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.
Flavor: 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