Friday, November 18, 2011

Battle of the Senchas

Alright, I finally got around to trying my third Sencha, Kondouwase Arashiage Sencha from Norbu Teas, and as promised, here is a comparison of the teas. I threw in the Top Leaf tea as an added bonus, and because I needed something else to do today.

The Teas

Mellow Monk - Top Leaf
This first tea is a traditional Japanese Sencha, made with rather nontraditional leaves. Mellow Monk claims that these leaves were pampered with extra fertilizer, and the leaves themselves are only the smallest and youngest leaves from the very tops of the tea bushes. The dry leaves are very small, with a bit of curliness here and there, and a lot of tea dust and smaller particles present. The color of the leaves is a dark green, with bits of lighter greens here and there. The aroma of the Dry Leaves is a kind of sweet-grassiness, if that is even possible

Norbu Tea - Yamakai Sencha
This tea is a traditional Sencha, grown from Yamakai cultivars. The dry leaves are a nice dark green, and fairly uniform in color. All of the leaves a rather long and straight, most being arround 2 cm long, and rather flat. The aroma is similar to the above, but a bit more subdued, and perhaps less "sweet".

Norbu Tea - Kondouwase Arashiage Sencha
This tea is similar to the Yamakai sencha, but is crown from a different variant of the tea tree. The leaves have more variance in their color, but most are a nice dark green color. The leaves are very flat, but they are smaller than the Yamkai sencha, with leaves seeming to be close to 1 cm in length.

Steeped Tea

I would include pictures of these teas, but the color was pretty much the same. That, and my mugs are pretty stained, so you can't get a good idea of the color in them. The only thing of interest was that the Top Leaf tea had a layer of "fuzz" on the bottom of the mug, and was a bit cloudy, due to the presence of the tea dust and smaller parts of leaves.

The aromas of the teas are surprisingly different. The Mellow monk is the grassiest, but with subtle vegetables added to the mix. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that the aroma reminded me of asparagus.  The Yamakai sencha Was plain, with aromas of grass and miscellaneous vegetables. The Kondouwase Arashiage sencha was interesting, because it wasn't very grassy, but the vegetable aromas were kind of jumbled together, and I couldn't distinguish anything.

The initial steepings of these teas were very telling. As the aroma suggested, the Top Leaf was easily the grassiest, but it wasn't overwhelming, and the semi-sweet asparagus flavor was indeed present. The aftertaste was interesting, with the vegetables fading to sweetness, and hints of grass. The Yamakai sencha was very mellow, with vegetative flavors dominating the grassy undertones. The after taste was sweet, but there wasn't much else to it. Finally, the Kondouwase Arashiage was an amalgamation of vegetables with undertones of grass, as per usual. The aftertaste was also complex, and hard to describe. Truly an interesting experience.

The Top Leaf and Kondouwase Arashiage both lasted for six infusions, and the Yamakai lasted for only four.

Late Steepings
Late steepins of the Top Leaf resulted in a mellow tea, with only hints of sweet vegetables and almost no grassiness. The Yamakai sencha's flavors didn't get stronger, but the grasiness persisted longer, which resulted in infusions that were sweet and grassy, but with little else. The late infusions of the Kondouwase Arashiage were intersting, and they were complexly subtle, and rather sweet, which I didn't expect. The grassiness faded almost completely in these infusions.

Final Notes and Verdict

In the end, The Yamakai Sencha was rather plain, which probably lets it appeal to a wider audience, but it just wasn't as interesting as the other two. The Kondouwase Arashiage was a good tea for contemplation, and it's complex flavors were relaxing to think about after a grueling physics exam.

In the end, my personal favorite is the Top Leaf, Because of it's vibrant flavors, wonderful aroma, sublime taste. If you guys disagree, feel free to post a comment as to why. I might take a while to respond, as finals are rapidly approaching, but I will get back to you eventually.

Also, feel free to check out Steepster, to see reviews of these teas by myself and by other people!

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