Origin: Uji, Japan
Vendor: Harney & Sons (Product page)
Price: $47.50 (100 g)
I'm not going to lie; I have been eyeing this tea since week one of my loose-leaf tea journey. My tastes may have changed since then, but it was a great pleasure to finally try this tea, courtesy of fellow TeaChatter Pentox (A.K.A. fellow blogger Eric). Thanks for the oppportunity, Eric!
Tencha is a fairly rare tea to come across (Harney & Sons say this as well, but very rarely is a vendor's claim of rarity true), as it is not produced as an end product. Rather, tencha is an intermediate step in the production of matcha. While some shade-grown tea leaf is being rolled and processed into gyokuro, the rest has its stems and veins removed, resulting in tencha, and is finally ground into matcha.
I suppose, then, it is not all too surprising that this tea smells and tastes a bit like a cross between gyokuro and matcha. The dry leaf smells mostly like gyokuro, but is not nearly as vegetal. The first few steeps were much like gyokuro, but the fourth tasted exactly like matcha, just with all the bits filtered out.
As far as parameters go, I brewed this for minute-long infusions until that wasn't enough, at which point I doubled it. I used 5g of tea in around 5oz of water. I tried 150°F first, but that was too high and resulted in that nasty, overbrewed gyokuro taste. 135°F was the sweet spot for me, giving a lovely, sweet, candy-like liquor. And this is coming from a guy who really doesn't like gyokuro.
Another note: it's fairly obvious, once you try to brew it, why this is not intended to be a final product. It is a huge pain in the ass to submerge all those light n' fluffy leaves; I resorted to prodding and stirring them with the end of my thermometer, which couldn't have helped the taste. Quoting Salsero once again, "It makes me feel like I am drowning a puppy, ‘cause it just won’t go under by itself." [Try blaming that one on someone else. ;)]
Anyway, I'm just rambling now, so let me conclude. This was a very interesting tea, and tasting it helps one understand the connection between gyokuro and matcha. It tastes quite good too, but I'm not sure it tastes good enough compared to a quality sencha or gyokuro to make me want to buy a huge tin all for myself. Thanks so much for the sample, Eric!
Eric's notes on this tea can be found here.