I received this as part of a tasting from Eric of Me And My Tea.
The leaf is a deep green and looks more suited to a kitchen's chopped herb jar. The smell is enticing, a deep, sweet gyokuro aroma, and light milky smell resembling matcha. Tencha is the precursor to matcha, so it seems natural that they should smell similar. Tencha is grown similar to gyokuro, with a period of shade before harvest to develop higher chlorophyll levels, which among other things, produces a sweeter, grassier tea. After harvest, tencha is ground for many hours into a fine powder, matcha. Matcha is then whisked in hot water and drunk with a slight foamy head. Matcha is the tea used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
Knowing that this tea had been shade-grown like gyokuro, I decided to steep it at a lower temperature of 150°, a good temperature for matcha as well. Due to its fluffy nature, I also used 3.5 tsp leaf in 180ml, as opposed to my usual 2 tap/180ml I use for sencha, and it took some convincing to get the leaf underneath the waters surface. In my attempt to brew this tea using gyokuro parameters, I upped the time to around 2.5 minutes.
The resulting tea: clear, quite grassy, and a little sour in aroma. The taste surprised me with how similar it was to gyokuro. No bitterness at all, abundance of grassiness, sweet, the slightest tang, and pleasant vapors reaching the nose. I was expecting the buttery, milkiness of matcha, but that is definitely not what I got. As I look at the spent leaf, I see that I could have used twice as much, 7 tsp. Shocking.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. The flavor is light enough that I find myself downing cups much quicker than I normally would. Although it is light, there are still prominent tastes, the grass, and a pungent sour. The sour develops after many cups, and could seem nasty if one doesn't enjoy the taste. I do, somewhat, so I did like this tea. At $50 for 4oz at Harney & Sons... I wouldn't say it's worth it. Very nice to have as a sample, but I feel that the money would be better spent on a good quality gyokuro. Tencha is a great novelty for the matcha drinker, or any green tea enthusiast, for that matter. It lets the enthusiast become more intimate with matcha's path to powder.
Thanks Eric, for letting me try this exclusive tea.
Other reviews of this same tea can be found at TeaNerd, Me And My Tea, and perhaps elsewhere.