Xell was kind enough to send me some tea samples in exchange for some reviews.
Best genmaicha I've ever had! Generous helpings of sencha mixed with very fresh toasted rice with a few popped kernels here and there. This is my favorite "late night" tea so far, not that it is sans caffeine, but just enough. Full bodied sencha taste with wonderful roastiness and no "off" flavors I've noticed in other genmaicha. And at just under $10 for 200g it's a STEAL! I will definetly be re-ordering this one. Very fresh and tasty.
*Ureshino Tamaryokucha (jo)*:
My first experience with this type of tea. It was virtually indistinguishable from a sencha as far as taste went for me. It struck me as a deeper steamed asamushi bordering on a middle steamed tea. The curled leaf shape is interesting. I brewed this tea first at a low temp for a longer period of time like I like to do with fukamushi's to get some different taste profiles. The slow, cool brew brought out a lot of umami, with hints of asparagus and a pleasant and not overpowering bitterness. Later I brewed it at around 180 degrees with shorter steeps and the tea was still very full bodied well into the second brew, and was crisp and slightly vegital. I prefer the latter as the flavor lasts the full three steeps. This may well be my new daily tea. It's first flush, very good quality and inexpensive (around $12.50 for 100g package). The leaves uncurl differently from sencha, giving you a big fluffball filling your teapot.
This was my first houjicha experience! I really enjoyed it hot, but being so hot here I drank more iced. Not sure how I feel about it iced
. It is a relatively new flavor to me, and it surprised me how much I liked it hot and not so much cold. Hot I found it very soothing, especially after a big meal or right before bed. Cold I couldn't help thinking of onions or B.O.
. Maybe it will grow on me. YMMV. Again, this is not an indication of the quality of the tea, only my own impressions after a first go-round with houjicha. The tea itself seemed fresh and of good quality, and is inexpensive as bancha should be. This may be more of a winter tea for me. I find genmaicha much more delicious as an iced tea option.
There you have it. 5/5 on the genmaicha overall. 4.5/5 on the tamaryokucha (jo) overall. I can't really rate the houjicha until I have tried other varieties, but I can say I enjoyed it and found it very novel as a hot tea for nighty time. I would (and will) order them all!