Monday, October 17, 2011

A Rare Treat : Ashikubo Sencha


My first, of what may be many more, orders from Little Mew Brew arrived this afternoon, and the sampling of Ashikubo Sencha, a.k.a. Sencha Fir was opened tout de suite! If you're looking for an interesting tea, Little Mew Brew should be one of your first stops. Where else could I find a sample-size (which is enough for a solitary tea drinker like me) of Lapsang Souchong, a jasmine, and this heretofore-unbeknownst-to-me Sencha Fir in one place?

Only working from the description of the tea as a Sencha Fir, I had to dig to find a little information about it's origins. From what I've gathered, it is a Shizuoka Japan region speciality, roasted sencha green tea. Roasted in the sense that it is 'wood-fire dried' and takes on the flavor of the wood being used, in this case, fir tree. You could equate it to the same type of flavoring that has infiltrated American cuisine and the popularity of barbecuing with mesquite or apple tree wood to impart those different flavors into the product. So, one would expect to smell or taste a hint of green pine flavor in the tea. Perhaps not everyone's fantasy, but I enjoy sencha and I love learning about the different processing methods that are popular around the world.






This particular sample is also flavored with cherry, so there is a distinction to be made. You can purchase Ashikubo sencha in it's pure form from different vendors. My particular blend smells very strongly of cherry and pine bark, in such a way that I got the impression of having opened powdered cherry cola. I like cherry cola, but I've had bad cherry-flavored teas in the past, so I was wary of it being such a strong component.




But in the cup, there's evidence of a masterful blend. The three components are not fighting each other - the sencha leaves are delicate, the pine or fir is just a hint rather than being a force unto itself, and the cherry avoids being chemical or nauseating. It's more of an afterthought to the sip.




If you enjoy the vegetal or umame qualities of pure sencha above all else, this particular blend isn't for you, but you may enjoy the pure Ashikubo roasted variety for that unique 'winter is here' wood-fired pine scent. It's not especially astringent and has a very light liqueur.




I really enjoyed my first few cups of this sencha as a holiday treat. There were pumpkin muffins in the pantry that were screaming to be made so I obliged and enjoyed them with my Ashikubo and a dollop of indulgent cream cheese. It may be a seaonal tea in Japan for different reasons, but I can see this being a tea to prepare in a few weeks when I join my family in our annual holiday tree-hunt through the inevitable snow.




Being a transplant to the North from the Southern U.S., I can tell you that this would be a fabulous tea to prepare for a Southern holiday dinner party when the weather may not have you feeling the need to bundle up, but you want that chestnuts-and-open-fire ambiance.




This is also an excellent green tea alternative for those among you who enjoy Lapsang Souchong, but might need a lighter choice once in a while. You still have that satisfying wood-smoke flavor, but it doesn't overwhelm or leave you with campfire breath afterward.




An interesting and unique choice - and thanks again to Little Mew Brew for making it available to share!






c:_:

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