Friday, March 20, 2009

David's Tea's Sencha Ashikubo Review

Type: Green
Origin: Ashikubo Valley in Japan
Price: Sample (regular price - $18.75 for 50g. Also available in 25g and 100g packages)
Vendor: David’s Tea
Brewing Method: Per Instructed - 1 teaspoon of leaves, 1 cup of filtered water, heated to 200°F-205°F, steeped for 4 - 6 minutes
Overall Score: Their Instructions: 1.5 out of 5; My Instructions: 4.2 out of 5

Sencha Ashikubo is said to be “less grassy” and have a “hint of toast that comes from the firing process,” according to David’s Tea’s website. The dry leaves certainly look and smell like Sencha. However, I do notice a slightly roasted smell in the background. The leaves are, although small, are long, thin strands. They kind of remind me of blades of grass. There are a lot of tiny broken particles, as well.

The aroma of the freshly brewed tea is stronger than normal for greens. It is very grassy, vegetal, with a hint of nuttiness. The liquor is a bright yellowish-green color.

Left: Steeped for 5 minutes. Right: Steeped for 1 minute.

After being steeped for 5 minutes, the taste is just as expected - extremely bitter. It was all I could do to choke down one 2 oz. cup. The tea is very strong and astringent, also. The bitterness coats my tongue which ends up being the only thing I can taste. About 15 seconds after swallowing, the grassiness of the tea finally shows up in the aftertaste.

So, let’s try this again. This time the tea will steep in 160°F water for 1 minute.

The aroma is very subtle. It is ever so slightly grassy with a buttery smell, as well. The liquor is a very light green color – much lighter than the first cup.

Ah, there is the Sencha that I know and love. A subtle but sweet grassiness is what I taste first, and then a pleasant mix of nutty and buttery fills in. It is a lot smoother on the tongue than the first cup. I found this cup to still be faintly bitter and a little astringent, but it didn’t really hurt me any.

When I do tea reviews, I always brew it according to the vendor’s instructions because that is how non-tea-freaks are going to do it. When you buy from a specialty store, you trust them to be experts on what they are selling – so you are going to do as they say.

However, I still do not understand why the instructions for this tea are the way they are. I don’t mind some bitterness with tea now and then (I NEVER add sweeteners) but I think brewing this tea as instructed by the vendor is undrinkable.

I know my instructions are not perfect either. Everyone has their own tastes. However, my suggestion is to lower the water temperature A LOT and set the steep time to around 1-3 minutes.

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