Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Sencha Pinnacle 2013

Hello again my friends!

Instead of cramming, which I'm now utterly sick of and can't continue with just yet, I'm back with my thoughts on yet another tea! But this time, from another mysterious land of the East! It's shincha season, which means it's the first harvest of the year in Japan so all of those leaves going to be really fresh and flavourful!

This time we took a look around Hibiki-an and I found myself this lovely parcel: The Sencha Pinnacle! Very pricey, and well worth the gamble as you will see later. I'll explain why I did that a little further down.

That's the nicest packaging I've seen so far

Now sencha (煎茶 = steamed/simmered in Japanese, and fried in Chinese) is produced quite differently to Chinese teas, so one should expect to find different but equally interesting experiences. I suspect the difference in meanings can also somehow be attributed to the difference in the processes! Anyway, you can read more about it at this lovely resource we all used in high school.

While we're here, I might as well talk about my first experience with this range of teas. So, after yesterday's exercise session we sat down to drink tea and relax and talk. Well, in my case I was playing Magic the Gathering with Simon because we haven't played it for many months now. It was good fun.

Anyway, Peter started recounting a time when I was still very skeptical of this variety of teas. Yes, my dear readers, I used to be put off by Japanese teas in the beginning when I was still new to this world of wonders. I had always imagined all teas to be something of a sweet or herbaceous affair... So much to my surprise the tea was very strongly flavoured in the other end of the spectrum. The dissonance in my mind was a bit much, and I found myself unable to enjoy it fully.

But fast forward two years... And here we are. I've bought myself a fancy little packet of the stuff because I might as well make the best bang for my buck. I already have ~250g of other teas still lying around on my shelf at the time of writing this, so I figured that a small quantity would be ideal. And in hindsight it was a good choice because it creates such a strong first (proper) impression for me.

So let's get started, shall we?

So once again I started off with nosing the contents of the packet. I've found seaweed, corn and butter/avocado so far. Interestingly, I could also smell mint/spearmint hanging around in the back. That's a new one... This is already shaping up to be a very rich and savoury experience.

Pouring out the leaves... They look very fresh, for sure. It looks and feels like fresh pine needles too. The leaves are already quite fragile and highly fragmented, as a result of the process the Japanese use to manufacture this sort of tea. Methinks its the steaming that quickly takes away the leaf's integrity.

The leaves produce a beautifully intense green liquor that matches the blue celadon gaiwan so well. It sure does put the green in green tea!

I've definitely found my new favourite tea spot

Say hi to my new friend O_o

But there is a pleasant bitterness that makes a grand entrance and then stays in the mouth for a while after each cup is downed. I'm not sure if that's kuwei. It seems to be a lot more obscure than the usual flavours (like umami, until recently), so I don't know if that is it. But I will take what I have experienced to be my own interpretation of the sensation :)

Anyway, after that it develops into a very savoury, butter-y/avocado-y soup, which itself departs and leaves a very interesting gift in its place... It's the apricot "feel"/qualia that I couldn't adequately describe in one of my previous posts Ponder! I think this is one particular sensation I'll treasure all the more for its inability to be shared :P

One of the things I also love about this tea is the way it changes throughout its very short lifespan (fragmented leaves strike once again!). As its potency starts to fade away, the bitterness becomes a bit more mellowed out, and seaweed becomes very apparent. And sadly the fresh apricots also bow out at this point and turns into a mild sweetness.

And not long after... Bereft of life. Just plain water. And I guess it's oddly appropriate that it makes me think of transience, wabi-sabi and all that it entails. Hooray for intellectually engaging experiences :P

Somehow this tea also feels very Japanese, not only in its origins but also in the flavour profile. This one has definitely impressed me, and I'm eager to try more! Next time we go for a Japanese tea shipment I'll have to try some gyokuro and/or matcha! I'm already so excited :)

Wish me luck for my exam tomorrow! I will know the sweet taste of freedom once more...


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