Okay folks, I'm an impatient sort, so I went over to Uwajimaya to see what they had. The store by my office is extremely busy and very well-maintained, so I thought there might be some decent products there. I was really surprised to see not only some recognizable names, but in checking the sell/use-by dates, as well as the shelf tag dates, it seems that product is reasonably fresh.
Also, I found this:
and thought, why not? Especially for a tad over $11 for 85g. First thoughts... yeah, I was drinking crappy sencha, this is a whole different ballgame.
First steep was somewhat harsh and astringent, but the 2nd was mellower, richer and mildly astringent. 3rd steep was what I imagine you sencha-heads rave over: Sweet, mellow, rich, lots of fresh flavor. I get it. Wow.
The leaves are quite impressive. BRILLIANT emerald green, yielding a chartreuse liquid. The picture does not do justice to the color.
I also picked up a package of "2008 New Crop Shincha Genmaicha" from the same vendor. It might be interesting, I've never tried Genmaicha, good or bad.
The only negative I noted at Uwa was that the Den's selection consisted of 2 boxes, very old. Weird.