Inaugural Group Tasting: Sinensis Yokkaichi & Ippodo Tokusen Gyokuro

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Victoria
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Wed Oct 30, 2019 1:43 pm

Moon Rabbit wrote:
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...
........
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!
Welcome to the tasting @Moon Rabbit, your descriptions are thought-provoking! Along with @Shine Magical, @bettinorosso is also comparing a Kettl gyokuro in this tasting, so will be interesting to hear their reactions as well. As an experiment you might try steeping Sinensis Yokkaichi with a lower TDS water like Iceland Spring that is available in many stores under different labels but same water. Love your ”raw melon, ripe cantaloupe, soft flowy marshmallow, chicken soup” descriptions.
davidmarkglass
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Wed Oct 30, 2019 2:18 pm

I wanted to also participate in this Ippodo Tokusen tasting but was too late so wrote Ippodo directly, here is their reply;
Dear David,

Thank you for your inquiry about our Tokusen Gyokuro once again, and we sincerely regret to let you know that our sales of 2019 Tokusen Gyokuro has finished for this year. As we mentioned in our reply in 2018, Tokusen Gyokuro is only available for a certain period of time each year while stock lasts. This year, it was available from July and went out of stock in Sep. Last year, it was available from Aug and went out of stock in mid Oct.

We are very sorry that we are not able to deliver it to you this year. If you would still be interested in 2020, it would be great if you could contact us sometime in early summer such as July to reserve for you.

We are once again sorry for this inconvenience, and we hope we will get a chance to serve you again in 2020.

Sincerely,
Ippodo Tea Co.
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Victoria
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Wed Oct 30, 2019 4:00 pm

davidmarkglass wrote:
Wed Oct 30, 2019 2:18 pm
I wanted to also participate in this Ippodo Tokusen tasting but was too late so wrote Ippodo directly, here is their reply;
Dear David,

Thank you for your inquiry about our Tokusen Gyokuro once again, and we sincerely regret to let you know that our sales of 2019 Tokusen Gyokuro has finished for this year. As we mentioned in our reply in 2018, Tokusen Gyokuro is only available for a certain period of time each year while stock lasts. This year, it was available from July and went out of stock in Sep. Last year, it was available from Aug and went out of stock in mid Oct.

We are very sorry that we are not able to deliver it to you this year. If you would still be interested in 2020, it would be great if you could contact us sometime in early summer such as July to reserve for you.

We are once again sorry for this inconvenience, and we hope we will get a chance to serve you again in 2020.

Sincerely,
Ippodo Tea Co.
Thanks for sharing this letter @davidmarkglass. I’m surprised to read that they started to sell this gyokuro so early in the year. Typically shaded first flush sincha that is used for gyokuro is harvested end of April, and then stored 4-6+ months to age a little bit. I wonder if their sincha harvest was early this year, or if Ippodo just considered it to have reached its peak, and decided to offer it earlier than usual. It certainly tastes perfect, and as in past years has a very similar profile.
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Victoria
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Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:19 pm

Oh wow, stop the press. Calling all rooftops. I just tried more leaf with Sinensis Yokkaichi and I like it Much more! @davidmarkglass asked in a chat how come I wasn’t recommending more leaf with this gyokuro. He commented “One more question. Usually when you brew gyokuro, you just barely cover the leaves with water, which means 10g tea and 2 oz water.” and “Thes du Japon advises 10g/60ml”. My reply was each gyokuro is unique, but that I'd try more leaf. I’m so glad I did, and only sorry I didn’t recommend this at the beginning of our tasting. I kept water temperature to 208F/2.30 minutes. Thank you David. Give it a try, very fruit forward and rich.

6g/75ml/108F/2.30 min with Iceland Spring in Jozan III shigaraki 80ml kyusu. Delicious!

Sinensis Yokkaichi w Jozan III L1010622.jpg
Sinensis Yokkaichi w Jozan III L1010622.jpg (657.82 KiB) Viewed 976 times
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Bok
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Sun Nov 03, 2019 8:15 am

@Victoria what the vendor told you overlaps with my own experiments and what my source recommended me to use in terms of leaf/water ratio.

For anyone interested in a measuring-device-and-fuzz-free way to prepare Gyokuru:

Water temperature:
Water just off the boil in a pouring vessel, when it stops steaming it is around 80 degrees Celsius.
Hold a hand over the vessel, when it is not a burning sensation any longer it is 60 degrees, ready to pour.

Vessel size matters little.

Take as much leaf as you feel like, soak it with water until covered - and then a little more.
For subsequent brews, add a little more water, as they swell up a little.

As for steeping time, roughly 90sec for the first round, then longer, according to preferences. Water can be hotter as well.

Three times max.

I did this with a couple of different Gyokurus and it yielded no bitterness or other indicators of over- or underbrewing.
Last edited by Bok on Sun Nov 03, 2019 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Bok
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Sun Nov 03, 2019 8:21 am

Continuing after I have finished off the Tokusen and Tenka Ichi:

Chameijin Organic Gyokuru. Very similar to the Tokusen, yet it had a pleasant throatfeel I normally would have associated with Gaoshan. No taste like it in the tea, just the throat feel.

Followed by something rather rare it seems, White leaf Gyokuru. Very obvious why it is called as such, the normal nuclear dark green of Gyokuru is a pale yellow green in this case. The mush left by the spent leaves is even softer as for the other Gyokurus I had so far. Also, the leaves soaked up all the water! Had to add and adjust... very strange. Kind of a hay-like note in it.

White leaf Gyokuru is fully shaded, which explains its delicateness. See the attachments for the colours.

I will reserve any global judgement on the overall of Gyokuru, until I am finished with the rest of the samples I have :mrgreen:
Attachments
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8F662917-BABA-41C5-A605-185AB127A636.jpeg
8F662917-BABA-41C5-A605-185AB127A636.jpeg (242.41 KiB) Viewed 882 times
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Teachronicles
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Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:35 am

Ok, this morning the ippodo, 6g in 50ml, following the recommended steeping times, 140F. But this time using Iceland pure from walgreens. Interestingly, it seems more briney and sea-y than I remember it being with my tap water (bay area tap). Still enjoyable nonetheless.
Teachronicles
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:15 pm

Ok, now the sinensis with Iceland pure spring. 5g in 50ml, higher ratio as Victoria recently recommended. Same steep times as original recommendation. 115F. Wow, that first infusion is RICH, almost obnoxiously so haha. The remaining steeps were perfect, getting progressively lighter. I think the sweet spot was the 3rd and 4th steeps at 4 and 10 minutes, which were very refreshing. Here's a pic from the session.
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Mon Nov 04, 2019 2:15 pm

Teachronicles wrote:
Mon Nov 04, 2019 1:15 pm
Ok, now the sinensis with Iceland pure spring. 5g in 50ml, higher ratio as Victoria recently recommended. Same steep times as original recommendation. 115F. Wow, that first infusion is RICH, almost obnoxiously so haha. The remaining steeps were perfect, getting progressively lighter. I think the sweet spot was the 3rd and 4th steeps at 4 and 10 minutes, which were very refreshing. Here's a pic from the session.
Image
Wow, @Teachronicles really happy to hear that you had a good session. I agree that first infusion is potent. Beautiful shot of the wet leaves in your Shiboridashi. What flavors are you getting with Sinensis? vs Ippodo that you mentioned was more “ briney and sea-y” 🍃

I’ve been thinking about umami savory flavors that sometimes have notes of seaweed and the salty sea that surrounds the island of Japan. The simple steam processing of gyokuro helps to retain those flavors, but I wonder, given that Japan is a relatively narrow island, if the salty sea is subtly impregnated into the soil and root system of the tea plants there bringing out those briny notes. Probably more to do with steam processing though.
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Bok
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:54 am

Last two of my comparison set with the Ippodo Tokusen:
Asada En Uji and Asada En Temomi.

The Uji is hand rolled, not sure how and if that matters? Anyways, long story short, of all the Gyokurus I now had in the matter of two weeks, those two are my clear favorites! What they have and none of the others, except the Chameiren, is a nice and potent after taste, it lingers for quite a while and is very similar to a good Gaoshan in flavour. This is probably as close as I will ever get to enjoy a Gyokuru.

Primary taste in the cup is almost the same I would say among all the seven different Gyokurus I now had. The difference being how salty and sea-weedy they were...

All in all, I can now say for almost certain that I do not like Gyokuru. I got kind of used to it a bit and my initial yuk reaction has been softened a bit, but it is still not a tea I will ever crave. It is also not a good price value, very little liquid for a lot of money.

Now that I followed like a good boy how this tea is normally brewed, I plan to experiment with the remaining leaves in other parameters. Especially the two Asade En I do feel could do with some heat :mrgreen:

Anyways, it has been fun, now I need some oolong to relief my stomach...
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rdl
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:08 am

Bok, you wrote "It is also not a good price value, very little liquid for a lot of money. "
I think the pleasure of this tea has to do with the ratio of its exquisite taste to its dew-like quantity. It's there, it's gone. What lingers is precious.
I am sorry to have missed the opportunity to enjoy these special Gyoukuro but truly enjoyed this reading.

Poems from BryseBishoff
"Fall as they will, dew drops from the morning mist,
Puddle and replenish the earth. The brush begs for just a sip..."
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Bok
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:31 am

@rdl maybe. If I compare it to another expensive tea, Yancha, which is in its premium expression, a marvel to behold - yet I get so much more out of it.
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debunix
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 10:50 am

(Psst.....Bok.....I enjoy the soupy brothy version of these fine gyokuros, but it's not always what I want. I do enjoy gyokuro treated more like a sencha, with more water per quantity of leaf; with a hotter first infusion (150-160 degrees) for aminute or two; shorter, cooler second infusion (turn off heat on kettle and it is what it is; then infusing a little longer and hotter with successive infusions even to 205 degrees; before one last cool infusion enjoyed up to a day later (left all day while I am at work, overnight for an evening session).)

The lovely thing about gyokuro is that the tea tells no tales about how it was enjoyed.
Pete
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:11 pm

Great discussion. Like Bok I generally prefer Yancha over Gyokuro but this is an awesome treat and nice change of pace for me. It offers a thickness and texture that is pretty unique, not to mention umami goodness. Tea of this quality is an indulgence and education so I pretty much throw normal consideration of "value" out the window. Kind of like paying for a gourmet meal. Wanting to go higher ratio as suggested I half filled the gaiwan with dry leaf that is pretty much pushing the lid when wet. Incredibly thick, rich and savory. Enjoyed first two steep with a wonderful offering by Hozan Yamamoto with Gary Peacock "Autumn Sky" and " Golden Air" from the album Mugenkai. Subsequent steeps with Charlie Haden "The Golden Number" duos with Don Cherry, Archie Shepp and Hampton Hawes.

This is not a tea I want to drink often and a shame it doesn't store with better longevity. Sure is awesome on a sunny Fall morning. I haven't opened the Ippodo yet so cannot compare the two. Just savoring this special goodness until gone.
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Victoria
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Tue Nov 05, 2019 2:08 pm

Pete wrote:
Tue Nov 05, 2019 1:11 pm
Great discussion. Like Bok I generally prefer Yancha over Gyokuro but this is an awesome treat and nice change of pace for me. It offers a thickness and texture that is pretty unique, not to mention umami goodness. Tea of this quality is an indulgence and education so I pretty much throw normal consideration of "value" out the window. Kind of like paying for a gourmet meal. Wanting to go higher ratio as suggested I half filled the gaiwan with dry leaf that is pretty much pushing the lid when wet. Incredibly thick, rich and savory. Enjoyed first two steep with a wonderful offering by Hozan Yamamoto with Gary Peacock "Autumn Sky" and " Golden Air" from the album Mugenkai. Subsequent steeps with Charlie Haden "The Golden Number" duos with Don Cherry, Archie Shepp and Hampton Hawes.

This is not a tea I want to drink often and a shame it doesn't store with better longevity. Sure is awesome on a sunny Fall morning. I haven't opened the Ippodo yet so cannot compare the two. Just savoring this special goodness until gone.
Oh, really glad to hear you enjoyed Sinensis Yokkaichi so much. Is an upbeat note for me to read. Agree with your comments as well re pricing.
Gyokuro is to savor not drink. To sip slowly with a few savory drops dissipating on tongue, which then give a soft lingering salivation.
Your music pairing is right on special too. Listening to Hozan Yamamoto play the shakuhachi is like hearing dew drops falling through the air.
Ippodo will rock your socks 🍃
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