When I picked up a box of Takaokaya's Genmai-cha from the local Japanese market, I went ahead and splurged a couple of extra bucks for their whole line of bagged teas, including their Sencha. I was a little hesitant, seeing as a good Sencha relies on the profusely elegant qualities inherent in green tea. Bagged tea doesn't exactly have a good reputation for being nurtured and tenderly loved between the garden and the store. In other words, things seemed...inimical to the sencha's well being and good health, particularly on my tongue
Upon opening of the bag I was immediately greeted by the very essence of mediocrity. The Sencha, like it's partner the Genmai-cha, occupied a tense 42nd parallel of love and hate. This was a mass produced sencha. It embodied none of the qualities of an expertly fashioned green tea, nor did it reek of ill flavors. I disliked it, but did not scorn it. I would serve it to my guests, but not to myself. It was, quite simply, very plain, and like the plain maiden in the little town of folklore and storybooks, was never more prominent than a background to a bright and vibrant story. It is the very model of drinkable tea far below appreciable excellence. And by that I mean it makes a good contrast for better teas.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Review: Takaokaya's Sen-cha
Appearance: This time I didn't bother with cutting open the tea bag. It's safe to assume that whatever lies therein is small and likely green. I don't have a very creative imagination, but something along the lines of finely minced parsley is not beyond my mental capabilities. The liquor is a different story. It is green. Staggeringly green. And not staggering like "Oh my, look at that rich green moss" or "What a beautiful emerald!" or even "Curious bile, eh?" but rather, a blinding beacon of neon verdance. It is practically glowing, maybe moreso than Iran's innocuous energy policy, giving off a light that, if it weren't so gaudily bright, might be considered eerie. Rather, it is gatorade green, with a certain bright yellow quality indicating to my natural, feral insticts: "DO NOT IMBIBE! POISON!". However, I have long since left the world of bright yellow poisonous plants and treacherously venemous yellow butterflies, and learned to cast off all such warnings thanks to human evolution with snack food and the invention of processed cheese. I proceed.
Aroma: The aroma is incredibly plain, with the meek, meager grassy notes desperately bolstered in structure by the brusque scent of the paper bag. Even so, there are tell-tale signs of green tea therein. It's flat, lifeless and dessicated but it is undeniably there. Hmm. Sort of like a mummy, I suppose. So there you have it - Takaokaya Sencha: The Smell of Mummified Green Tea.
Flavor & Palatte: The flavor too is on the attenuated side, but doesn't stray as far as the aroma does into self-negating oblivion. I found that at three minutes the sencha's flavor was disagreeably sickly. The next cup I took to the full four minute mark with much improvement. Again, it is only the same very base and very simple sencha flavor, a simple nod to the greater kingdom of green tea, but louder than the terribly weak three minute steep.
If green tea, stripped of all its palatable ornamentation and vampirically drained of its better half, appeals to you then I heartily recommend Takaokaya's boxed and bagged tea. If you're trying to introduce someone to the joys of green tea, I would heartily suggest you keep this locked away tight. Not that you would, but while this green tea speaks of a mythical flavor that exists far beyond its capabilities, you would do much better to invest a little more money and acquire that mythically flavored green tea instead of settling for a barebones Takaokaya varietal. It's not a bad tea, really, but not a very good one either, and in a world where Murphy's Law reigns supreme and everything is bound to go poorly, that ain't so bad.