Today I will be tasting the Sencha Noike Yuma. This tea is produced in Wazuka Prefecture, about 40 km from Kyoto.
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank Nio teas for the chance to try so many amazing Japanese green teas. If any of you are trying to learn more about the rich culture of Japanese tea, I would recommend checking out some of their youtube videos as well as the tea tastings they do on their Facebook page. Be sure to follow their journey as they begin to bring more of these amazing teas to Europe and the U.S.
Sencha is a pretty broad category of tea, so it is difficult to know exactly what you are getting. In Japanese, Sencha means “rolled tea”, which is also a pretty broad definition since most tea produced in Japan is rolled. It is kind of like the definition of rectangle and square. Technically a square is a rectangle just like Gyokuro and Kabusecha are types of Sencha, but they get their own classifications because they are more specific. When you say “sencha” people don’t necessarily think of these two, they instead think of the colloquial definition of Sencha, meaning rolled tea that was unshaded. Because the tea wasn’t shaded prior to havesting, it picks up less of a vegetal umami flavor, and more of an astringency. This can be a good thing for tea lovers that appreciate a tea with a bit of a body to it, but many fans of Japanese tea may prefer the flavor of a Gyokuro.
I think the packaging on this tea is pretty cool. The tea comes in a small packet that is visually similar to a brown paper bag. The structure of the bag is much more durable and the inside is coated with a type of foil. This look is very humble and natural. Normally I don’t like tea packets that are too commercialized so this is nice. On the label, there is a picture of a tea field and as an overlay they have beautiful Japanese characters made to look as if they had been hand painted. I have just become familiar with Hiragana, the more basic Japanese alphabet so I don't understand many of these characters except for the “tea” character, which I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with. This character originated in China and was created by the emperor at the time and it represents a man sitting underneath a tree drinking tea. This character is supposed to remind us of the connection between man and nature and how tea strengthens that connection. Anyways, I thought that was an interesting anecdote.
The smell of this tea is very earthy. It has a hint of birch tree bark that it picks up from the surrounding forest. One of my favorite things about tea is that it can pick up the flavors of the plants that surround it. This is amazing on so many levels and really a phenomenon you begin to appreciate more and more as you become more serious about tea. I really like not only the aroma of the tea itself, but also the fact that it has not lost this aroma on its way to me. This is a reminder that this tea did not spend much time in a factory like a lot of others. The connection between this tea and its natural roots is strong and you can see that in the aroma and the taste.
This sencha is a little on the sweeter side. It has a little bit of tartness to it that I wouldn’t quite call bitter. The flavor of this tea is too light for it to be considered bitter, but you do get a little bit of dryness in the back of your mouth when you drink it. You can taste some of the light floral notes on the roof of your mouth. This tea makes me feel warm and relaxed. The aroma isn’t immediately noticeable, but you definitely pick up on it as you slowly sip the tea. The umami flavor of this tea is there, but it is pretty well disguised. Although this sencha and a Gyokuro are produced in basically the same part of the world using very similar methods, the flavors are a world apart. With this tea, you get a lot more tartness and astringency, but less of a vegetal umami flavor. The aroma is a bit weaker and the mouthfeel is more intense.
Although the flavor of this is a bit harder to pick up on than that of Gyokuro, I think this is a good tea for someone who hasn’t yet fully embraced the world of Japanese tea. The flavor is subtle, yet familiar. It tastes very similar to some of the more common green teas people are used to, but the flavor is pure. The taste is mild enough to enjoy many cups of this without getting tired of it. This is perfect for me, because when I find a good green tea, I often like to binge on it. The first time I made it, I used a large cast iron tea pot and drank about 5 cups. The second time I had this tea, I went straight for the pitcher. I know this is a bold move, but with how good this tea is, I knew I could finish it throughout the course of the day.
I really loved this tea and I can’t wait to continue to enjoy it. Thanks so much to Nio for giving me the opportunity to experience this wonderful tea adventure!