Tea Together Tuesday: A Perfect Cup for Spring

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Today on Tea Together Tuesday, a delightful community tea prompt hosted by Tea with Jann and Tea is a Wish, the prompt is to share a cup of tea that is perfect for spring. When I saw that prompt, a month ago, I knew exactly what tea I wanted to share: Sakura Sencha.

Perhaps you’ve had cherry blossom or “sakura” scented teas from companies that specialize in scented teas. I know I had one years ago from Capital Teas that blended cherry and rose flavorings and called it “Cherry Blossom.” But true sakura sencha is neither fruity nor rosy. It doesn’t smell or taste like a perfumed or scented tea. This tea uses the leaves of the sakura tree, along with a few dried petals, to add a deep warmth and sweet florality to an already-lovely cup of bright and umami sencha.

Part of why I love this tea is the contrast between the deeply green sencha leaves and the pale pink dried sakura petals that dot the dry leaf. It reminds me of the grass under my rosebushes when the roses have bloomed and are starting to fall, littering the green grass with pink petals. It just feels like the full glory of spring.

In fact, when I was in high school, I used to walk home from school, and in the spring, the cherry and apple trees would bloom. Eventually, the blossoms would run their course and start to fall, particularly on windy days. One afternoon, I was walking home with my first boyfriend and just as the wind picked up for a moment, we stopped for a kiss, and had a lovely, movie-perfect kiss under a blanket of falling pink petals. This fragrant tea is almost like a drinkable embodiment of that moment.

I usually purchase my sakura sencha from Yunomi, but this year, my shipment was unfortunately waylaid by coronivirus-related shipping disruptions. So I was delighted to find that Path of Cha offers a similar tea. In fact, it tastes identical to the sakura sencha I had last year from Yunomi. This year is was particularly bittersweet, as I was unable to enjoy the cherry blossoms in downtown DC due to stay-at-home orders and remote work, but sipping this tea brings back the delight of early spring with the sakura blossoms drifting through the air and scenting the world around them. A perfect spring scene.

So that is my perfect tea for spring. I hope you’ll share your own spring teas and how you’re celebrating this springtime in light of the perhaps different shapes our lives might be taking. Happy sipping!

NB: Nothing to disclose. If you’re interested in collaborating with me, please read my contact and collaboration information.

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.

Fukamushi Shincha from Tomotcha: First Impression of a New Subscription

I mentioned on Twitter a little bit ago that I was cancelling my subscription to Simple Loose Leaf in favor of a sub with less variety but more likely to provide teas I’m interested in trying. I signed up for Tomotcha earlier this month with the hope that I’d get my first tea in early June. Imagine my suprise when a flat little packet from Japan showed up in my letterbox earlier this week! Immediately after signing up, I was a little regretful, as the Tomotcha website leaves something to be desired. Other than an address confirmation from them, there is no way to sign into an account on their website and check on your subscription. Their Twitter feed hasn’t updated since last winter, and I was beginning to worry that maybe I signed up for a defunct service that was still charging people through automated web services.

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But that wasn’t the case! Yay! I got my tea and wanted to brew some immediately. Of course, it was a weekday evening, so that would have led to some difficulty falling asleep. There was also the fact that I realized a day or two earlier that my gaiwan are not suited to brewing Japanese green teas, which have smaller leaves than the Chinese ones the gaiwan excels at brewing. So I ordered a simple glass kyusu set and some cups for my office. They arrived yesterday, so this morning I was finally able to taste my new tea.

The tea that arrived was a Fukamushi Shincha, which is a deeply-steamed green tea from the first harvest of Sencha. The dry leaves look like most Japanese green teas I’ve encountered and has a strong vegetal, seaweedy aroma. The first steeping is meant to be at about 160-170F for a minute. The first thing you notice is the brilliant color, which reminds me of everything springy and growing. It smells very, very green. The taste is fresh and grassy. It’s very refreshing on a hot day. Subsequent steepings were done for 30 seconds and retain this freshness.

All in all, I’m pleased so far with this service and now I’m looking forward to months to come!