After almost a year away I am going to try to make a go at continuing to share my journey with tea. I haven’t stopped drinking tea and my passion is still there, it is just that after over 12 years my tastes have refined and I don’t do as much experimentation as I once did. I still dabble and will try something new and different but it has slowed down. Each Spring does bring excitement and subtle variation in old favorites but that doesn’t always translate to exciting writing. I’m going to try to cover exactly what I am drinking, both the high-end and the low-end even if it is something I may have covered in the past. We’ll see how it goes!
I apologize for the short hiatus, I’ve had some family medical issues and a couple tea shipping snafus. But now I’m sitting on about 3 kilos of various Indian Darjeelings and Assams, and an awesome shipment of Japanese Matcha and Sencha. All of that will be coming in the near future. Today, however, I figured I’d cover what’s been in my cup here at work for the past week or so: Kikoman’s Instant Tofu Miso Soup.
Unlike many instant miso soups this one eschews the small packet of actual miso paste for a powdered soup base with dehydrated green onion, wakame seaweed, and small tofu squares. I was not expecting much since this kind of seemed like the low-rent way of making an already pretty simple instant soup, surprisingly I was completely wrong. Outside of the tofu never quite achieving a proper texture (but it comes out acceptably) it rivals a very good hand-prepared soup. 2/3 cup of hot water, empty the packet, stir a bit, and done. Easy and quick, and perfect for a quick lunch that is actually very satisfying. A small bowl of rice alongside becomes a great simple meal in the Oryoki tradition.
Six months or so back I had my cholesterol checked and when the results came the nurse and doctor were discussing the results within earshot of me and in hushed tones… I figured something was wrong. They came in and asked me a bunch of questions about my diet (for those who don’t know I’m a pretty big guy about 6’3″ and 240lbs. but I’ve always been active outdoors and played sports) I’m also a “foodie” (I hate that term) and love to cook and eat adventurously and in decent quantity but for the most part I stick to reasonably healthy options (outside of the occasional Wellington, 2lb. steak, wings/pizza). I figured I was going to have to cut out all of the things I like to indulge with (triple bacon cheeseburgers)… instead they ended by telling me that my cholesterol levels were actually so low that I should probably eat some more things containing cholesterol! I was shocked. I really had no answers for them and really thought it may have been an error and came out pretty happy except for their great concern about my low numbers.
I was discussing this anomaly with my parents a couple weeks back and my mother said, “well, it’s probably all of the green tea you drink.” I am a total non-believer in miracle cure-all health claims so this never even entered my mind and I never even thought to bring it up to the doctor. It could all be coincidence, it could truly be my diet (although I highly doubt that one), genetics, it could be my love for laughter (hey, who knows), it could be Venus was aligned just so with my belt buckle that day… but it really could be the liters of tea I drink each day (almost exclusively Chinese or Japanese greens). I honestly don’t know and after her comment it sent my logical mind reeling.
I’m stumped, but after downing about 5lbs. (no lie) of meat the other night as we were out with friends at a Churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ) and a few porters I’m thinking there has to be some validity. Although I’m still overweight and balding so the magical, mystical, powers have some limitations if true.
TJ10 Japanese Sencha is the lower grade offering from Upton as far as Sencha goes. I actually prefer it to their Sencha “Yamato” which is supposedly better. It is still far short of expectations though. I would easily put it in the same class as some cheap Hime Brand Bancha, and the Bancha actually has larger full blades of tea than the heavily broken bits in this. It is very vegetal, nicely green, and not much else. I did make some iced tea with it though because after just two attempts to drink it I just gave up and wanted to use it up. It makes very good green iced tea, actually better than the Bancha does. Who knows. My tasting notes are almost non-existent because it just wasn’t worth my time and I have better things to try still sitting around, so I apologize but I just couldn’t get into it.
I hate to say it but this is most likely the last tea I buy from Upton. I can tolerate lower quality teas, so it isn’t snobbery… just that I can generally buy Upton quality tea from a local Asian market for a buck or two and in some cases be better off. I will admit though that my tastes have seemed to refine again and I now do crave a mid-high quality tea or I’m just not fully satisfied. I just hope I maintain this level for a while because the next step is to the top-shelf stuff which is going to get quite expensive.
OK, so finally back on the horse again and out of the rut I’ve been in. The Sencha Yamato is Upton’s superior grade Sencha, which they claim to have a “brighter flavor and smoother aftertaste.” So how did it stack up? I’d have to say somewhere near the middle, but to be fair the top of the middle range.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the leaf quality as there were a lot of fannings and broken bits. It was however a very verdant green and did posses a bright scent. The flavor fell a bit shy of the dry smell though. It brewed to a pond-water green cup with little in the way of nose. A bit roasty, vegetal, a bit astringent, barely a hint of fishy/kelpy flavor, a touch thick and smooth, and as promised a smooth aftertaste. It was less what I would consider “bright” though as they state in their description. Nothing stands out as being in any way bad or wrong, just nothing really stands out as being amazing.
I do admit that Japanese greens are a special area of interest for me, so I do tend to be a bit tougher to please. It is only because I have tasted so many truly spectacular greens that I don’t relegate Sencha automatically to some lower, pedestrian, tea as it can sometimes be thought of. Will I enjoy the rest of it? Sure. Will I be clamoring for more? Probably not.