Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cupping Sencha in Tokyo

We arrived in Japan in mid-May and met with the Kaburagi family, the producer of our Japanese steamed teas (“sencha”) at their small shop located in the northwest area of Tokyo. The elder Mr. Kaburagi is a respected Tea Master who is a fountain of information on all aspects of Japanese tea from garden to cup. We enjoyed some delicious and refreshing Gyokuro along with a selection of seasonal handmade red bean cakes that are served during the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. After this refreshing interlude we spent a few hours in their tasting room learning more about professional tea cupping: the process by which sencha teas are compared and judged for quality. Japan’s tea professionals use 4 characteristics to evaluate Japanese teas: appearance, aroma, color and taste.

Appearance is evaluated by placing approximately 150g of each tea into a flat bowl and visually inspecting the dry leaves for uniform shape and glossiness.

Aroma of the dry leaf is judged by placing 3g of tea into small white tasting bowls and scooping the tea close to the nose. The aroma of good sencha is refreshing and combines a balance of floral and vegetal notes, reminiscent of fresh leaves.

Taste is evaluated by pouring approximately 6 oz. of heated water over the leaves, steeping for about 1 minute, and using a large spoon to slurp the tea over the tongue. Various taste characteristics are judged such as sweetness, astringency, bitterness and thickness in the mouth. The best sencha exhibit a taste profile that harmonizes both sweetness and astringency, that pleasantly dry sensation at the back of the throat due to the presence of tea tannins

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