Tastes like burned raspberries. Nothing like Sencha at all.
Green tea » Japanese » Sun-grown, ★★
Also known as: 中国煎茶 or, misleadingly, ‘Sencha’
This tea is a (cheaper) Chinese version of the Japanese classic, Sencha.
Japanese Sencha is wonderful. I gave it five stars and described it as, “Light, refreshing and minty-cool.” Unfortunately, this Chinese imitation is incomparable with the real deal.
First, the leaf is too yellow. It looks more like it’s been roasted than steamed. This is backed up by the lack of a light, vegetal flavour when you drink it—instead, I get a thick, smooth, berry flavour in my mouth. It’s drinkable, but it’s not Sencha.
Secondly, this tea has unpleasant burned undertones. This may have arisen during the steaming process, when the tiniest leaves (which are actually just powder) fall through and touch something hot. Dust from inside the steamer might then have been swept into the tea.
I brewed this tea at 66 °C and it still tasted too much of tannin. I didn’t enjoy this tea, but I did learn the importance of terroir by drinking it. I love Sencha, and you probably will too, as long as you get the real deal from Japan. Never buy Chinese Sencha. ★★
- Green tea: Japanese Sencha (jameskennedymonash.wordpress.com)
- Best Green Tea (fastslimbody.com)
- The health benefits of drinking tea (healthandcare.in)
Light, refreshing and minty-cool.
Green tea » Japanese » Sun-grown, ★★★★★
Also known as: 煎茶, Super Sencha
Sencha, or 煎茶 (literally “steamed tea”) constitutes 80% of the tea drunk in Japan. That’s understandable—it’s a very good, yet moderately-priced tea that’s uncomplicated enough for everyday consumption.
The warm, kelpy flavour we’d expect of a steamed, Japanese tea is masked in this by a unique minty flavour. The result is cool and refreshing, not warm and vegetal.
Compare this tea with Chinese-grown Sencha (to be reviewed tomorrow) to see the difference terroir makes to a tea.
Like millions of Japanese, you could make this your everyday green tea. ★★★★★
Green tea » Japanese » Shade-Grown, ★★★★
Also known as: 抹茶入り玄米茶, Organic Sencha Sprinkles
Genmaicha with Matcha is actually three products mixed together:
- Sencha (煎茶) — a steamed Japanese tea with a fresh seaweed flavour
- Dry rice (干米) — gives a roasted, nutty, popcorn flavour which dominates the brew (these first two ingredients together constitute Genmaicha).
- Matcha (抹茶) — powdered Gyokuro, which gives a cloudy, sweet, invigorating dew-like infusion that’s extremely nutritious. I love Matcha!
The first brew is fluorescent green and tastes of Matcha (sweet dew). The powder then washes off the bright green rice pieces almost immediately, revealing their natural brown colour—you’ll also see them puff up as they absorb water.
The second brew is less sweet and more kelpy. The brew looks a little less cloudy, but still has a fluorescent green tinge from the Matcha that hid somewhere in the Sencha leaves.
Subsequent brews taste of Genmaicha, then eventually just of dry rice pieces, which survive seemingly infinite brewing—or until you eat them. This tea just keeps changing in your cup.
This is a fun tea, a plaything, and is more interesting than Genmaicha on its own. But even though Genmaicha with Matcha has a long history in Japan, I think this tea is too complicated for everyday consumption. For everyday consumption, choose Longjing, Meng Ding Huang Ya or Biluochun instead. ★★★★
Innovation isn’t always good. Add fruit to MUESLI, not to TEA.
Green tea » Japanese » Sun-grown, ★★
I get lots of teas from T2. They stock a good range of teas, and they’ve built a strong, trendy brand around tea, for which I thank them for their hard work greatly. They also give out free samples.
However, some of their products are a little too trendy. It feels as though someone in the T2 lab has been experimenting with mixing bowls without paying full consideration to the people who’ll actually buy and drink these oddities. I like Sencha. I also like fruit. But mixing them together is disrespectful to all parties involved (especially the ancient Chinese, whose wisdom tells us to consume tea and fruit separately). Remember Gorgeous Geisha, anyone?
The Japanese wouldn’t drink T2’s “Green Rose”, either. Most likely, they’d brew all the foreign objects (currants, mango, papaya and roses) with apples and crystal sugar at 100°C, in what I’ll call a Fruit Infusion.
If I bought this, I would pain-stakingly remove all the oddities and put them in my muesli, then drink the resulting Sencha separately. “Green Rose” by T2 is two decent beverages blended and thus ruined. Like wine and milk. Or coffee and Coke. Don’t buy it. ★★
Like nibbling on sweet, roasted popcorn. Or potatoes & seaweed.
Green tea » Japanese » Sun-grown, ★★★
Also known as: 干米茶
Think lightly-buttered popcorn mixed with grass and hazelnuts. Genmaicha is a Japanese Sencha mixed with toasted rice pieces which add an earthy, slightly vegetal taste to the tea—they taste rather like a buckwheat infusion I tasted in Sichuan. The Sencha base is smooth and balances the rice very well.
The rice floats but the tea sinks. If you brew this directly in a mug (or bowl, as I did), you’ll end up chewing on too many toasted pieces of rice: they arrive in your mouth before the tea does. Instead, I suggest brewing the tea gongfu style and nibbling on the rice when you’re finished drinking, once it’s soft.
Genmaicha is a fun tea. I love breathing over the bowl and inhaling Genmaicha‘s nutty cinema-foyer aroma. The popped rice brings earthiness and a hint of sweetness, and the Sencha brings a smooth, steamed (read ‘kelpy’) taste to balance it. Despite being one of Japan’s cheapest teas, it’s certainly one of the most popular Japanese teas among non-Japanese. ★★★