For this world tour session I compared three green teas: one from Korea, one from Japan and one from China. For the Japanese tea I used a handpicked Kamairicha which is Japanese grown green tea processed the Chinese way by pan firing. I consider Sencha to be a whole other category in itself and wouldn’t be suitable for this comparison. Although the tea from Korea from Jeju, is produced similarly to sencha by being shaded and steamed, the result is still quite different than a sencha in my opinion. Not sure which part of the processing or cultivation is what makes the main different but this Korean green is much nuttier and much less umami than Japanese sencha.
Korean Jeju Sejak:When I tried this tea on its own I found it to be in-between a sencha and a regular pan fired Chinese green. I found it to have a bit of umami and astringency but also light floral high notes. However, trying it next to these other two teas, I was able to really see the vast difference and complexity of its character compared to a sencha. Honestly, when doing a this tasting, I felt like this was a completely different tea than I remembered it to be, this is why I LOVE horizontal tastings. This tea is extremely nutty and a bit hay-like. Some sencha like grass notes were present but the nuttiness well overpowered it.
Kunitomo Tea Garden-Riguricha Furanka- the Orchid Dragon- handpicked kamairicha: Although this was my first Kamairicha, it made me think that Japan should indeed stick to what is unique to them- Sencha. They have really perfected the shading, the steaming and the cultivation of their sencha greens. Don’t get me wrong- it was a good, high quality tea but the character was a bit too soft for my liking. It was bit floral, a bit nutty and a bit mineral but neither characteristic shone through very boldly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, some may prefer a well-balanced, gentle green tea. This is something I’ve noticed from other Japanese teas that are not sencha. I’ve tried a Japanese oolong and a couple Japanese black teas and so far, they are all very well balanced and quite gentle to drink. A way to describe them would be conservative when compared to the boldness of sencha.
“Early Spring Silver Strands” Green Tea of Simao:For my personal preference, this tea blew the other two out of the water. From the first time trying it I loved it but comparing it side by side to these other teas highly accentuated it’s bright, loud and assertive character. The aroma itself was bursting with high floral and perfume-like notes. Drinking it was like liquid spring, like standing in the middle of a giant field of flowers and deeply inhaling the amazing fragrance! I could almost see the morning sun glowing through the field as the flowers unfolded their petals to take their first breath at the first sign of the light. This tea is comprised of strands of buds and leaves whereas the others do not seem to contain buds, at least not the Kamairicha, wasn’t so sure about the Korean one.
My husband joined me in this session and he and I both agreed that the Chinese green was by far the best, it felt intoxicatingly luxurious. It stood out from the rest and we found ourselves reaching for it more than the others. Something my husband said was that if he was craving a basic but high quality green tea he would reach for the tea from Jeju because of what he described as grass flavor. For me personally, it was a bit too nutty for my taste but I definitely find myself craving that profile once in a while. Unfortunately this round the Japanese Kamairicha ended up in last place for us, however as I said before, it is not necessarily because it’s a bad tea but because in my opinion it wasn’t “assertive” enough in any of its characteristics. None the less, all of these teas are high quality true teas without any artificial flavors or scents and much, much, muuuuch better than anything you will get out of a teabag!
Have you done any horizontal tastings lately? What have you learned? Have you been surprised to find how different a tea can taste by itself vs when compared to others?