TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

January 17, 2011

Review: Obubu Japanese Teas

Retail and wholesale.

Photos by the author except as noted.

Stock photo

I recently received generous samples of three lovely teas from Obubu Tea of Kyoto, Japan. I generally prefer Japan greens over China greens — it’s a matter both of taste for the lighter, more vegetal teas of Japan, as well as choice: I generally do not buy edibles from China (or anything else if I can avoid it).

The first of these teas, Kabuse Sencha, was my favourite. This high-grown partially-shaded tea tastes almost like a light, grassy, springlike sencha was blended with a rich gyokuro. But this is not a blend — it’s the inherent quality of the tea itself. The dark leaves flecked with white and lighter green are quite beautiful, as you can see in the linked photo. A premium tea, very enjoyable, and well worth the above-average but not-unreasonable price. (When looking at Obubu’s prices, keep in mind that they include shipping.) The spent leaves were also quite good when added to a potful of rice pilaf in place of spinach.

The folks at Obubu sent me some of their Yanagi Bancha as a courtesy when I asked about how it was made. I’ve had a somewhat different tea from another source that they also call Yanagi. It was interesting to compare the two, and while this Yanagi is a pleasant enough cup for early evening because of its low caffeine content, it was an interesting but rather nondescript tea that simply didn’t measure up to the Kabuse or to the other Yanagi that I’m familiar with.

The third tea, Sakura Tea, is not really a tea at all but a tisane. This unusual (at least to me) cup is made from Japanese cherry blossom flowers that have been salt pickled. Evidently this is a highly popular tisane in Japan, but it seems to be an acquired taste for Western palates. While the aroma is exquisite — pumpkin pie spice and spring flowers in perfect balance — the taste is essentially salt water. Not quite what I’m normally looking for in my teacup. However …

When I sampled the Sakura, I paired it with Lindt Chocolate’s Fleur de Sel, a dark chocolate with a light sprinkling of salt. The creamy sweetness of the chocolate with its occasional surprise pop of a crunchy grain of salt, when joined on the tongue by a sip of smoothly salty Sakura, is a wonderful taste and sensory experience. I suppose I should mention here that when I make popcorn, I add a handful of dark chocolate chips to the hot popcorn — the chocolate melts and holds the salt, creating a complementary interplay of salt/crunchy with sweet/creamy. The combination of Sakura and Fleur de Sel created a similar yin/yang taste experience. I highly recommend that if you plan to sample either one of these, sample the other with it! (I found the chocolate in my local supermarket.)

What most impressed me about the Sakura tea is how beautiful it is in the cup — as you can see from these photos. Some more interesting information about Sakura tea can be found here.

Click the Partners navigational link on the Obubu Tea website for a list of retailers and for information about wholesale/resale.

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