Saturday, November 14, 2015

What-Cha's Japan Bancha Goishicha Dark Tea

What-Cha's Description
A truly unique tea that is rarely found within Japan, let alone outside. It possesses an incredible aroma and an equally unusual and lingering sour taste with elements of lemon, mushroom and soya sauce.

My thoughts
I'll be honest: this is a tea I've been putting off for a while now. Ever since it was listed at What-Cha it piqued my interest, but it always got pushed back to the wish list when I went to order. Finally a month or so ago, this tea went on sale and I bit the bullet and ordered a bag, still not really knowing what to expect.

What-Cha describes the unique processing method that goes into making this tea: "The tea has an equally unique method of processing to go match its unique taste; it is double fermented with bancha leaves steamed, stacked, mat flattened, left to ferment on the ground and finally stacked within a barrel to undergo a second fermentation."

Dry leaves - Ok, that aroma is pungent. I mean wow, that is not a smell you expect from tea leaves. Immediately I'm hit with a wild combination of sour lemon, cedar smoke, and soy and barbecue sauces. I'm not saying it's bad, but it's certainly not what I was expecting at all, and I really wasn't sure what to expect with this tea anyway. The huge leaves are flattened and stacked into small piles about 10-15 leaves thick. I used a whole stack (~7g) for this session.

Brewing parameters - 212F, 2 x 20s rinse, then 5-20s each steep. What-Cha recommends long (4-5m) steep times, but with as pungent as the aroma is, I don't want to risk making the broth too strong, so I treated it like a puer.

Tasting notes - Sour lemon, soy sauce, tangy, mushroom, malt, umami

Surprisingly, the golden yellow broth is not nearly as powerful as the dry leaves, maybe from the short steep times. The tangy lemon is right at the front of the sip, and gives the soup an odd acidic quality. It causes a sour tingle deep in my gums below the molars, and in the back of my cheeks. The tingle quickly fades as the flavor shifts from citrus to a savory, umami medley. The flavor falls somewhere in between a mild soy sauce and a tangy worcestershire sauce, still with a tinge of lemon in the background.

Steeps 4-6 change significantly. The saucy tangy-ness disappeared almost completely, leaving a more subdued sweet lemony flavor that mingles with a savory mushroom character, ending in the tiniest hint of malt. To be honest, I was kind of on the fence with this tea on the early steeps, but starting with #4, I like this tea a lot.

I got 2 more steeps out of it for a total of 8. I could have gone for more, but it was getting late and I needed sleep. The later steeps are more of a mildly savory citrus, but still retain a good bit of sweetness. I can't really pick out any major flavors other than lemon anymore.

Everything about this tea is completely unique. The idiosyncratic aroma and flavors may scare some people off, but if you'd like to try a tea that is different from anything else you've ever tried, I urge you to give this one a shot.

You can buy this tea from What-Cha here:

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