Eyes Wet: unfurled spinach green hues with a fresh sheen to the leaves
Body Sensation: mellow and uplifting

Gyokuro is a go-to tea for me, both when reviewing a vendor’s portfolio or when I want something that reminds me of Summer. This was the first tea of the three I tried and it’s a standard Gyokuro that I would recommend.

Sunlight through a forest, it’s the brightly lit and robust leaves that are called to mind when I drink this Gyokuro. A clean and swift brook babbles a short distance away, bringing minerality and a damp rock fragrance to the air. There’s vitality and invigoration in this cup.

Aiji Sobacha (そば茶)

A first for me, this buckwheat tea left quite an impression. It’s warming while not giving off the charcoal roasted sensations found in Hojicha, or heavy-roasted oolongs like Da Hong Pao. Rather than being an actual tea hailing from Camellia sinensis, Sobacha is a tisane or herbal tea. This caffeine-free beverage can be enjoyed both hot and iced, and is a lovely option after a meal or late into the evening.

DETAILS

Season: October 2018
Cultivar: Manten kirari
Origin: Shizuoka, Japan
Picking/Processing:
Elevation: 50m

My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 8 g for 220 mL
Starting Temp – 95°C
Infusion time(s) – 5 min

Eyes Dry: Bronze, copper, and tan beads of buckwheat kernels
Nose Dry: Rice cakes, warm toast and sesame seeds
Nose Wet: Slight jerky warmth, burnt brioche, butter
Eyes Liquor: Olive oil viscosity and color, clouded with fine particles
Mouth Texture: Oily smooth with no astringency and medium body
Mouth Taste: Roasted cashews, raw pine nuts, butter, cozy sunlit afternoon wrapped in blankets
Nose Cup: Candied peanuts, salty and sweet pulling at the ends
Mouth Finish: Lingering salted nuts followed by sweetness
Eyes Wet: Minced garlic appearance, expanded buckwheat pellets
Body Sensation: Clean and warming with a calming effect

Each of mentioned teas give a nice snapshot into the varied nature of Japanese processes and flavors. Senbird Tea is based in New York, so U.S. residence can find a good cup of Japanese tea nearby! If you’re interested in also purchasing the Gyokuro or Sobacha I tasted you can find them below (the Fukamushi is no longer available):

Kotobuki Gyokuro

Aiji Sobacha

Have you tried a range of Japanese teas or any from Senbird Tea as well? I’d love to hear your experiences and what you love about these teas in general!

Steep well!

Marco

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