Waukoucha World (Comparing three Japanese Black Teas)

Although rarely heard about- Japanese black (referred to as red tea in Japan) actually has a history of over a century old. Because the western world valued black tea, Japan began trying its hand at it. However- Japanese black tea continues to be almost unheard of here in the US. After reading a blog from My Japanese Green Tea, I jumped at the chance to try some. Yannoko offers a sampler set of three Japanese black teas for only $8, you get 10 grams of each. .

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The suggested brewing temperature for all three is 95 degrees C which is about 203 degrees F. It suggests 3gr for 2 minutes in 200ml of water. However for this session I only followed the suggestion for the temperature and brewed gong fu style. I still have enough of each tea left to later follow all the suggestions from Yannoko. The three samples included were- Waukoucha Mine Kaori, Waukoucha Akari and Smoked Waukoucha Whiskey Barrel Oak. Here is my experience:

Waukoucha Mine Kaori:The wet leaf smell was malty but with some fruitiness. The taste was indeed malty including some cacao and roasted coffee notes. There is also a little bit of tanginess at the end that shows up ever so slightly. Over all its got the makings of a strong malty and assertive black tea but is actually quite gentle. I found it to be pretty smooth although the website described it as a slightly more pronounced astringency. Of the three, this is the one I liked most at first impression. I found it pretty impressive that for having the character of a strong black tea it maintains a very balanced, peaceful, and graceful delicacy. However, for someone who is used to drinking more syrupy Chinese black teas or sharp, tangy Indian teas, this tea may seem too weak. Still, I think that the average tea head would appreciate the refined delicacy of this tea and would enjoy the experience. Those who favor more floral and light teas may enjoy this tea as well, for the same reason that even though it has the malty characteristics of black tea, it is still quite light and smooth.

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Waukoucha Akari:The wet leaf smell for me at first seemed more malty and chocolatey than the first so I was expecting it to be a stronger version. However even though the flavor had some maltiness to it, it was much more woody and herbaceous than first. This one felt a little more astringent on the tongue as well. I would say this was probably the most unique of the three for me personally. I don’t remember having a tea with this  specific type of woody quality before. I definitely wouldn’t have picked up on this characteristic if I had tasted it in isolation because after having a few sips back to back, it seems like the woodiness just blended in more and more. With this tea I got an image of myself hiking up a mountain- it’s a sunny day but the bark of the trees and sticks on the ground are still a bit wet from a night time shower and wild, aromatic herbs give off their sent in a mildly humid climate.

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Smoked Waukoucha Whiskey Barrel Oak:Ok so I wish I would have taken the warning the second I opened the package of this tea. What escaped from it was an incredibly pungent smell of pure smoke… like hot smoking charcoals on a grill. Basically smelled like I was in someone’s backyard having a fourth of July cookout. It smelled just like a Lapsang Souchong I got a few years ago from a store in downtown Chicago. This made me concerned because even though I bought a ton of it just because I was enthralled by the crazy unique strength of it- I ended up not being a huge fan. OVERPOWERING is actually a small word to try and describe this tea, as soon as I poured water over it, it was like the entire room got shrouded in a thick cloud of smoke. OH NO I thought- is this going to throw off my experience of the other two teas? To take precaution I will say that I only had one infusion of this tea and then completely removed it from the room and removed myself from the strongest smelling places in order to continue tasting the other teas. One infusion was really all I could take to be honest anyway. It’s very dominating, it lingers all over the mouth for minutes after drinking- I could feel it going to my head like actual smoke would. The taste was indeed very similar to the Lapsang I had a few years ago but was definitely more complex. That particular Lapsang was only one single note of charcoal whereas this one has more layers to it. While it still tastes like I took a big gulp of charcoal infused water, there is also a herbaceous note to it and I’m sure that if I kept at it doing more infusions, other notes would have came out as well. I may try it again another day by itself. I could see this definitely being a tea that causes division amongst people- you’ll either love it or hate it but it’s definitely an experience you must take!

Over all, this is a great sampler package one can get for under $10 that offers a good range of different flavor profiles available in Japanese black teas. I also ordered a Japanese oolong along with this package and am looking forward to experiencing it as well!

Camellia’s Treaty (art. 2)In this world there are all sorts of personalities- some soft and gentle and others overpowering and dominating. Appreciate both, for both are needed to keep the world balanced. Too much softness and we will split in two, too much power and we will turn to stone.

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