Inaugural Group Tasting: Sinensis Yokkaichi & Ippodo Tokusen Gyokuro

Post Reply
User avatar
Bok
Posts: 2467
Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:55 am
Location: Taiwan

Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:41 am

Arriving late for the party. My Tokusen Gyokuru arrived via a different route, along with a few other Gyokurus from different provenances, more book-keeping needed on that part...

First brew, first reaction: salty.

Not really ready to say much else, will need further testing and/or comparison with the other Gyokurus I got.
Attachments
9F4E2C07-55F0-45FF-AB87-0DAE07E68C6B.jpeg
9F4E2C07-55F0-45FF-AB87-0DAE07E68C6B.jpeg (170.48 KiB) Viewed 1396 times
User avatar
Victoria
Admin
Posts: 1834
Joined: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:33 pm
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Contact:

Mon Oct 28, 2019 2:12 pm

@Bok welcome to the tasting. Did a friend bring it to you from Kyoto store? I encourage you to try at least once Ippodo recommended steeping parameters. I realize following exactly is like doing a chemistry experiment, but hey we don’t drink this everyday so might as well learn from recommendations. It is delicious and rich, full of umami steeped their way.
User avatar
Victoria
Admin
Posts: 1834
Joined: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:33 pm
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Contact:

Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:18 pm

I finally got around to trying Sinensis Yokkaichi using two different types of water side-by-side, Iceland Spring (TDS 53) and Chrystal Geyser from Olancha, CA (TDS 120-150). Steeped in identical porcelain Kiyomizu-ware porcelain by Heian Gyokusen, using aproxímate vendor recommended parameters 5.3g/100ml/108F/2.30min. I would have preferred steeping this gyokuro in Shigaraki kyusu but don’t have two identical ones, so went for more neutral porcelain.

Both steeped nicely, with the Iceland Spring having a slightly smoother profile, but just by a little bit. Slightly more candy cane fruity coming through, with warming rounded notes. 2nd steep was very similar to Chrystal Geyser steep. The Chrystal Geyser steep was slightly more vegetal, slightly less fruity, with the taste of water coming through a little bit more. Both induced a really pleasant lingering salivation.

Iceland Spring. TDS 53, pH 8.89, Alkalinity 25, Hardness 16, Calcium 4.8, Magnesium .91, Sodium 12

Chrystal Geyser from Olancha, CA. TDS 120-150, pH 7-7.6, Alkalinity 58-67, Hardness 50-65, Calcium 17-22, Magnesium 1.3-2.4, Sodium 17-22.

The aroma of wet leaf, coming off the two unlidded houhin side-by-side, filled the air as I savored the liquor’s sweet umami notes. Like being in a sensory symphony.



And blown away by @bettinorosso’s poetic and eloquent Yokkaichi tasting notes. Wow, you have a way with language and an ability to describe flavors like very few do. Thank you for sharing your impressions. I looked up the water you used, in profile it seems somewhat similar to Iceland Spring;

Waiakea water from Hawaii TDS 83, pH 7.6-8.2, Calcium 5.6, Magnesium 2.9, Sodium 6.4
bettinorosso wrote:
Wed Oct 23, 2019 8:16 pm
Had a Goldilocks session with the Yokkaichi on Monday - third water was a charm (Waiakea water from Hawaii - 8.2 pH and somewhere in the high double digits TDS if we average one reading on a meter and a data sheet online.) This rectified everything that was lacking in the two previous sessions - umami and savory flavors were present and distinct but not exaggerated, texture was unctuous but deft, flavors were clean and bright but not hollow. Actually glad to know that the very strong bovril note in the first steep was still there - I love those flavors and was coincidentally reading about miso and legume ferments earlier that day. The highlight for me was the savory intensity of the first steep and how it contrasted with a bright, herbal cooling sensation on the second. It's a sensation of mouth activity I associate with young (usually Northern) sheng puer and kept the finish of the tea pushing along for quite some time. My sentiments line up with other tasters in that the third steep moves on from distinct and interesting notes to a gentler harmony that is very pleasant - I found the green herbal notes always balanced by a very slight melon sweetness and twinge of salinity. It's the kind of effortless joy that makes similar qualities in oysters so easy to keep eating and eating.
User avatar
Bok
Posts: 2467
Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:55 am
Location: Taiwan

Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:38 pm

Victoria wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 2:12 pm
Bok welcome to the tasting. Did a friend bring it to you from Kyoto store?
Yes. Got a friend in the tea business who brought it along with a dozen other Gyokurus (also another two from Ippodo), so I think after having all those, I'll have a clearer idea on what Gyokuru is all about. That friend did warn me beforehand though that Ippodo is a bit over-blended and lacks character. Likened it to over-breed poodles :mrgreen:

Also mentioned other Gyokuru were more wild in character, which I'll all find out in the next weeks. One highlight will be a so called White leaf Gyokuru which has been fully shaded apparently. To be continued.
User avatar
Victoria
Admin
Posts: 1834
Joined: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:33 pm
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Contact:

Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:44 pm

@Bok that’s a pretty funny analogy your friend made. No poodles here. Ippodo does blend, and year after year their Tokusen Gyokuro is consistently excellent and special. I have no beef with blending to arrive at certain sought after profiles, the opposite, it is an art form in itself.
User avatar
Baisao
Posts: 589
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:17 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:19 am

Victoria wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:44 pm
Bok that’s a pretty funny analogy your friend made. No poodles here. Ippodo does blend, and year after year their Tokusen Gyokuro is consistently excellent and special. I have no beef with blending to arrive at certain sought after profiles, the opposite, it is an art form in itself.
One if the very best senchas I had was from their in-house blender in the basement level. He made a one-off blend for a friend of mine and the citrus note was heavenly. Clearly an art!
User avatar
Victoria
Admin
Posts: 1834
Joined: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:33 pm
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Contact:

Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:45 am

Baisao wrote:
Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:19 am
Victoria wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:44 pm
Bok that’s a pretty funny analogy your friend made. No poodles here. Ippodo does blend, and year after year their Tokusen Gyokuro is consistently excellent and special. I have no beef with blending to arrive at certain sought after profiles, the opposite, it is an art form in itself.
One if the very best senchas I had was from their in-house blender in the basement level. He made a one-off blend for a friend of mine and the citrus note was heavenly. Clearly an art!
I hope one day you can experience a ‘superior select’ blend that you can say ‘ah now this is heaven and art ’ 🍃
User avatar
Bok
Posts: 2467
Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:55 am
Location: Taiwan

Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:54 am

I mean it kind of makes sense, they are a brand that you can get in any department store and train stations, it’s like the equivalent of Twinning tea ;)

I wouldn’t expect out of this world singular teas.
User avatar
Baisao
Posts: 589
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:17 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Tue Oct 29, 2019 11:05 am

Victoria wrote:
Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:45 am
I hope one day you can experience a ‘superior select’ blend that you can say ‘ah now this is heaven and art ’ 🍃
Who?
User avatar
Baisao
Posts: 589
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:17 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Tue Oct 29, 2019 11:06 am

Bok wrote:
Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:54 am
I mean it kind of makes sense, they are a brand that you can get in any department store and train stations, it’s like the equivalent of Twinning tea ;)

I wouldn’t expect out of this world singular teas.
I once praised an absinthe for being as finely blended as Coca Cola. Wasn’t an insult by any means.
User avatar
pedant
Admin
Posts: 862
Joined: Fri Sep 29, 2017 4:35 am
Location: Chicago
Contact:

Tue Oct 29, 2019 5:29 pm

Bok wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 8:41 am
First brew, first reaction: salty.

Not really ready to say much else, will need further testing and/or comparison with the other Gyokurus I got.
just curious.. sodium salty, glutamate salty, or both?
Bok wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:38 pm
Got a friend in the tea business who brought it along with a dozen other Gyokurus (also another two from Ippodo), so I think after having all those, I'll have a clearer idea on what Gyokuru is all about.
sounds like a nice friend! :mrgreen:
i look forward to your general thoughts on gyo. guessing you don't drink a lot of jp teas in general? do you like it enough to maybe start drinking it regularly?
Bok wrote:
Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:38 pm
That friend did warn me beforehand though that Ippodo is a bit over-blended and lacks character. Likened it to over-breed poodles :mrgreen:

Also mentioned other Gyokuru were more wild in character, which I'll all find out in the next weeks. One highlight will be a so called White leaf Gyokuru which has been fully shaded apparently. To be continued.
Bok wrote:
Tue Oct 29, 2019 1:54 am
I mean it kind of makes sense, they are a brand that you can get in any department store and train stations, it’s like the equivalent of Twinning tea ;)
hah. being such a big brand, i understand people taking jabs at it.
fwiw, i think that their blends are nice, but i don't usually buy their normal teas because i prefer offerings from the likes of o-cha and TdJ.
i love TdJ's teas. i don't know where else to get some of the stuff they offer, and i really trust florent's taste.
o-cha has very good 'more typical profile' senchas at reasonable prices.
perhaps a criticism could be that you're paying extra for the ippodo name, and their teas are a bit overpriced. the same could be said of Tsuen btw, which i am also a fan of (can buy it from o-cha).
but come on, man. Twinings? :lol:
they're nothing like that!
especially their tokusen offerings. i think it's excellent tea, and i'm trilled to get it without visiting kyoto. what a treat. easily one of my favorite gyos.

sorry for getting offtopic with vendor comparisons. back to the tea...

i'm just finishing up a session with ippodo tokusen now:

Jade dew: Ippodo Tokusen Gyokuro in a cup from Tokoname (unknown artist)
Jade dew: Ippodo Tokusen Gyokuro in a cup from Tokoname (unknown artist)
tokoname_cup_ippodo_tokusen.jpg (231.99 KiB) Viewed 1247 times

savoring these final drops of jade dew..

has anyone tried cold brewing it yet? i have 17g left and want to try that at least once.
User avatar
Bok
Posts: 2467
Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:55 am
Location: Taiwan

Tue Oct 29, 2019 8:45 pm

@pedant You got that right, I do not drink Japanese tea of any kind regularly, except the cheap Sen- and Hojicha one gets occasionally served in Japanese restaurants.

Ok, Twinnings was maybe a bit unfair, let’s change that for Fortnum&Mason :) Twinnings came to mind as it is one of the oldest tea merchants in London.

I also do know next to nothing about any Japanese tea brands, or have any preferences/prejudices on them, so I am not purposely dissing any brand in particular. I admire the packaging in Japan in general, and had so far only browsed the tea shops on previous trips to Japan (while sipping my Taiwanese tea in the hotel :) ).

In the meantime I have tried the Tokusen a couple more times, different parameters(ippodos as well) and different clays. Hokujo, antique Tokoname Shudei and porcelain. Result is still roughly the same, although I’d say Hokujo is definitely the wrong choice, as the tea has enough body as is…

I do not think I get the brewing too wrong, as I can not detect any bitterness in my brew. However, I can not find any of the adjectives that abound in everyone else’s raving reviews of this tea. Even if taken into account some brewing mistake and less familiarity with this kind of tea, it should not be that far off and I should at least see some potential in it.

If you’d told me “here take this lukewarm seaweed soup”, I’d think it’s nice and don’t think twice about it. But as a tea I find it hard to even finish this bag (and I got a lot). It doesn’t get as bad as my wife, whose first spontaneous reaction was “yuk, what the hell is this?!” But still, so far I can not find anything I really like in this tea.

Sorry guys, apparently not my thing at all.

I will still continue working my way down the bag and compare with the other Gyokurus, which might improve my opinion on Gyokuru in general, but probably not on this particular tea.
Moon Rabbit
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Sep 29, 2019 9:07 pm
Location: California

Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:13 am

Hello!

I am not used to onlline group tastings, so this would be my first attempt to write it out...

I didn't really get a chance to sit down and had Japanese teas until yesterday. It was just an initial brew to try first. We had 2 gyokuros: Yokkaichi Saemidori and Kettl's Kyomidori. For this initial brew, I made according to parameters recommended on both sides. We use San Francisco tap water, that goes through the Everpure filtration system.

Sinensis Yokkaichi Gyokuro
6g / 114ml / 108F / 2 min, 2, 4, 10, overnight

Kettl Kyomidori Gyokuro
6g / 60ml / 130F / 2 min, 2, 4, 10, overnight

I didn't have anything identical to use together, so I brewed Sinensis's in a porcelain gaiwan, and Kettl's in a wood-fired shiboridashi. This may affect the taste in some way. The shiboridashi is fairly new, haven't been in used much yet.

For the Sinensis version, I find the texture was balanced. It's like a soft, flowy, marshmallow green. It was unusual that I didn't think it would be a gyokuro if i were to blind taste it. I would like to try to brew this at a higher temp eventually.

For Kettl, this brewed out a deeper blueish-green hue than Sinensis. It has all the familiar deep umami, kelpy notes you would find in gyokuros. It was forgivingly brothy, not too much to the point that reminds one of concentrated iodine that you find in older stored gyokuros. My friend described this taste like...chicken soup. Possibly the Vietnamese chicken pho :D

Afterwards, we both ate a little bit of both brewed tea leaves. First by itself, and then with a touch of soy sauce. My friend find it surprisingly not bitter at all. They were both cold brewed overnight for about 22 hours. There was a lot of residual sweetness in both. Sinensis's was smooth and sweet like a raw melon, while Kettl's was more of a ripe cantaloupe. Both very interesting to explore further. We have a 3rd gyokuro from Tekuno that we want to try altogether eventually.

Once we do another cupping, I'll try to remember to take some pictures.
Happy Tea-ing!
User avatar
Shine Magical
Posts: 552
Joined: Wed Nov 01, 2017 4:13 pm
Location: NYC

Wed Oct 30, 2019 7:52 am

@Moon Rabbit
I also bought the special edition Kettl Kyomidori Gyokuro :D
I finished off the Tokusen but haven't tried the Sinensis or Kettl tea yet though, excited to try and see which one was my favorite :D
User avatar
Bok
Posts: 2467
Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:55 am
Location: Taiwan

Wed Oct 30, 2019 9:09 am

So having another go tonight:
This time first another Ippodo Gyokuru, the Tenka Ichi, which seems to be their regular highest quality in that category. Followed by the Tokusen. To be objective and because the vessel is just very suitable for brewing them, I went back to Hokujo 90ml perfect for the sample of 10g I have of the Tenka Ichi according to their recommendations.

Back to back with the Tokusen, the latter is much thicker and richer. Yet when I first had the Tenka Ichi I liked it better than my memory of the Tokusen the day before. However, having it again afterwards made me appreciate it more than in previous attempts.

Not to the point that I’d be craving them or spend the money they cost, but it seems kind of an acquired taste. We’ll see how that develops once I venture into the single origin and organic version I have waiting...

Price value is not the best I have to say, little liquid for a lot of cash in total.

What I do like better than the actual broth, is the throat feel it leaves me with. But both do leave a slightly uncomfortable stomach feeling, something that has turned me off Sencha in the past and which I never had with other teas, except young sheng (which should probably better not be consumed young in my opinion).

One is also well advised to quickly clean the teapots, the mush Gyokuru leaves behind is better not left unattended...
Post Reply