Monday, December 5, 2011

Obubu Tea Plantations : CSA Shipment - December 2011

Another lovely shipment from Obubu, just in time to help cope with the cold and snow that's arrived. This time there was a packet of Yanagi Bancha - more of an 'everyday' green tea, processed from the second or later flushes after harvesting more choice leaves earlier in the summer. Lots of dark green leaves, lighter-colored stems, and some twigs in the dry leaf, but this, at least to me, signals freshness and making way for the tastier leaves to arrive in the following season. Fun to look at and watch steep, as above.

I wrote my first taste impressions on Steepster. You can read more of it here. Don't let the description of it as being 'ordinary' fool you into skipping it. This is an excellent 'table' tea.

Also in this month's shipment there was a packet of Gokou Matcha, described on Obubu's website as being 'creamier' than other grades, made from a tea variety indigenous to Kyoto.

I've tried different restaurant-grade matchas and just recently enjoyed a ceremonial grade during a demonstration that I absolutely loved (described in an earlier post here), so I had a sense of what this might be, but I'm still a newbie when it comes to judging nuance of taste. Matcha is, after all, a bitter drink even in its sweetest forms.

How can I translate what this smelled like when I opened the packet to enjoy the dry leaf and transfer it to my tin? Fresh. Sweet. Leaf. Still doesn't do it enough justice. This is the freshest-smelling matcha I've ever opened. That may be a silly detail to most people, but with matcha, it's really part of the overall experience. The restaurant grades I've tried tend to be kept in storage or are made from leaves that are bit more bitter, so the aroma is a bit more flat. This version is vibrant.

And in the cup? A lovely dark, emerald green that does indeed whisk into a creamier froth than the other matchas in my cupboard. I added a small teaspoon of powder to my cup, prepared water at 2-3 minutes off of boiling (you don't want the water extremely hot), and whisked until the powder appeared to be dissolved. It's as simple as that.

The taste was sweeter - as in "leaf sweet" - this is not a flavored matcha, just pure-leaf. There's still the edge of vegetal and bitter, or umame, flavor but it's much more vibrant and fresh. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The ceremonial grade that I tried last month is still tops on my list, but this might just replace my "everyday" restaurant grade matcha that I get from my local tea shop.

*OF NOTE* This shipment marks a full calendar year of membership in Obubu's CSA Club for me. My subscription began in February, and my next shipment will be February 2012's picks. I haven't been disappointed in any of the offerings this year, they've all been top-quality and I look forward to hearing more about Obubu's efforts in Tohoku this coming January. They've taken a very active role in helping both tea farmers and tea consumers in their region and elsewhere. I'm glad they've opened their doors to the wider world to let us help as well, either as continued consumers of tea or with donations of the financial or spiritual type. They've done a great job in keeping the internet world informed of happenings and concerns following the earthquake and tsunami back in March.


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