Inaugural Group Tasting: Sinensis Yokkaichi & Ippodo Tokusen Gyokuro

jpo1933
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 10:13 pm

Don't mind me for barging in, but... the reason the two are different is because they are two different teas!
The one on the right you bought a few years ago is a sencha, and the one on the left is the Tokusen gyokuro :D .
The characters on the jars basically say, "select gyokuro" "select sencha"
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pedant
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 10:38 pm

oh! thanks. that makes total sense.
i bought the tokusen gyokuro and sencha, and i guess i forgot which label i saved.
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Victoria
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 10:53 pm

Oh, very interesting I didn’t noticed this difference until you mentioned it @pedant. Good to know @jpo1933. Here is my ippodo Gyokuro canister from 2016

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Victoria
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 11:55 pm

Ah, really enjoy reading your tasting notes @Frisbeehead. Super detailed, nice photos as well. Thank you.
The Hokujo shiboridashi you are using for steeping is brilliant. Its proportion and form are the most perfect I’ve seem for steeping and admiring gyokuro needles as they are expanding. I’m wondering if steeping next in Shigaraki kyusu from Masaki Tachi might make Ippodo liquor too condensed? I’ve been playing around with Tachi’s shigaraki kyusu with Sinensis gyokuro which is thinner in body than Ippodo’s... but with these special grade gyokuro I’m finding the leaf needs no extra help ‘transforming’ the steep. So I’m sticking to kyusu with clays and firing that don’t alter the steep.

It’s interesting, still trying to figure out up-sizing down-sizing Japanese greens proportionally. 10grams:80ml vs 5grams:40ml makes sense, but then accounting for cooling of smaller size vessel/amount of heated water -the temperature will cool down more quickly at 40ml than at 80ml. So far in the last 6 years, I’ve always used 10 grams Ippodo recommends, but then with only a 50 gram pack it goes Very quickly. I do get amazing 1st,2nd,3rd,4th,5th, and overnight steeps at 10g:80ml that are all rich, so there’s that trade off. I’ll try 5grams:40ml to see if the difference is noticeable 🍃.
Pete
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Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:57 am

I did an overnight cold water steep that came out delicious. Sweet, light, refreshing. Perfect wake up before morning meditation. Of course, it did not have the rich umami, oily thickness in the mouth and throat. But was light a Spring morning with a bit of oomph at the bottom of the cup. I may eat the spent leaves today, obviously great chollorphyl and bound to be tasty. Looks like Ippodo will have to wait a day or so. Cheers
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Frisbeehead
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Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:01 pm

Victoria wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 11:55 pm
Ah, really enjoy reading your tasting notes Frisbeehead. Super detailed, nice photos as well. Thank you.
The Hokujo shiboridashi you are using for steeping is brilliant. Its proportion and form are the most perfect I’ve seem for steeping and admiring gyokuro needles as they are expanding. I’m wondering if steeping next in Shigaraki kyusu from Masaki Tachi might make Ippodo liquor too condensed? I’ve been playing around with Tachi’s shigaraki kyusu with Sinensis gyokuro which is thinner in body than Ippodo’s... but with these special grade gyokuro I’m finding the leaf needs no extra help ‘transforming’ the steep. So I’m sticking to kyusu with clays and firing that don’t alter the steep.

It’s interesting, still trying to figure out up-sizing down-sizing Japanese greens proportionally. 10grams:80ml vs 5grams:40ml makes sense, but then accounting for cooling of smaller size vessel/amount of heated water -the temperature will cool down more quickly at 40ml than at 80ml. So far in the last 6 years, I’ve always used 10 grams Ippodo recommends, but then with only a 50 gram pack it goes Very quickly. I do get amazing 1st,2nd,3rd,4th,5th, and overnight steeps at 10g:80ml that are all rich, so there’s that trade off. I’ll try 5grams:40ml to see if the difference is noticeable 🍃.
Victoria,

Indeed, the Hokujo shiboridashi was perfect for this tea. To me, the clay he uses adds just a little bit of sweetness and minerality to the water, without affecting the true character of the tea very much. I would love to own one of his Mogake kyusu someday, one around 150ml would be perfect for me.

You might be right, actually, this gyokuro does not really need the thickening effect the Shigaraki clay would have on it. I may go with my Nosaka clay pot by Shimizu Ken instead then, I think that pot would do well with this tea. It's high-fired, and doesn't have as dramatic of an effect on the tea.

And yes, the 40ml shiboridashi especially cools down very quickly. I should perhaps compensate by using hotter water? Like 150-160F? Or would adding more leaf be the better option...I will have to experiment. I am afraid that any more leaf will start to overflow the shiboridashi :lol:
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Victoria
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Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:03 pm

Pete wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:57 am
I did an overnight cold water steep that came out delicious. Sweet, light, refreshing. Perfect wake up before morning meditation. Of course, it did not have the rich umami, oily thickness in the mouth and throat. But was light a Spring morning with a bit of oomph at the bottom of the cup. I may eat the spent leaves today, obviously great chollorphyl and bound to be tasty. Looks like Ippodo will have to wait a day or so. Cheers
Oh yes, great idea about eating the tender leaves. I like to fry them in a fryer (no oil), slowly on low heat to remove moisture, swirling around while heating, and then add some herbs and spices like kelp, roasted sesame seeds, kombu, etc. This is nice sprinkled over eggs, rice, potatoes, roasted vegetables, soups...

A18A48DB-CDB2-41D9-9EC5-96C0F6240872.jpeg
A18A48DB-CDB2-41D9-9EC5-96C0F6240872.jpeg (287.93 KiB) Viewed 988 times
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Victoria
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Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:18 pm

Frisbeehead wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:01 pm
And yes, the 40ml shiboridashi especially cools down very quickly. I should perhaps compensate by using hotter water? Like 150-160F? Or would adding more leaf be the better option...I will have to experiment. I am afraid that any more leaf will start to overflow the shiboridashi :lol:
From your tasting notes it sounds like you had a great session. Save your leaves, there’s only 50 grams. I’ll try downsizing to 5gram:40ml/140F (60c) to see if there is any noticeable difference. I wouldn’t raise recommended temperature by 10 degrees. With Japanese greens I’ve found smaller increments are better, so 2 or 4 degrees only. Anyway, I’ll try downsizing and report back 🍃.
Pete
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Sun Oct 13, 2019 2:57 pm

Victoria wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:03 pm

Oh yes, great idea about eating the tender leaves. I like to fry them in a fryer (no oil), slowly on low heat to remove moisture, swirling around while heating, and then add some herbs and spices like kelp, roasted sesame seeds, kombu, etc. This is nice sprinkled over eggs, rice, potatoes, roasted vegetables, soups...


Image
Yum. I had some raw, also very tasty.
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Brent D
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Mon Oct 14, 2019 9:22 am

Thanks for arranging all this Victoria!
I have a stuffed up smeller, so it looks like ill be saving this for a few weeks. Ill be following the tasting notes though.
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Victoria
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Mon Oct 14, 2019 4:19 pm

@Brent D hope you get your sense of smell back soon. This morning I was reading about Taoism, aroma and use of incense to move Qi energy around the body. Super relevant to the experience of tea.

Yesterday, I shared Ippodo’s Tokusen Gyokuro with @debunix and a few LATS members. They were blown away by how good it is. @Atlas even said it was the best gyokuro he’d ever had. I used 10grams: 80ml even though I’m starting to see the bottom of the bag. It’s so incredibly rich, smooth, and full of umami steeped using these proportions. Debunix then generously shared O-Cha’s Uji Suigyoku Gyokuro that only comes in 30ml packs. Wow, really very good, less umami but tasty sweet green vegetal pea shot notes. Very special to try these back to back. @bettinorosso for both Gyokuro we used Crystal Geyser, Alpine Spring (by CG Roxane Olancha, CA) with 140 TDS and 58-67 Alkalinity, results were excellent.
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Shine Magical
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Tue Oct 15, 2019 8:04 am

Shine Magical wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:16 am
"After 1 day open packet, re-seal with a bag clip or sim and wait +-12hr before using tea. This allows the needles to breath a little before steeping."


I've never heard of doing this before, but its interesting. I wonder how it applies to other types of tea as well. And does it mean it needs to be drunk more quickly to avoid degradation.
I guess, put another way, should I be doing this for all teas (opening the tea packet and letting the leaves breathe for 12 hours before doing first brew), or are some best straight from the bag when first opened? I thought even for gaoshan I should drink it as quickly as possible right out of the bag when its at its most floral nose, since I noticed slight degradation in flavor if I haven't finished the bag within 10 days. Even 1 or 2 days after opening, gaoshan has not smelled as floral as when I first open the packet. I'll definitely test it out for myself too, but I am still in the middle of doing a bunch of crazy water experiments. :o

My humidity is between 65-75% (I have a lot of plants...), which is a lot higher than what you have in LA.
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Victoria
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Tue Oct 15, 2019 7:10 pm

Hagimura, the Japanese producer of Sinensis Yokkaichi Gyokuro we are tasting, just shared the Gold Medal award they received. For some background on this Gyokuro -Koshi Hagimura owner of Hagimura is the producer, Hidenori Moriguchi is the international distributor with Mite Co. in Mie prefecture. Salvador Sosa, Sinensis director, (owned by ITI) is in partnership with Hidenori Moriguchi of MiteCha for their Japanese teas. Salvador Sosa, Sinensis director, made this special Yokkaichi Gyokuro available to TeaForum members. Sinensis, is a boutique specialty arm of whole sale distributor ITI, International Tea Importers here in Los Angeles. It looks like ITI submitted for the award, so is listed as the primary. I have a feeling many of these awards are pretty political, but in this case I think is well deserved.

Gyokuro:
International Tea Importers --- Reserve Mie Yabukita Gyokuro (USA)
https://www.teachampionship.com/tc16/Pu ... enu=109003
https://www.facebook.com/10000368875322 ... 84?sfns=mo


Edit: Updated production, and procurement of this Gyokuro in original post and here.
bettinorosso
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Wed Oct 16, 2019 1:07 pm

First off, thank you to @Victoria for arranging this and everyone for sharing their observations. I've only had gyokuro once or twice and have very limited experience brewing Japanese tea, so this is very educational and helps hone a perspective I haven't currently developed much. Whether due to the newness of the material to me or the more granular details of higher-grade greens, this is quite the experience. I'm trying to stay connected with the experience of the tea which is undoubtedly of intense and pleasurable character, but am still preoccupied with getting it "right" as an unfamiliar discipline.

I started with the Sinensis Yokkaichi as the parameters allow more sessions to learn, and I also find it very difficult to split that amazing Ippodo label in two! I adjusted slightly to allow for 90 ml of water in a glazed shibo, but stuck to the ratio and times prescribed by the vendor. This leaves all my neurosis focused on water choice, which has proven interesting. My evaluations are crude and full of leaps of assumption, as I'm only metering unboiled water and have no frame of reference for how these teas behave when variables are changed. I'll try not to extrapolate too much and only share my observations.

First attempt was with Poland Spring, as I read from a vendor of Japanese teas that it was an appropriate water (not sure the weight to put behind this opinion or whether it was more apt for sencha.) Listed at around 7.4 pH and metering in in the high 40's ppm of TDS. The first steep (120s) was immediately rich and savory, with no astringency whatsoever for such deeply extracted tea. The salinity of the tea was bracing, but kept developing into something too singular and intense for comfort with a lot of sustain. I couldn't identify it as a flavor of sourness, but it had the kind of intense mouth activity that tamarind produces in effect with other flavors - runaway salivation, a pinched sensation in the lower gums and cheeks, and it amplified the umami to a degree that distracted from the other qualities of the tea. I'll stick to calling it a "mouth activity" in lieu of better words, but it was in such strong force as to disrupt the balance of the tea and makes me believe it was amplified by a singular component of the water. Subsequent brews were tamer, and the gentle sweetness and unbelievable texture of the tea made me think of the mouthfeel great Burgundy provides - a complete silken coating of the mouth that threatens to pop like a bubble at any second, and never does.

Second day I opted for Glacier Isle as the Icelandic waters (I believe this is a common source with lots of individual branding depending on the retailer) have proven popular with people. It measured a little higher in the mid-50's PPM pre-boil, but like many of the Nordic waters I've bought veered away from neutrality with 8.8 pH. The dominant "mouth activity" was gone, but the tea itself felt less lofty than the previous session - I'm not sure if it's the alkalinity or a different mineral composition but there was fine astringency and the vegetal flavors leaned closer to "greener" qualities I associate with pre-qingming greens or sencha. It was like having a superlatively sweet and soft textured English pea at the height of the season, then buying them a few weeks later and finding them delicious but starchier and less vivid.

My thoughts were to leap into assumptions about pH and try and bring the Glacier Isle closer to neutrality with some purified water, but looking at other's water choices it looks like maybe I'm being too gentle on the throttle with TDS. Other brewers with gyokuro familiarity are finding "appropriate" results that highlight the unique shade-grown qualities of the tea with solutions twice as high. Unfortunately brands like Crystal Geyser use sources on the East Coast that I've never enjoyed as much as Shasta or Olancha springs, so next try will be Hawaiian water with 110 ppm and a slightly lower pH than the Glacier Isle. I'm hoping to avoid reading too much into my meager and incomplete analysis of the water - not to mention stay more present in the cup of these teas that are great examples of their genre - but it has been very enjoyable revisiting the same brands of bottled water I casually cycle through in my daily brewing with a little more scrutiny.

By the time I'm ready to split the Ippodo label in two with wild abandon, hopefully I'll have pared the process down to just a thermometer, and exchange the jabbing of probes for more personal reflection and surrender to the tea!
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Victoria
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Wed Oct 16, 2019 2:31 pm

Wow, @bettinorosso a lot to think about and parse through. Clearly, you know different water qualities well, so your exploration will be very interesting to follow and try out as well. Eventually I’ll link your water analysis comments to our Water thread, to share your experiments there as well.

When you are ready to finally open Ippodo’s gyokuro you will be blown away by the difference between these two gyokuro. Both are representative, along a spectrum, of what a classic gyokuro should exemplify, with one on the clearer end the other brothier. I actually sent you my extra Ippodo canister, and since sharing 10grams on Sunday at our tasting am reaching the bottom, so will try 5g:40ml or 7.5g:60ml to see if these proportions impact the steep significantly. I’ll make sure to use the same water we used on Sunday, Crystal Geyser, Alpine Spring (by CG Roxane Olancha, CA). I’m not really a fan of this water but do find it doesn’t interfere negatively, it’s kind of neutral.
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