Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tea Tasting Saturday #16 - Bancha

Just when I thought perhaps the teas were going to start looking and tasting alike, this week's sample was a surprise in just about every respect!

Purveyor: Harney & Sons

When purchased: March 2009

Dry leaf appearance:
After the fine, almost spice-like appearance of some of the recent Japanese greens, I was surprised to see thicker dark green leaves once again.

Wet leaf appearance: This tea turned a dark green and had the "chopped spinach" appearance I've come to expect from some of the green teas.

Steeping temperature and time: 1 teaspoon of tea, 175 degrees, 2 minutes

Scent: As I believe I've mentioned before, I try very hard to only consult the Harney book for the tea's time and temperature prior to my tea tasting, but I must confess I read the word "walnuts" as I was flipping through the Bancha pages. It bugs me if this ever happens, because when I am tasting a new tea I don't want to be influenced by what even so great a "tea mind" as Michael Harney thinks about it. I don't really worry about "getting it wrong" because my opinion is my opinion. So although I found myself wondering if I would detect something akin to a "walnut" smell, I most assuredly did not. I smelled ... fish! It wasn't a bad fish smell -- it was sort of like broiled shrimp or scallops -- but it was definitely fish I was detecting. Once my tasting was complete, and firmly convinced of what *I* thought this tea smelled like, I consulted the Harney book, intentionally this time, and it spoke of "subtle green tea base notes of spinach and nori, along with faint hints of toasted walnuts." OK, but I smelled fish! So I started googling references to Bancha and learned I am not the only one who thinks it tastes like fish. Nori, it turns out, is an edible seaweed, and if I'd known that I might not have found it so odd that my tea smelled like fish!

Color: A bright yellow.

If you had the prettiest tin of tea the world has ever seen but labeled it "Smells and Tastes Like Fish!" you couldn't have interested me. So, I was shocked that I actually liked this tea pretty well. It had a pleasant and smooth (and slightly brothy) taste I enjoyed. I really think everyone ought to sample this tea at least once just for the curiosity factor if nothing else!

Additional notes: The Harney book notes that "Bancha is made of the larger, tougher leaves that emerge just fifteen to twenty days after the younger Sencha shoots have been harvested." But for me, this one will always be "The Fish Tea."

Next week's tea: Genmaicha


  1. This is hysterically funny! When I read "turked" under appearance I kept thinking, "Turked???" until it was necessary for me to look it up, whilst thinking, "Wow! a new word for me!" As it turned out, no such luck...(although capitalized it CAN be a scimitar) I think you meant turned...

    I don't think I want to even try this tea...having never eaten seaweed, a facsimile of it does not whet my appetite.

    However, it is really enjoyable reading of your adventures in Tealand!

  2. Oh my! The editor needs an editor, eh? (But of course I HAD to go change that, Gwendol ... I shouldn't write blog posts late at night when I'm brain dead!)

  3. What an interesting review. Your tea palate is really developing and you even picked up on the subtle (or was it?) fish smell of the nori. I like seafood, but not sushi, so I'm not sure whether this tea would suit me.

  4. I betcha that's one of the healthiest teas... but only because it smells like fish. It must be very good for something!

  5. I wonder if this tea would be good with sushi? Or maybe even other Japanese food?

  6. Aha! I have actually been searching for a green tea tasting like (even flavored with) nori! Something brothy, savory, extra toasty--fishy, huh?

  7. Bancha actually has a much different (and sweeter) taste if you brew it with 180 degree water for about 30-45 seconds. Try it.


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