Inaugural Group Tasting: Sinensis Yokkaichi & Ippodo Tokusen Gyokuro

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pizzapotamus
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Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:09 pm

Thes-du-japon also nitro flushes. They switched over about a year ago? Maybe longer, time slips by these days.
Pete
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Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:19 pm

Let the fun and joy begin. Opening the bags to breathe a few minutes my first impression is that they both smell heavenly. The Sinensis seemed to have a deeper more robust smell, where the Ippodo was higher frequency aroma and possibly smaller leaves. I didn't pour leaves out to examine them and perceptions could be off depending what was on top of each bag.
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Shine Magical
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Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:36 pm

I’m sick so it will take me a while to get to the tasting. Have fun everyone :D
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Chip
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Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:41 pm

Victoria wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:05 pm
Chip wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 1:48 pm
Which brings up the question, are these nitrogen flushed? Years ago, Ippodo did not but may have changed.

I do not think it is as critical to nitro flush gyokuro since it is best when aged at least several months.

Sencha on the other hand retains its freshness and intensity generally better when nitro flushed.
I don’t either Sinensis or Ippodo’s is nitrogen flushed, although not 100% sure, I think just vacuum sealed. I wonder how many Japanese producer/distributors use nitrogen flush besides O-cha?
Since you asked.

Most do. Nitrogen flushing is pretty common among modern tea packagers in Japan. Some of the older vendors do not, but even Tsuen does. Most retailers and e-tailers have their tea packaged for them upon purchase.

In fact, most first flush sencha being cold stored in large bails awaiting consumer demand to be packaged for sale is nitrogen flushed.

Smaller retailers packaging their tea in house likely do not.

From December on, I can usually tell right away if a sencha was nitrogen flushed ... or not.

But Gyokuro ... overall I am quite uncertain how it is aged and then fi ally packaged for sale. A lot of trade secrets I am sure.

... and now back to your topic.
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Chip
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Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:43 pm

Shine Magical wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:36 pm
I’m sick so it will take me a while to get to the tasting. Have fun everyone :D
Get well soon! You definitely want to have your "tasters" in tip top shape for this!
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Chip
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Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:56 pm

Bok wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:24 am
Shine Magical wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:16 am
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.
It certainly works as well for high mountain Oolong. Freshly opened is tasting not as nice as the day after, I noticed this a couple of times. Gaoshan, once opened is best consumed in 2-3 weeks max. I imagine that being a lot shorter for Gyokuru.
Hmmm, I truly do not think so for Gyokuro. If it is in PRIME condition upon opening, I have had fine gyokuro open well over a month. Sometimes it actually improves.

In fact, I recently opened a bag, sampled it and decided it was too intense, it had not mellowed to my satisfaction. So I set it aside for a few weeks. It is now incredibly awesome.

A lot also depends on how many times or frequency a bag or package of gyokuro is opened. For this reason if I open a 100 gram bag of gyokuro, I split it in half and use up one bag at a time.
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There is no self
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 3:20 am

Victoria wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:54 pm
Super fast shipping for almost everyone! Well except Torino, Italy where There is no self is. Hope you get your’s soon :) .
USPS recently surprised me by delivering in barely two weeks, so hopefully it won't be too long. :mrgreen:
Meanwhile have fun tasting, everyone!
Teachronicles
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 1:55 pm

Ok, I received my package yesterday and broke the rules a bit 😅. I let it sit for 5-6 hours but opened sinensis yokkaichi the package last night and had a session. I followed the brew instructions with only my ratio and vessel size being slightly different. 3.5g in 50ml andrzej bero shibo. And I used the local bay area tap water.

Wow, those first two infusions are intense, a bit salty, I could see maybe the tap water is a bit too high TDS (I'm going to walgreens today to pick up some Iceland spring). The third infusion was my favorite, not as intense as the first two but with a really nice more mellow flavor. The 10 minute and overnight were good as well.
Teachronicles
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:03 pm

I'm gna try to go through the yokkaichi, experimenting all sorts of different ways to brew it before I start on the ippodo. The label on the cannister is so pretty I want to avoid opening it for as long as possible 😂
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Frisbeehead
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:13 pm

Received my package yesterday, wow that shipping was fast! First, I would like to express my thanks to Victoria for setting up this group buy, and hooking us up with tea I certainly would not have been able to acquire otherwise. So, thanks for that Victoria! And thank you for the cute note that you sent with it, it made my day :D

I've waited a day to open it, so I will open it today to try some out. I will be following the parameters described by Victoria, so that comparing our tasting notes is more accurate. I'm planning on using my Hokujo shiboridashi, and I'll post some pics of the process of making it.

Very much looking forward to tasting this tea.

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Victoria
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:26 pm

@Frisbeehead sweet. I’m so glad you got your packet :) and looking forward to your umami filled sessions 🍃
Teachronicles wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 1:55 pm
Ok, I received my package yesterday and broke the rules a bit 😅. I let it sit for 5-6 hours but opened sinensis yokkaichi the package last night and had a session. I followed the brew instructions with only my ratio and vessel size being slightly different. 3.5g in 50ml andrzej bero shibo. And I used the local bay area tap water.

Wow, those first two infusions are intense, a bit salty, I could see maybe the tap water is a bit too high TDS (I'm going to walgreens today to pick up some Iceland spring). The third infusion was my favorite, not as intense as the first two but with a really nice more mellow flavor. The 10 minute and overnight were good as well.
Haha, glad your speeded up resting period worked out. With Sinensis Yokkaichi Gyokuro I’m using 6g/ 110ml (3.3oz)/ 108F (42C)/ 2.30 min, 2.30, 5, 15, overnight. I found slight bitterness came out above 110F. Today I’m steeping it in a Tokoname kyusu by Gyokuro (Mr. Umehara Jiro) with Crystal Geyser (Olancha, CA) came out smooth with nice umami and fruity notes. I recommend pre-heating your kyusu to bring out aromatics of dry leaf and stabilize steeping temperature.
Teachronicles wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:03 pm
I'm gna try to go through the yokkaichi, experimenting all sorts of different ways to brew it before I start on the ippodo. The label on the cannister is so pretty I want to avoid opening it for as long as possible 😂
Might be nice to experience these two side-by-side, or back-to-back, over an extended steep. They are pretty different gyokuro, so is interesting to notice the nuances between the two. Yeah, the label is awesome.
Pete
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:48 pm

First session with the Sinensis today, paired with John Coltrane "Blue World". Used TJ Olancha water (105tds), Ruyao pancake teapot at prescribed ratio and temp. Love the rich dry leaf odor, especially when in the warmed pot.

1st steep "Naima" thick and oily butter that coats the mouth and throat. Sweet, salty, slightly astringent umami. Long wonderful aftertaste, minerals.
2nd "Blue World" sweeter, lighter in flavor, the first was intense, this one more balanced (?) and easily enjoyed. savory. wonderful rising body energy from core to forehead, growing sense of well being. I taste a bit more of the Sun where first was darker.
3rd "Village Blues" Probably my favorite as well in retrospect. I am the tea, the tea is me. no notes.
4th "Like Sonny" Started soft like the longish Jimmy Garrison bass intro, the light shines with the beautiful McCoy Tyner solo that followed. Tastes like the beautiful Fall day here in San Diego. By the time Trane came in I was floating like a cloud in the rich blue sky.
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Victoria
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 3:42 pm

@Pete listening to Coltrane’s Blue World now, a perfect album to match with Sinensis gyokuro, smooothhh, with high low dissonant notes popping around. ‘Like Sony’ lyrical flow might best express how I feel about this gyokuro. I’m also using Crystal Geyser’s California Olancha water today, seems to be good with this gyokuro. Great tasting notes! Thanks for sharing those.
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Frisbeehead
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:26 pm

Inaugural session with the Ippodo Tokusen Gyokuro. Using a Hokujo shiboridashi, ~40ml. Following the parameters recommended by the producer, which turns out to be 5g/40ml shiboridashi and 140F water cooled down from boiling using a Hokujo yuzamashi.

1: 90 seconds
- Thick, milky texture that coats the entire inside of my mouth. Powerful umami, along with salt (thinking salted butter), slight bit of mineral. The aroma of the leaves reminds me of the damp summer woods around the base of a few mountains I visited in Sichuan, China. Ridiculously long aftertaste.

2: 90 seconds
- Texture has lightened up a bit, yet still milky and smooth all around my mouth. Savory seaweed aftertaste still sticks around for a very long time. Mineral taste has decreased a bit, and I notice some very slight astringency. A calming sensation has started to spread throughout my body with this steep, in contrast to the more intense stimulation I get with sencha. Pete mentioned listening to Coltrane while drinking this gyokuro, and I can absolutely see why. Jazz would pair excellently with this gyokuro.

3: 3 min.
- At this point, the tea liquor has the perfect texture in my opinion. It still has that base milky smoothness, without being overwhelmingly so (like cream). Still has a little astringency, which balances nicely with the sweetness up front that I'm starting to get as well as the umami. All the flavors are very well-balanced in this steep.

4: 6 min.
- Wow, the difference between this steep and the last one is quite noticeable. Milky texture has noticeably thinned. Much more sweetness up front and in the throat, balanced with the umami that is still going strong. Mineral is much more noticeable this steep as well, possibly due to the other flavors mellowing out and allowing it to shine through the mix. I would like to have a full cup of this steep, I can tell that this steep on ice would be very refreshing.

5: 15 min.
- Quite similar to the previous steep, albeit much lighter. Umami not as strong, the lighter grassy notes coming through a bit more. Still a bit of sweetness, and some astringency.

I'll finish the notes with steep 5 for now, the 3.5 hour steep and overnight steep will be reported on tomorrow most likely. I will take the leaves and cold brew them overnight in my mug in the fridge, which I predict will be very refreshing in the morning tomorrow. This tea seems like it would lend itself well to overnight cold brewing.

Overall, an excellent tea that should be savored to squeeze out every ounce of enjoyment from it. I especially love this tea around steep 3, where all of its qualities are perfectly balanced with each other. Next time I try it, I'll be using my Shigaraki kyusu from Masaki Tachi, and will perhaps experiment more with the parameters. Really looking forward to that.

Gallery of my first session with the Ippodo Gyokuro:
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pedant
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Sat Oct 12, 2019 9:36 pm

Teachronicles wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:03 pm
The label on the cannister is so pretty I want to avoid opening it for as long as possible 😂
i know, i love that label. i made some larger prints out of it a couple years ago :lol:

also, check this out:

ippodo-labels.jpg
ippodo-labels.jpg (241.45 KiB) Viewed 94 times
on the right is the tokusen label i got 2 years ago when i visited their store in kyoto.
on the left is the new tokusen label from this group buy.

see how the characters on the urn are different? carefully examining it, it seems like the characters are stamped on in an additional process at the end. i wonder if they stamp something new every year. could someone please translate what's on there? 🙏

edit: left = tokusen gyokuro [特撰玉露], right = tokusen sencha [特撰煎茶]
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