Well isn't it about time for a green tea review?
I hold in my hand a wonderful tea that hails from the shizuoka prefecture of Japan.
This beautiful green leaf is called Guricha, also known as tamaryokucha. This particular one comes from the online shop of Shirakata Denshiro Shoten, known to us as Den's tea. There are other vendors that carry this tea, and I look forward to tyring them all in time. There is very little information to be found about tamaryokucha, but from what I've gathered, it differs from normal sencha by having comma-shaped leaves instead of the rolled needle form of most sencha, as well as a quite different flavor profile. The comma-shape is said to be caused by the omission of a later rolling/kneading process involved in sencha production. Other sources say that the leaf follows the same processing as most sencha, but in the final stage it is rolled into comma form instead of needle form. Tamaryokucha and guricha translate to "curly green tea," reflecting the shape of it's leaves.
I have been using 1.5 tsp leaf in 175ml water at 176°f for 1 minute. (I let my water cool in the kyuusu, so this is the temp at which I throw the leaf in. Steep time includes pour.) If overbrewed, this tea won't become as astringent as sencha normally does, but it will become unpleasant in a way that is all it's own. So don't beat up the leaf, or you'll be left with a less-than-worthy cup.
The dry leaf smells amazing with a pungent smell similar to that of a good karigane. The leaf also smells sweet and slightly grassy.
Guricha Leaf in the drained pot is delicious-looking: dark green with some lime-green leaves. As I look at them, I notice I used slightly less leaf than normal.
The aroma is similar to gyokuro in that it is sweet and mellow, but hiding in the fragrance is a wonderful tartness that is usually associated with karigane. (The sniffer is a little broken right now.)
The first steeps liquor is clear as opposed to the cloudiness of fukamushi, but it carries a vibrant yellow-green.
(The picture of the tea didn't come out well and is somewhat inaccurate. Don't take it to heart.)
The flavor is amazing. At first it resembles gyokuro with its mellow sweetness. Then, with a little percolation and a sloshing of the tea around the taste buds, the sides of the tongue pick up a wonderful pungency similar to karigane, but tied into that tart flavor is the mellow sweetness that resembles gyokuro. The aftertaste is incredible for a green tea. A mellow tartness sticks to the back of the tongue and throat, while the deep sweetness pleases the palate during exhalation. This tea gives my mouth a lasting flavor profile that is most enjoyable.
I'll have to wait a short while for my palate to become unsaturated with the goodness of this leaf before going for a second steep.
For the second steep, 176°f for 30 seconds(including pour).
The liquor of the second brew has more color, and a slight cloudiness, but the aroma of the tartness has decreased, and the tea still gives off a sweet vegetal aroma.
As expected from the aroma, the taste of the pungent tartness has decreased and it has been blended into the grand sweetness of the tea. The tea is much sweeter, and more vegetal. The tartness is still present, but has lessened and is more incorporated with the overall sweetness of the tea.
I really love this tea. Right now, it's place is at the top of my favorite list. O-cha.com is going to start carrying their own soon, and an online vendor named Mellow Monk exclusively carries this kind of Japanese green tea. In fact, I just found a blog post by the Mellow Monk about Guricha/Tamaryokucha in general. Tamaryokucha = Guricha by the Mellow Monk. It's a good post that sums up the curly leaf, and actually is a response to a few posts I made a while back.
I'll throw up some more reviews on this curly green tea in the future. Until then, enjoy your tea.