Tea Review: Koyo Teas Sencha and Matcha

NB: This review is of products sent to me free of charge in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own. For more information about my policies regarding review samples, click here.

A couple months ago, Anil at Koyo Tea Company contacted me to see if I would be interested in trying some of their teas. We went back and forth, discussing the teas. Anil was lovely to chat with over email, and I especially liked the clean design of their website, so I decided to give it a try. Then, one lovely September day, I was surprised with a package. Inside was a packet of sencha, a packets of matcha, and two small, single-use samples of other teas.

Koyo Tea Company sources its teas from small cooperative farms in Kyoto, such that they can try to find the best price for the teas they offer. Additionally, the source teas that are from a lesser-known cultivar that is supposed to have less bitterness. They’ve found this little niche, offering a few teas from this particular area and cultivar without the huge overhead of a large-scale tea export company, which I found interesting.

I’ve teased a little on Instagram, as I’ve tried the teas, but I thought I’d share my full thoughts about the teas in this review. I’m going to focus on the sencha and matcha, as I haven’t found the right time to try the other samples, but if the quality is comparable to the others, I expect them to be good.

Sencha: This looks like a standard sencha tea, with small, delicate leaves and an intense Japanese green tea scent to them. It is listed on the website at $12 for 1 oz., which is neither very expensive nor worryingly cheap. I brewed it with 175F water in a glass teapot for a minute, and was able to get two resteepings, steeped for one and two minutes respectively, after the first. The brewed tea is a pale yellow-green color that reminds me of some pinot grigio wines. The flavor is delicate and floral, with a hint of grassiness and almost no bitterness. The floral qualities come out even more strongly as I resteep. I found this to be a particularly enjoyable sencha and might consider buying more for myself, once I’ve worked my way through my current tea stash.

Matcha: The Koyo teas matcha at first seems like a very standard ceremonial-grade matcha. It’s listed on their website for $25 for 25g, which is right on par with other matchas I’ve bought. The powder is fine and whisks up without clumping. The color is not quite the brilliant emerald green of the Matchaeologist or O-Cha matchas I’ve tried, but the flavor is lovely. It is a very vegetal matcha, with a thick mouthfeel and body and a flavor reminiscent of boiled spinach, with a pronounced umami quality, but almost no bitterness. While I prefer more floral and acidic matchas, I did not find this difficult to drink and will enjoy finishing my batch. I would probably not repurchase this for myself, but I would recommend it for people who like matchas with that thick, vegetal quality.

So I definitely noticed the lack of bitterness in this cultivar, as Anil told me. Interestingly enough, I didn’t bother looking back at my old emails with Anil before I went ahead and brewed the teas, so I had actually forgotten that I might want to see if that was true. I found working with Anil to be enjoyable and the teas lovely, so if you’re interested in trying some excellent examples of classic Japanese green teas, you might want to check out Koyo Tea Company.

One final note: if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that beauty and tea are my two passions. If you’re interested in see how I’ve gotten those two passions to combine, check out my Volition Beauty campaign by clicking here. I would appreciate your support by voting for my campaign. Voting isn’t an obligation to buy the product if it is launched, but it does get you a discount if you do decide to buy it. Thanks.

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Currently Listening: Myths and Legends Podcast

So I’ve spoken in the past about how I love the resurgence of podcasts and audio-based shows. I love them so much, I actually had a voice role in a podcast last year! But lately, I’ve found myself more and more enthralled with this storytelling podcast: Myths and Legends.

I found this podcast when I was looking for something interesting, yet innocuous, to listen to on one of my many flights this summer during my most intense travel season. What I found was an amazingly intricate treatment of Morgan Le Fay, drawn from multiple sources, and offering insight into this often-one-dimensional character from Arthurian legend. And then, a retelling of a story about a kelpie that was nearly laugh-out-loud hilarious (which would have been awkward on a crowded flight.

Jason, the host of the podcast, blends in-depth knowledge of folk tales, fairy tales, myths, and legends with a tongue-in-cheek narration style that makes these stories come to life in a way I probably haven’t encountered since my preschool story time. While some of the versions he tells differ in varying degrees from the versions I grew up enjoying, the podcast brings back my early and lifelong love of lore and stories.

You see, when I was a small child, I started reading early in life, but I pretended to read less well than I could so that my parents would continue to read me stories. I love hearing stories as much as I love reading them. Eventually, they caught on when I started correcting them while they were reading, and I had to read the stories to myself. When I was in middle school, we did a section in English class where we had to learn a folktale and tell it orally to the class. While researching for the project, I found out that our longtime neighbor had written a collection of West African folk tales, including the title story, “The Cow-Tail Switch.” Intrigued by both the fact that it was a non-European story and the local connection, I learned that story.

And now, as an adult, while I read as widely as I can, both modern books and old tales, there hasn’t really been anyone to tell me stories. Well, now through this podcast, I feel as though I’ve gone back, not only to the love of my childhood, but back to an oral tradition of stories. Anyone with an interest in stories should definitely check the podcast out.

How I Alter My Routine When My Skin is Irritated

Once again, I’ve been quiet on the blog. This happens every so often, and once again, it’s a mix of various other personal commitments, as well as a new project that I teased on Instagram yesterday. But one of the reasons I’ve been quiet is because I’ve had to largely put my beauty product testing on hold as I deal with my skin just freaking out for about a week.

A little over a week ago, I noticed my skin getting a bit dry around my jawline. Overnight, it went from “huh, maybe I should put a little extra moisture there” to a breakout and dry, scaly skin at the same time. It itched and was red. It was highly unpleasant, and I basically had to stop wearing all complexion makeup, despite having some very angry spots, because my skin was just too flaky for any makeup to stay looking good for longer than a half an hour.

My first instinct was to cut my skin routine down to the bare minimum: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. I started using only my Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser, Avene Skin Comfort creme, and Avene Mineral sunscreen. That seemed to not make things much worse, although I was worried about removing a water-resistant sunscreen with a water-based cleanser. So I got a new bottle of Simple Hydrating Cleansing oil.

This basic routine helped calm my skin down, in terms of the redness and irritation. The cleansing oil lacks fragrance while the Milky Jelly is the only cleanser that has never irritated any part of my face. The Avene creme is a rich cream with simple ingredients and mineral oil for some occlusion to help my skin hold onto what little hydration it had left. And I opted for a moisturizing sunscreen using inorganic filters, as I’ve had irritation from organic filters in the past and just didn’t want to take any chances. I will say that, in general, I don’t consider inorganic filters superior and I look forward to feeling confident using my organic filter sunscreens again.

From there, my skin calmed, but didn’t heal. I needed hydration for that. I slowly started adding in some other products, and also started using a sunscreen with a slightly less moisturizing finish. My beloved Klairs toner was the first to be added back in, along with COSRX Acne patches for the spots that had sprung up. I also added some skin barrier support in the form of my A’pieu Madecassocide cream and Cerave Baby Moisturizing Cream. And eventually I tried a sheet mask, opting for the Klairs Rich Moist Soothing mask, which has very similar ingredients to the toner, and which I’ve used before to soothe hot or sensitive skin after spending time in the sun.

For the most part, I chose not to use any products that were completely new to me. The one exception I tried was to finally open up one of the generous samples of Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream that I received in my last two W2Beauty orders. I’d been curious about using this cream as a spot treatment on a few places that tend to be irritated, and when it seemed like things couldn’t get worse, I tried it out. It worked beautifully and now I’m tempted to buy a full-sized jar of it just in case this sort of thing happens again, or just for a spot treatment of the redness around my nostrils and under my lower lip.

So there you have it. A story of skin drama and recovery, starring, for the most part, products I’ve been using for a while and that I know help my skin relax, heal, and stop being irritated. I hope my experience might help someone else facing a similar issue deal with their own skin freakout. Generally, my advice would be to cut back to your bare minimum products, use only products that are very familiar to your skin, and add back in hydration and barrier support as your skin starts to calm down.