Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Tea: Shimizu
Vendor: Far Leaves
Price: $14.50 / 2.25 oz.
Vendor Description: japanese green tea; "spring water" infusions present a fresh clear cup with a crisp grassy finish

Leaf: This leaf was very unusual for a sencha. The leaf was more a mixture of flat leaves and curled leaves, not the normal needle like appearance of a sencha.

1st Infusion: This tea has a rather yellow colored infusion. The picture actually makes it appear greener than it really is. There was a roasted notion to the aroma. The flavor is medium bodied with a medium sense of bitterness and a light sense of astringency. The tea has a very crisp feeling to it. Aside from that it feels very generic.

2nd Infusion: This infusion was much darker yellow in color, it is murkier than the first infusion and has a much stronger bitterness and a stronger sense of astringency. It was strong enough to the point where it made this tea very difficult to drink.

Rating: 2/10

Conclusion: I didn't enjoy this tea very much. In general I'm not a big fan of highly astringent, highly bitter teas. I didn't think that this tea tied very well at all to it's description. Especially considering it's price, there are quite a few other teas that I would rather drink. I still don't know what to think about the size and shape of the leaf as well, it seemed very unnatural for a sencha.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Precious Dew Pearl

Tea: Precious Dew Pearl
Vendor: Tao of Tea
Price: $4.25 / oz
Source: Japan
Vendor Description: Gyokuro, also known as "Precious Dew Pearl", is a highly famous tea from Japan. It requires more skill and careful selection of leaves than other green teas. At the end of the growing season the tea plants are covered by tarps and bamboo mats for three weeks before plucking. This shade grown process enhances the deep green color, flavor and anti-oxidant properties of the tea. After the leaves are plucked, they are steamed, giving a very sweet, creamy, oceanic taste.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is a very dark matte green color. It has a very grassy aroma which is very characteristic for a gyokuro and the leaf size is surprisingly uniform.

1st Infusion: As expected there was a very sweet gyokuro aroma, but mixed in felt like there were hints of a sencha flavor. The tea is very smooth, but only medium bodied. It has the ideal gyokuro flavor, but it is not very prominent, and it almost feels like this is a blend between a sencha and a gyokuro where the flavors are being shared between one another. The flavor is thick, but not as thick as other gyokuros. The infusion is surprisingly yellow in color, which for gyokuro is fairly rare. There is no bitterness and no astringency as expected.

2nd Infusion: The second infusion had a murkier color, this one with a yellow-brown hue to it. There was a slight sense of bitterness to it, but the flavor was more prominent. There was a hint of a light asparagus flavor, and a light sense of astringency to finish it off.

Rating: 5/10

Conclusion: While this isn't a spectacular gyokuro, for it's price it performs well. It is quite apparent that this isn't a top rate gyokuro, but is one of the cheaper gyokuros that I have tried. The flavors of solid gyokuros are present, but they are hidden or shared with other flavors. If you are looking for a gyokuro to drink on a regular basis then this may be good for you. If you're looking for something special, look elsewhere. This tea really felt like it barely held up for two infusions where a more solid gyokuro should hold up for 5 or more.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Genmaicha (Organic)

Tea: Genmaicha (Organic)
Vendor: Lamyx
Price: $8.95 / 3oz
Vendor Description:
Toasted rice kernels are blended with tea leaves to produce a sweet, nutty brew.

Leaf: The leaf for this genmaicha looked a bit drier than most genmaichas I have been drinking recently. There is a lighter color to the rice, and a light floral aroma to the leaf. The leaf itself though has a very light color to it.

1st Infusion: The tea had a very light and clear yellow-green color to it. The toasted rice had a very light aroma, and at the same time there was a very sweet aroma to this tea. The flavor matched the aroma as well, being light and sweet. The flavor of the rice was definitely noticeable as a distinctive flavor to it. There was a medium sense of astringency and the tea finished with a bit of a starchy aftertaste.

2nd Infusion: The flavor was still very light, and had a medium sense of astringency. The tea did finish with a very clean feeling, but there was not much flavor due to the rice in this infusion. It feels as though most of the flavor was used up in the first infusion.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: This genmaicha was not particularly interesting. I'm curious how much the organic nature of this played into the less than stellar performance of this tea. At it's price though, it's not a particularly expensive genmaicha, but most genmaicha is not particularly expensive. I guess if you are looking for an organic genmaicha this could be a suitable choice. Personally I would look elsewhere.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Brown Rice Tea with Matcha

Tea: Brown Rice Tea with Matcha (genmaicha w/ matcha)
Vendor: Maeda-en

About this tea: This is another tea that I picked up during shincha season, but don't have much information about now. It is essentially a genmaicha extra green from Maeda-en, 2008 shincha crop.

Leaf: The leaf for this had a lot of small pieces to it. There was a very surprising amount of rice in this tea, normally a genmaicha has a fraction of the rice that this one does. The leaf was all rather uniformly small in size, it is fairly uniformly sized and there is a hefty coating of matcha over the whole thing.

1st Infusion: The first infusion had a very murky green color to it, very much expected for a matcha coated tea though. It was surprisingly dark though for a genmaicha. The tea had an almost dusty aroma to it with a light toasted rice aroma. The flavor was very smooth and sweet. The rice was very prominent, almost a bit too prominent. The sweetness from the tea and the matcha had a medium bodied effect and left with a light sense of astringency.

2nd Infusion: Surprisingly this infusion was still a murky green color. The tea took on a bit more of a brown-green color. The flavor of the tea itself was quite light and had a light bite to it. The astringency had increased in this infusion.

Rating: 6/10

Conclusion: The first infusion of this tea was quite good. It was a bit strong on the rice though, the rice:tea ratio was a bit on the high side. The second infusion was a bit more of a lackluster showing. The flavor was enjoyable though, but not spectacular.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Tea: Shincha
Vendor: Maeda-en

About this tea: I picked this tea up at a Nijiya grocery store back in May. I unfortunately don't know much about the tea, aside from that it is a 2008 shincha crop from Maeda-en. Information regarding this particular sencha has since been removed from their website due to the seasonality of shincha.

Leaf: The leaf had a very enjoyable sweet aroma to the leaf. The tea had a lot of smaller pieces to it, and a very noticeable blend of colors. There were a significant amount of light green bits and pieces in the mix and a lot of very dark colored pieces.

1st Infusion: The tea had a very bright green color and was moderately cloudy. The flavor was very sweet and thick. Even though the flavor was quite light. It has a light sense of astringency.

2nd Infusion: This was a darker and murkier infusion. There was a light sweet aroma to it with a hint of a roasted aroma to it. The flavor was very light and up front, but there was not much flavor on the back end. This infusion also had a moderate sense of astringency.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: This tea was rather surprising for a maeda-en tea. All of my previous tries of this brand had been somewhat lackluster and mediocre. This tea turned out to be quite good, although not exceptional. This is a very solid and good shincha. I unfortunately don't have the price of the tea on hand anymore so I don't know how much of a value it was, but the flavor is enjoyable. I will have to give the Maeda-en brand another try.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mikawaya Hatsuzumi Shincha

Tea: Mikawaya Hatsuzumi Shincha
Vendor: Mitsuwa
Price: $8.39 / 6oz.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea was a very uneven shape. It was not particularly even or uniform. Much of the leaf looked pressed like a Long Jing. There was a wide variety of sizes from very small leaves to rather large leaves. As a whole the tea had a very matte color to it.

1st Infusion: The tea was quite murky for a first infusion. It gave off an almost woody aroma. The flavor reminded me of a bancha with a slight sweet kick at the end. It finished with a light sense of astringency. The flavor was very light bodied and had a bitterness that was unlike normal sencha.

2nd Infusion: The color was still murky, but this time it had a more yellow-brown color to it. The flavor was bitter and flat.

Rating: 1/10

Conclusion: I picked up this tea mostly out of curiosity. Most shincha that I picked up was exclusive and very high quality. This tea went to show me what the other end of the spectrum could be like. Just because something is a shincha does not mean that it is going to be a good tea.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sugiomoto USA

Vendor: Sugimoto USA

The first that I heard about this company was when they announced the results of the tastings for the World Tea Expo this year. Sugimoto USA (SA) won the first place for their genmaicha in the flavored/blended category for loose tea. I looked them up shortly afterwards and found that they have a very small selection and was intrigued. They only have 3 main products, a sencha, genmaicha and hojicha. These are available in an assortment of forms, both loose and teabag, in varying quantities. They do nicely have sample packs available as well, something that I wish more stores would offer. I tried all three of their current offerings and they were all exceptional teas. I was even honored to try out temomicha due to their kindness, and hope to experience it again if they are able to offer it next year. While their selection is very limited, it doesn't need to be expansive when your product is top notch. I highly suggest anyone who enjoys a good Japanese tea to give Sugimoto USA a try.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Tea: Hojicha
Vendor: Sugimoto USA
Price: $8.55 / 80g
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description:Hoji cha "Experience" consists of roasted young tea leaves and bud stems reaped in spring. During winter, tea plants absorb abundant nutrition from rich mountain soil, so spring shoots have deep body and flavor. Roated stems bring rich sweetness and nice aroma in a cup. Experience the difference.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea was a varied mix of objects. It was a bit more varied than most hojichas that I have seen. There were small balls of leaf, small pieces of leaf, and stems. The color of the leaf varied from a green-brown color to a dark roasted brown.

1st Infusion: The tea was a rich brown hojicha. It possessed a sharp roasted flavor to it. There was no astringency to it, and it had a very smooth aftertaste. The flavor was very characteristic of a hojicha. Characteristic to the point of being representative of the flavor.

2nd Infusion: This infusion had the same smooth roasted flavor.

Rating: 9/10

Conclusion: I always find it difficult to compare hojicha. The flavor does not vary in the same way that sencha does. With a hojicha it tends to be more a question of how refined the flavor is. When you taste this tea however you get the feeling that this is what a hojicha is supposed to be. Others that I have tried alluded to the flavor, but this defines it. It would be the tea to point to if someone was wondering what hojicha tastes like.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Island Breeze

Tea: Island Breeze
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Price: $12.95/ 10 bags (w/o tin)
Vendor Description: Island Breeze produces a refreshing cup full of lush berry, tropical fruit and hibiscus notes. Mighty Leaf's take on the classic herb and fruited summer iced tea.

1st Infusion: This tea had a very rosy color. The flavor was very odd, it wasn't quite a tea like I was initially expecting. The flavor was medium bodied, and the flavor was not something very easily distinguished. There was no astringency and no bitterness. The flavor was very mellow and general.

Rating: 4/10

Conclusion: I didn't really know what to make of this tea. The flavor was very general and hard to place. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either. It felt very average and undistinguished. Looking more into this tea pointed out that this wasn't truly a tea, but consists of assorted tisanes. Personally I would stick to one of the other two iced teas of the three I tried. Aside from being made from tea, their flavor was more focused and pure.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ginger Peach

Tea: Ginger Peach
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Price: $12.95 / 10 bags (w/o tin)
Vendor Description: Ginger Peach combines the best of spicy and sweet. Smooth black tea yields a full flavored iced tea with hints of ginger, spice and peaches.

About this tea: The Ginger Peach Iced tea is a 2007 World Tea Expo Award Winner. This tea also produces a full gallon per teabag.

1st Infusion: This tea has a veyr murky brown color as well. It is very murky and cloudy. It has an aroma similar to fresh peach fuzz. The flavor of the tea is very light, short lived, and crisp. The initial portion of the flavor is very much like that of a classic black tea flavor, but the back half is rich with peach flavor. This is different than the peach flavor you think of when enjoying some canned peaches, it is more akin to sinking your teeth into a fresh peach. It is very lightly astringent with a very cool feeling. This tea is definitely very refreshing. It has a lingering feeling on the tongue and spreads out over your mouth and lingers. There really isn't much of a flavor of ginger in it though, I couldn't seem to find where the flavor lay in the tea. As an iced tea this is a very cool and refreshing tea.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: Normally I consider a flavored version of a tea to be a step down from the traditional orthodox version, but in this tea it is not the case. The flavoring is light, but noticeable. It is flavorful, but not overly flavored. Like the classic black, this iced tea is a very nice and refreshing tea and a very good bargain. My only complaint about this tea is the lack of a ginger flavor even though it is noted in the name.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Tea: Temomi-cha
Vendor: Sugimoto USA (Hopefully)
Source: Japan

About this tea: Kyohei Sugimoto from Sugimoto USA was kind enough to send me a sample of this very special tea. Temomi cha is hand kneaded tea. From the needles to the used leaf, it is incredibly apparent the amount of effort and care that is put into this tea. When sencha was originally created this is the technique that was originally used. Before the conveyor belts for steaming and all that jazz. This temomi-cha was actually made by hand, by Kyohei's mother, Kazue Sugimoto. Since 1995 she has studied about the Temomi technique and strives to preserve the technique for future generations. She has even presented her Temomi cha to the Japanese Imperial Palace in 1997 and won 3rd place in a national Temomi contest in 2006. Now she is a licensed instructor teaching future generations about this technique.

Leaf: The leaf for this tea is gorgeous. Each leaf is rolled into a thin long narrow needle. There are no broken leaves, no dust, just long graceful needles. The leaf has an amazing aroma. The leaves have a deep sense of a sweet aroma. It reminds me almost of a sweet seaweed covered senbei that I used to eat as a child. The aroma on this leaf alone is enough to make this a memorable experience.

Brewing: The instructions provided with this tea were very different than any other tea that I have experienced. 10g of leaf are used per session. The first session is steeped for 2-3 minutes using only 2 ounces of water at 100F. Successive infusions are done for 1 minute at 130F.

1st Infusion: The tea had a very cool and relaxing aroma to it. The flavor was thick and rich like a gyokuro, but with a sharp tang of bitterness. The bitterness was no shallow and stinging like an oversteeped sencha, but rather a strength to a complex flavor. The tea was very full bodied and had a medium sense of astringency. With every sip came a different flavor, a different view on a different aspect of the profile. Every sip was rich and creamy almost. From the second the tea touched my tongue I knew this was unlike anything else. There was a sense of astringency, but it was paired with the thickness of flavor that almost covered the astringency.

2nd Infusion: This infusion had a radiant yellow color to it. The flavor was thinner and crisper than the first. In a word it would be described as bright and vibrant. The flavor was still deep and complex, but the flavor was more concentrated into a sharp richness. There was a noticeable tongue drying level of astringency, but it seemed to be only my tongue that would feel dry. Normally something that could make my tongue feel that way would cause my whole mouth to feel dry. In this case it was just my tongue. Unlike a gyokuro there were not strong feelings of grassiness to this tea. It was a completely different rich set of flavors.

3rd Infusion: This infusion had a much lighter flavor to it. The taste was very crisp and light. At the same time though there was still that thick aftertaste to it and the aftertaste was still thick.

Used Leaf: It was suggested that after the first few infusions that the leaves could even be eaten with a bit of soy sauce on them or salad dressing. I tried this, and the leaves reminded me of a spinach in flavor, just slightly chewier than boiled spinach. It was a very interesting flavor. And also after I had enjoyed the tea, I saw how well handled the leaves were. Having been harvested, processed, traveled around the world, steeped, and then viewed, they seem still a vibrant color of green, and very much intact with the edging of the leaf clearly the same as the day it was picked.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: This was a tea experience unlike any that I have tried before. When I first tried gyokuro the proper way I thought that it had just opened my eyes to something unimaginable. The same could be said for a delicious bowl of matcha. This takes the cake above both of those. The depth and complexity of the flavor is amazing. Unfortunately though Kyohei is unable to offer this amazing tea for sale yet, but they are planning to start offering it in 2009. I know that I for one am waiting for the day that this tea is available for sale. This is in no way though a tea that you would enjoy on a regular basis, it is definitely a very special occasion tea that is intended to be savored and enjoyed. Drinking this tea is very much akin to enjoying a rich and strong flavored espresso. This really is like drinking tea history. You will probably notice that I gave this tea a rating of 10+ / 10. Since it wouldn't really be fair to say anything above 10/10 to the rating scale, I came up with a 10+. This is beyond anything else that I have ranked as a 10.

Classic Black

Tea: Classic Black
Vendor: Mighty Leaf
Price: $10.95 / 10 bags (no tin)
Source: India/Ceylon
Vendor Description: Classic Black Iced Tea consists of high-grown Indian and Ceylon black teas that make a flavorful and thirst quenching summer iced tea.

Leaf: This tea is actually in the form of a teabag. The teabag is for a whole gallon of tea. Even given the large size of the teabag it still fills out fully when steeped and brews a dark black tea.

1st Infusion (only): The brewing instructions for this tea called for brewing about half of the batch and then adding it to another half gallon of ice. The infusion before mixing with the ice is very dark and rich looking. After adding it to the ice it takes on a classic dark brown iced tea color. It is surprisingly murky though. The tea has a very sweet black flavor. It is very cool and refreshing, with just a light sense of astringency. The flavor is very smooth and the flavor is strong and bold. It hints at senses of a Darjeeling in flavor, but is dominated by the classic iced tea flavor.

Rating: 8/10

Conclusion: While this is not a particularly exceptional tea, it is very solid and a very good bargain for the price. For about 11 dollars you get 10 gallons of iced tea. The flavor is very solid and classic. This tea would be perfect for any family gatherings or get togethers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Tea: Genmaicha
Vendor: Dragonwater Tea
Price: $6.00 / 4oz.
Source: Japan
Vendor Description: Genmai-cha Tea. A famous blend of Japanese green tea and brown rice.

This is a specialty Japanese green tea that is blended with fire-toasted rice. A good grade Japan sencha is blended with the toasted rice. The fresh vegetative character of the green tea is imparted on the cup but it is tempered with the bakey-like character of the rice. There is a natural sweetness and almost chewy character to the finish of this tea. During the firing of the rice, it is not uncommon for rice to ‘pop’ not unlike popcorn, hence the pet name ‘popcorn-tea’

Legend has it that during the 1400’s an important samurai warlord in Hakone on the Izu Peninsula of Honshu Island (the Izu Peninsula is near the Shizuoka area) was having tea in the morning discussing a battle strategy with his patrol leaders. A servant by the name of Genamai was serving hot tea to the group. Leaning over to give tea to the warlord, rice that he had surreptitiously taken for a morning snack fell out of his pocket into the steaming hot tea. Some popped upon hitting the hot tea. The warlord was incensed, jumped up brandishing his samurai sword he promptly cut of Genamai’s head in one fell swoop. He then sat down to continue the meeting. Despite the fact that the tea had been tarnished he drank it anyway. The flavor was very unique and he enjoyed it tremendously. In honor of poor Genamai he pronounced that this rice and tea be served every morning and be called ‘Genmaicha’ (cha being the name of ‘tea’ in Japanese).

Leaf: The leaf for this genmai had quite a bit of rice in it. The aroma of the leaf was not very appealing though it had a sense of staleness to it.

1st Infusion: The first infusion had a very typical genmaicha aroma to it. It had an almost overpowering rice aroma as well. The tea was a light yellow green color. The flavor of the tea was almost overwhelmed by the rice, it wasn't a very good balance. Most of the flavor of the tea itself was masked by the rice flavor. There was a light crispness, to it.

2nd Infusion: The second infusion was darker yellow in color. This time matching the color the flavor was heavier on the rice flavor. It was bitter, like the flavor of burnt rice. The flavor felt empty with just a hint of astringency on the back end.

Rating: 1/10

Conclusion: I did not particularly enjoy this tea. The flavor was overly dominated by the rice flavor, almost as though they thought they could make the tea better by adding more rice. Stale flavored rice at that. If they were going to go that far, why not just go so far as just remove the tea altogether and make a beverage using just rice. There are much better genmaicha teas out there.


Tea: Genmai cha
Vendor: Sugimoto USA
Price: $12.50 / 80g.
Source: Shizuoka, Japan
Vendor Description: Genmai cha radiates inviting taste perfection that delights and warms your senses. Developed about 70 years ago, Genmai cha is quite famous for its unique roasted flavor. Its distinctive smooth and mild flavor come from a harmonious blend of young tea leaves, roasted brown rice, and powdered tea leaves called Matcha.

Enjoy this gourmet green tea with a balanced flavor of green tea leaves and brown rice. Our Genmai cha flavor is never dominated by the roasted rice. The subtle touch of Matcha (the ground tea leaves traditionally used for formal tea ceremonies)bestows a natural sweetness, as well as a satisfying sheer green color to your brewed tea. We use only the finest Matcha grown by an artisanal tea company with a 70-year history.

About this tea: Hearing about this tea was the what caused me to first take a look at Sa for teas. This particular tea won 1st place at the world tea expo for the best blended/flavored green tea.

Leaf: This tea had a higher non-leaf:leaf ratio than many genmaicha teas that I have had in the past. There was quite a bit of rice, and the leaf had a coating of matcha mixed in with it. At first glance the tea did not seem like it would be anything particularly different from any other genmaicha teas.

1st Infusion: The tea had a very murky green color, primarily due to the matcha component. The shade of green was a very vibrant and brilliant color, not dark and murky like some matcha coated teas are. The flavor was very fresh and crisp. The rice popped into mind with a sweet flavor like senbei (Japanese rice crackers). There was a light sense of astringency, to tail off on the mild and smooth flavor of this tea.

2nd Infusion: Having washed off the majority of the matcha powder, the tea took on a lighter and clearer color. It was still mostly green in color. The infusion did not taste quite as sweet and flavorful as the first infusion, the matcha component having been removed in the first infusion. There was a light bitterness to the flavor to leave it acting more like a sencha.

Rating: 10/10

Conclusion: So far this has been the best genmaicha that I have had to date. The flavor was very well defined and really brought out the sweetness of the toasted rice. It did not simply show that facet of the flavor, but still balanced with the flavor of the tea and the richness of the matcha. I can see why this tea won first place at the world tea expo for it's category.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tearoom - Lamyx Tea Bar

I recently had the opportunity to visit Lamyx Tea Bar in Oakland, CA. I had gotten their card when I had visited the tea symposium in Berkeley earlier this year, but had never gotten the chance to swing by and take a look.

Lamyx is probably best described as a coffee house, but with much less coffee. They have an assortment of tables, benches, and the typical comfy chair to sit in. Tea is served in a small tetsubin and a yunomi. Well at least for the genmaicha that I ordered. By the look of the place though, that was standard fare for anyone ordering tea (not to go obviously) regardless of the type. Their menu also included some more interesting forms of tea aside from traditional loose leaf teas, including tea smoothies, boba, and well coffee.

Probably one of the nicest things about Lamyx was that they were open until midnight. This makes it a great place to hang out at and not really worry about the time. The environment has a very pleasant casual atmosphere.

In the back there is a small area for teawares and teas. Their teas are in 3 oz tins and they offer samplers. Their selection of teawares are rather limited, but have some nice pieces in it. They also have a rather broad selection of teas with a well balanced offering.

I enjoyed the time that I had spent there and have a feeling that if it was closer to where I lived, I would spend a good amount of time there.