I wanted to start by thanking Nio Teas for the opportunity to try this amazing Fukamushicha Yamaga. I have tried almost all of the Japanese green teas from Nio and I am impressed by every single one of them. They really do offer some of the best teas in the world. You can also try any of their teas for just $3 on their website
This tea is a Fukamushicha, or "deep steamed tea". It gets the name because it is steamed for an extra 30 seconds during the processing, giving a deep green hue and a truly unique flavor. I was so impressed by this tea and I only heard about it about a month ago. I think this is one of those teas that every true tea lover should try at least once.
The smell of the dried leaves is the most powerful I have yet experienced. The rich vegetal flavor is so strong, I can almost detect a bit of fruitiness to it. I asked a couple of friends about the fruitiness and neither of them confirmed but still, I believe it is there! The Fukamushicha leaves are not as large as you might like them to be, but this is natural. Because Fukamushicha is steamed longer than a normal tea, the leaves become more brittle and therefore they break into smaller pieces. This may also be a reason that the flavor is so powerful, because smaller leaves means more surface area. That is just a theory.
I steeped the tea leaves for about a minute between 150-160 fahrenheit. If you want to get super precise, I believe it was 156. I find that this tea is the most particular when it comes to temperature. It is very easy to oversteep and the flavor that comes out is quite murky and unpleasant. Likewise, when you steep the tea with water under 150, I find that the flavor is not as strong as I would like. This is pretty common with Japanese green teas, and perhaps it is also that I am developing a more acute palate after doing dozens of tea tastings.
The first sip has a straight to the point umami flavor. I believe this umami flavor is every bit as good as a gyokuro, I may have just lucked out and gotten the steeping perfectly. I notice a tiny bit of a fruity flavor in the taste, but it is nowhere near as strong as the smell of the dry leaves would have implied. There is a tiny bit of residue collecting at the bottom, which I believe keeps the taste nice and fresh. The liquor of the tea is quite cloudy, again because of these small particles in the tea.
This tea definitely has the most powerful marine or seaweed taste. This is one of the tastes that many people think of when they think of Japanese green tea, and this is the strongest I have experienced. This definitely has something to do with the deep steaming. I’m starting to think that Fukamushicha should just be the standard tea and all others should be called “light steamed tea”.
If steeped properly, the Fukumushicha should have quite a creamy mouthfeel. The tea is very pleasant, but it does have a sharp umami flavor to it that you feel on the sides of the tongue. I think the particles in the tea really enhance the flavors. Every note of this tea has a sharp punctuation to it. You don’t have to focus too hard to notice these flavors, they will find you.
The tea is actually quite bitter, but the umami and fruity notes are enough to make you not notice this too much. The astringency is not quite as strong as you might find in a normal sencha, but it is definitely there. The mouthwatering feeling lingers for up to one minute after the sip. Just for fun, I did leave some extra water in the tea pot to sit for a few minutes, just to see how this tea would taste if you forgot about it. Sure enough, the flavor is really bitter. This is just another reminder that you have to be very careful when steeping this tea, or any high quality tea for that matter. What may seem like a small difference in time or temperature can make a huge difference when it comes to taste!
In the second steeping, the tea takes on a beautiful emerald green color. For some reason, this hue is even deeper than the first steeping. I’d love to find out why that is, but for right now I am content just enjoying the tea. The flavor has become a lot less intense, but it is still very enjoyable, particularly for a second steeping. The astringency is almost completely gone but the umami is still noticeable. The second steeping tastes like a watered down version of itself. Everything is there just far weaker than before. As far as second steepings go, this is actually not the best. The gyokuro Cha Masume and Cha Meijin I have tried are amazing all the way until the 3rd steeping and you can even cold brew the second steeping and get the same effect. I don't really see this as much here. It is delicious, but not as powerful as some second steepings I’ve had in the past.
I never thought I would find a tea that was as good as a Gyokuro, but this one comes very close. The first steeping is definitely a contender for one of the best Japanese green teas I have had and the second steeping is just average. Overall, I would say this is my favorite Nio tea that is not a Gyokuro or matcha. It is such a beautiful and unique tea and I believe every tea lover should try a Fukamushicha at least once. It has a strong vegetal or marine flavor to it and the smell of the dry leaves cannot be beat. I highly recommend this tea