Posted by: dan | September 7, 2009

making sencha

SenchaHeader

(title with apologies to Polysics)

Dan: When I was sorting out my tea basket a little while ago, I came across a little Jing packet tucked neatly away at the back. It was a green tea I’d forgotten about, one with an intriguing name: Shizuoka Sencha. As I was in the mood for a green tea I plonked some in the infuser and brewed away.

Ben: Dan pestered me about this tea for a few weeks. ‘Hey!’ he said in his eager, Navi-like way, ‘we never reviewed that Shizuoka Sencha!’ No, said I, we did not. We really should.

He got all keen and wrote an entire review. This review, actually. He’s a determined little bee when he wants to be. I, on the other hand, am incredibly lazy. The review’s been sat in our approval queue for a month waiting for me to add something to it . You see, the truth is that I’m not much of a green tea guy. I kept promising I’d write something but, frankly, I had little desire to sit down and try the bugger. Dan went back to his review and refined it some more whilst I lounged around like a lord of leisure.

I felt guilty.

I’m coming to this review way too late, after Dan’s written everything he can. I’ll leave his text unsullied for your reading pleasure and add my own awkward, stilted observations every now and then.

Right, back to eager Dan:

Dan: Shizuoka is a region of Japan and sencha means ‘roasted tea’. The name comes from the fact that the leaves are fired after they’ve been dried. I like it because of the alliteration. And it has a ‘z’ in it. Anyway, sencha is extremely popular in Japan so there must be something to it. Nearly all Japanese tea is green and they have been producing and drinking it for hundreds of years. To say that it is popular seems a bit of an understatement.

I had a peek inside the packet and two things surprised me: the smell and the leaves themselves. The leaves are tiny, thin, and look just like grass cuttings. I’ve come across green teas that smell like grass cuttings but these really push the boundary. I’d have thought it was grass if it wasn’t for the smell which is decidedly sweet, not the same fresh-cut-grass aroma that most green teas come with. I poured some on the worktop to get a better look and saw that the leaves are quite dark. They’re a much darker green than the recently reviewed Dragon Well (another green tea).

Ben: Recently reviewed?! Oh lord, that was published on July 1st! Now I feel even worse.

I liked the leaves. I’m used to opening a packet and seeing crudely twisted dark things – sometimes looking like little sticks, occasionally looking like pork scratchings. The thinness had me raising an eyebrow but – man alive! – it was the smell which really hit me first. It’s super sweet – hints of blackcurrant and plenty of sugar. In a vague way it reminds me of purple Opal Fruits Starburst sweets. Unusual for a green tea.

It’s still a green tea, though.

Dan: I glanced back at the packet so I knew what it was I had to do to brew: unsurprisingly, it’s the standard green tea infusing guide of 70 degree water for 3 minutes. I put the water in the kettle, flicked it to the right setting and took another whiff of the leaves. It came across more in the end result but under the sweet smell there’s a very vegetative scent. Instead of grass there’s a smell of a wet allotment or cooked vegetable run-off. That doesn’t sound particularly nice, but trust me, it is.

Ben: Ew. That really doesn’t sound particularly nice. I didn’t notice that at all.

Dan: The kettle clicked and I brewed my tea. It’s been a while since I’ve had a tea where the leaves seem to have action. Recently they’ve been quite content to sit still and release their flavour passively. These tiny leaves are great though: after a minute or so of infusing they’ve unraveled to their rather diminutive size and rushed to the water’s surface. It’s nice to watch. It does have small problem though – some of the leaves are so small they escape the infuser. This means you end up with a cup with rather more leaves in it than you normally would. It’s a small point.

So then, the big question: are the Japanese right? Is this worth getting excited about? Well… kind of. Whereas the Dragon Well is soft and subtle, this is more brazen and defined. The packet describes the flavour as a “Rich, velvet thickness with sweetness on the finish.” I find it to be the other way around. When you take a sip, the sweetness slaps your tongue, then gets reinforced by the strength and depth of the veggie flavour. This does seem to reverse as it cools, but it is a very solid drink. It has a density that makes it seem as though it has a slightly jelly-like texture. It’s peculiar, and certainly a very bold drink. If you like your green teas strong, you’ll be at home here. I do like it – the taste is delicious – but it is a bit too dense for me. I prefer the gentler Dragon Well.

Ben: After brewing, I poured it into a cup and left it to cool a little. I read over Dan’s notes and had a niff of the aroma – not quite vegetably for me, oddly, more a slightly dry floral aroma. Ever smelt a flower that’s not especially aromatic? It’s like that. (I’d name a flower as an example here but I honestly can’t name one. Must be my rampant masculinity, or something).

I took a sip, let the liquid play over my tongue and had a think.

Ok, it’s a green tea and I’m not really a fan of green tea (did I mention that?).  Of the green teas I’ve had this is the least offensive. It’s not bold and grassy, it’s not sweet and sappy, it’s not zingy or outrageously alerting – it’s a nice, gentle flavour. It does have a slight vegetive quality (I’m happy to make up a word for the purposes of this description) but I think that’s a good thing. It’s lighter than the average green – when that stodgy grassy heaviness is my normal complaint with greens, this is only a good thing in my opinion.

Do I like it? Yes! More than the Dragon Well, certainly. And it’s still a green.

Sorry Dan.

Leaves of the Leafless

On the left: leaves at the start of brewing. On the right: at the end of brewing. Dan took this photo too. He's awesome.

Ben and Dan drinking Jing Tea’s Shizuoka Sencha. Ben took so long to review it that Jing no longer stock it.

Have we mentioned how rubbish Ben is recently? Sheesh.

It’s still available as part of Jing’s Explorer set though.

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Responses

  1. Great review and I’m glad you liked it – its normally a tea that people don’t always like the first time they try due to its unusual taste! We’ve actually replaced it with an EVEN better sencha from Wazuka, so if anyone wants to try a similar tea, this is the one to go for!

  2. A vegetive green tea. How lovely. I must say that as I read this post I thought about what to comment and wondered. What could I say? I guess all that needs to be said is that I’m sold on this tea. Even if it’s not available anymore. –Spirituality of Tea


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