Friday, March 21, 2008

Sencha Premium

Tea: Sencha Premium
Vendor: Hibiki-an
Price: $24.00 / 100g
Source: Uji, Japan
Vendor Description: Sencha contains more of the beneficial nutrient catechin than other green teas, because it is grown in full sunlight, thus it becomes yellowish green in colour. Sencha tastes gently astringent and smells wonderfully fresh.

Sencha Premium is one of the high-quality green teas available, being carefully selected from Uji Sencha.

Our Sencha Premium's tea leaves are sprouts that are small and soft and not fully-grown. They are difficult to find even in Ichibancha (the first pick of the year). Although generally the best time to gather tea leaves is when the tea tree has five sprouts, our Sencha Premium's tea leaves are gathered when the tea tree has only three sprouts. It is said that because the sprouts are younger, Sencha Premium's aroma and taste is much more mellow and refreshing.

Even in Uji, the Ujitawara region where Hibiki-an is located is known as a central area of rare highest grade Sencha production. The features of this tea are the mellow flavor and ideal astringent aroma. They are the typical features of tea leaves produced in the Uji region.

I was rather eager to try out this tea. I had heard about the quality from Hibiki-an for a while and wanted to try tea direct from the farm. I had been wondering if they ended up going with this business model to remove the need to compete against other farmers or if it simply was to bring their product to market in a more cost effective manner. Regardless they have made a name for themselves as selling tea directly from the farm to the consumer worldwide.

The leaves had a bit more of a yellowish color than I would have expected. To some degree though I wonder if this is due to the origin of the sample. This was another sample that I had received from Chip at teachat. I will probably order a bit more of this tea once the shincha flush comes out in order to see if this is or is not the case.

The first infusion of the tea had a very light sweet flavor. The flavor was very light, but lacked a sense of bitterness to it. It did however have a medium sense of astringency. I found it a bit odd to find this level of astringency in a sencha with no sense of bitterness. It was rather enjoyable.

The second infusion proved to be more interesting though. It was much murkier, suggesting that the first infusion had only awoken the leaves and that the true flavor would be released in the second infusion. The color itself was a dark green compared to the clear light green of the first infusion. This one was much more bitter than the first infusion, the characteristic bitterness was fully present here, along with a high level of astringency. The strength of the tea also switched from being a light bodied tea to a medium bodied.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: I was a bit disappointed since I had been expecting more from what I had heard about Hibiki-an, but I'm willing to chalk this one up to an older sample on the very tail end of the tea cycle. Even still this was a still a good solid sencha, but I don't know if it was really deserving of a name of Premium. I'm very curious to see how this turns out in this coming season.

1 comment:

Bamboo Forest said...

I quite like the Premium from hibiki. It is, however, quite mild. As a result of its mild nature, I brew 4 grams per 5 ounces for 1:30 on the first steep.

This seems to me to be a very traditional sencha, very lightly steamed and as a result being in the category of "asamushi". This may be why the leaves themselves are lighter in color. More deeply steamed sencha, the leaves are more commonly deeper green in color.