I am a big tea drinker, have been since I was little, but in the very British form of a PG Tips, and more recently Yorkshire Tea. Only in the last year, along with beer and coffee, have my taste buds developed to accept a variety of teas. Luckily, since then, I’ve been able to experience some top quality ones too! My experience of green teas is relatively limited up until I visited Comins Tea House, in Sturminster Newton, last Summer. I was very fortunate in coming away with a few tasters to review!
The plan is to present to you three green teas, two Japanese and one Chinese. Sencha Karigane, Gyokuro, and Long Jing. There’s quite a difference between the two countries in terms of green tea and this lies in how the leaves are processed, and in particular, how the oxidation is stopped. Japanese teas tend to be steamed and Chinese teas tend to be pan-fired.
Sencha Karigane and Long Jing
Sencha Karigane, Japan
This Sencha is from an early harvest, known as a first flush, which takes place in the beginning of spring. The Sencha Karigane has a sweeter flavour than other Senchas as it is made from the Karigane (stem and veins) of the tea leaves.
I find the easiest way of brewing these loose leaf teas is through the use of tea pouches, basically just empty tea bags, where you can measure out the tea yourself and then brew by the cup. The Sencha Karigane should be brewed at 80 degrees, I don’t have a thermometer, so I tend to leave the water a minute and a half after boiling.
In appearance the Sencha Karigane was a light, but vivid yellow and gave off some raw and grassy aromas. In terms of taste, a number of flavours popped up; cucumber, pancakes and buttermilk, with a kind of white grape taste as it cooled. The leaves can be reinfused or reused multiple times, in this case around four or five.
Difference in colour: Sencha Karigane and Long Jing
Long Jing, China
The direct heat applied to the Long Jing is through pan-firing the leaves in a heated wok-like metal bowl. The leaves of the tea are pressed against the hot metal using the fingers, which results in the finished leaves being flat and resembling the blade of a sword. The Long Jing has the same brewing pattern as the Sencha, 80 degrees for one minute.
The Long Jing, in appearance, was much more of a honeyed yellow. The colour was also a hint for its flavours! Initially, the Long Jing is much more floral (specifically jasmine), and then honey and melon as it cooled.
The Gyokuro’s trick is that in the last twenty days before harvesting the tea is grown under shade, which makes its sweet flavours even more prominent. The temperature at which this tea should be infused at is also lower, 60 degrees.
Similar to the Sencha Karigane, the Gyokuro has those raw and grassy aromas. The difference is, is that it’s so sweet if there was such a thing as candied grass, that’s what the Gyokuro smells like! The flavour continues to be comparable to sweet hay with lovely buttery notes. The finish is quite dry, but the tannins do not over power and you’re left with a fresh and spring like taste!
I think the florals and sweetness of the Chinese Green is probably my preference but the Japanese Greens are just beautiful in their own right! I still can’t get over the differences between the three teas and it really shows that, though they all come under the same label, they can be very contrasting!