Sitting on my shelf, among the various 50 and 100 g packets of sencha and gyokuro, was this 20 g sencha sample. I didn’t have any expectations going in–I bought it at a stall at central station, Kyoto. The name on the package is “fragrant garden,” and as to be expected, it comes from Uji, that celebration region of tea production side by side with Kyoto, which doles it out in appropriate honorific fashion. I don’t think I paid more than ¥300 for it, maybe ¥200.
Taking the leaves out of the foil and dispensing them in a gaiwan, they look bright green, well composed, and smell sweet and vegetal. Definitely what I think of when I think of “delicate Kyoto green tea.”
The first time I made this sencha, I think I used too high of a water temperature. There was something interesting about it, in its depth and lingering sweetness, but it wasn’t quite there–I couldn’t quite tell if it reminded me more of a high mountain Taiwanese oolong or a chemically altered Tie Guan Yin.
The second time I did it right and brewed at a lower temperature and..it was vibrant and sweet, definitely reminiscent of a high mountain oolong. The taste became slightly more bitter and deep by the 3rd brewing, and unlike most senchas, it did not give out there right then and there, but lasted with sufficient roundness through the 5th brewing. Interesting. The sensations were most centered on the middle of my tongue radiating outwards, and I felt calm, relaxed, focused, joyful. I came away thinking this was a nice sencha, with some special qualities to it–and judging from the sample, quite reasonably priced.
Sometimes in life, and particularly in traveling, I have had the opportunity to meet people who seem unassuming at first, but turn out to be special, whom I seem to forge a meaningful connection with during our time together. And then it’s over; we may never see each other again. I never would have guessed, but it turned out to be memorable, leaving an impression on me. This sencha was like that sort of meeting. If I had any idea it was like this, I would have bought a bunch of it. I will probably not taste it again unless I return to that store in Kyoto; but I have faith I will taste another like it, taking my palate and mind’s eye to similar or greater heights.