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Trends come and go but are never quite the same!

27 January 2016

at 9:40 by Seb

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Since its appearance in Japan in the middle of the 18 century, the Sencha style quickly established itself.  At first it developed as an export product then was gradually adopted domestically in several phases of increasing popularity. Some current techniques and processing methods retain aspects of these original traditions. Other modern methods developed to supply constantly evolving tea markets and then reacting to the competitive arrival of other drinks such as coffee and cola.

Senchas remain popular and now represent over two-thirds of Japan’s tea production. In their various adaptions around a central theme, they are now offered in bulk or packaged in attractive vacuum bags or pouches to attract the largest number of varied interests and tastes. To appreciate this diversity, it is good to have indicators to decipher the origin of taste styles offered. Thus, in addition to the types of cultivars, terroir and harvest seasons, both processing steps such as the vapour drying and the final drying (hiire) jointly produce distinct teas according to time changes and the intensity of their parameters.

Following are three senchas to explore that will lead you from one from one ‘sub-style’ to another refining your palate to the subtleties of these delicious green teas.

DSC_7334 - copie copieSencha Tsukigase Icho-ka: Asamushi without hiire

In the tradition of the style, this hand-crafted lightly steamed (Asamushi) sencha did not undergo intense heat to finish the drying. Its large heterogeneous leaves, indicative of a light sorting, offer a bright and clear liquor, displaying the character of fresh herbs and spring flowers. Perhaps the closest we get to the taste of tea as it grows in the field!

Sencha Ashikubo: Asamushi with high hiire

This other Asamushi tea, i.e. made with a short steaming, releases the typical liveliness of the original style, accentuated with a fine tangy zest while retaining its herbal character. The final drying, which is increasingly popular in the current industry, gives it a surprising aromatic complexity. While valued for its effect on the conservation of tea as well as its ability to standardize mixtures of different lots, here we appreciate the intense hiire primarily for its taste impact, most delightfully enhancing the liquor and its fruity gourmet nuances. Expertise on the lookout for a modern aesthetic!

Sencha Fukamushi Tsuyu HikariFukamushi without hiire

The longer steaming known as ‘fukamushi’ usually generates teas with smaller leaves, with many broken under the repeated effect of rolling. Created in this way, true to the modern style it offers a sweet, rich and textured, dark green and opaque liquor, marked by classical accents of green vegetables and herbs, indicating a transformation with a final drying at lower heat. The rapid infusion releases generous tannins that give it body, perfect for the current use in bags and other forms of express consumption. A custom creation for the needs of today’s world!

For the more epicurean among you it remains worthwhile to vary your tastings from one style to another- encouraging artisanal producers with unique teas and sometimes discovering products from less common cultivars such as Koshun or Saemidori …

The Role Water Plays

8 January 2016

at 9:11 by Seb

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Tea is a perfect example of the concept of terroir. A tea which is said to be “of a specific terroir” is created and distinguished by the environment in which the plants were grown, the artisanal expertise with which they are transformed, the particular climatic conditions of the vintage, etc.

This notion of regional terroir is also applicable to spring water. Each water is characterized by the geology through which it has filtered, the salts and other mineral traces it has absorbed that are perceptible to the senses. Think of each type of water as a “taste snapshot” of the source from which it flows.

For tastings, a water with low mineral content works well with most teas. Each ones varied mineral composition has a different effect on the release of the tea’s flavour chemistry  making it  interesting to experiment with different “pairings”. A reaction of two chemistries from different terroirs that create a specific synergy and perhaps enhance different facets of a tea that you already know well. Here are three combinations of teas and spring water that I find have noticeably tasty results:

Laos Pu er Phong Sali 2015 with water from Fiji

This artesian well water is striking, marked by a long mineral persistence. Infused in this water, Phong Sali 2015 develops sweet and fruity aspects reminiscent of ripe peach and apricot. Despite its usual imposing tannic structure, the liquor resulting from the infusion in Fiji spring water is particularly ample and smooth. A perfect match for an invigorating tea!

Chi Ye with Acqua Panna water

This basic water, slightly sweet, with a pleasant density brings out the unique character of Chi Ye. The pairing emphasizes its impressive aromatic expression while solidly maintaining the integrity of its light structure. The liquor is bright and lively, slightly oily with a silky texture. A pairing that illustrates the balance between the tactile and aromatic.

Kabusecha Takamado with Evian water

The highly mineralized water of Évian-les-Bains enhances the sweet berry flavors of the Kabusecha emphasizing a subtle minerality. This combination also highlights the smooth texture and a remarkable roundness in the mouth. Even with a prolonged infusion it has only a moderate bitterness with an absence of astringency. Infused in this way Kabusecha Takamado will also appeal to fans of round and delicately sweet green wulong.

The differences another spring water brings are often subtle so there are a few preparation details that impact on this type of tasting. For example, wait until the temperature of the liquor cools permits better perception of its nuances. Also, the use of a neutral vessel such as glazed ceramic is essential for this type of objective tasting.

Why not try one of these pairings at home and share your experience and insights with us.

François Napoléon

 
 

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