However, thanks to recent generosity of Pedro of Dao Tea and Matt over at Mattcha's blog, I was given the chance to sample the Korean teas from Dao Tea in return for nothing more than tasting notes. What a perfect way to kick me into action! And so, with that reminder of generosity I would like to begin this series with a look at one of the teas that I enjoyed the most out of the series, Kim Shin Ho's 2010 Sejak.
After receiving the package I patiently waited for an afternoon where I was certain to be able to enjoy a long uninterrupted session with this tea. I carefully snipped open the well packaged sample and was greeted with an aroma quite unlike any tea I had experienced before. In all honesty, the aroma was more subdued than something like an aromatic Sencha, but it nonetheless exuded freshness and vitality in its own unique way. Not so much grassy as much as it was spring-time foresty...if that makes any sense.
The leaves themselves were small, mid to dark green in color and fairly uniform in appearance. As was made more clear after viewing the wet leaves, this tea was a mix of mostly small leaves and what appear to be thin buds, along with a few light green stems.
Around 2 grams were added to my warmed gaiwan. The aroma intensified and I slowly and gently poured warm water over the dark green leaves. After a few admittedly anxious moments, I poured the brew directly into a cup and noticed the color of the liquid was a slightly warm shade of green. The smell of this first brew was wonderful. While sipping on the first cup I noted that the tea was especially smooth; I did not experience any astringency or bitterness despite the relatively high leaf to water ratio of my smallest gaiwan.
The flavor itself was again unique, something I couldn't compare to any tea I have had before. I will leave the more detailed notes up to those with more experience but I will note that the flavor was richer than what I am used to with Japanese or Chinese greens. It was neither grassy nor nutty, neither sweet nor bitter but altogether enjoyable.
This tea was also very generous, giving me more than the 5 typical steeping that I would push a Japanese green. Even the very last steeping produced a smooth flavor; this tea lacked the roughness that I often experience in the last steep of a green tea. It is clear that this is a very high quality tea.
I will have to admit that I would have liked to see more impressive leaves, given the hand picked and hand processed nature of this tea. For me, a large part of the enjoyment of tea comes from seeing nice full, unbroken leaves and buds that appear as if they could have just been picked and dropped in my cup. While I am sure that the fragile nature of the leaves combined with international shipping all the way to New Zealand might have contributed to this small shortcoming, I did notice that few of the leaves were fully intact.
Still, I felt this was a wonderful tea that combined fresh spring-like qualities with warmer and fuller characteristics than are typically found in a green tea. I felt that this was really the perfect tea for me at the moment as the weather in Auckland is reminding me that my second spring of 2010 is just around the corner. Overall, this is a tea that I would love to get to know over many more brewing sessions.
Again, a special note of thanks goes out to Pedro and Matt for this experience.