Monday, January 19, 2009
Kuradashi Gykuro Hibiki-an
Hibiki-an Kuradashi Gyokuro "Super Premium." The "super premium" title is just some marketing mumbo jumbo that Hibiki-an thinks makes their tea sound better. Really, it's just there for hierarchical sake. Kuradashi refers to the type of gyokuro it is. Kuradashi gyokuro can be summarized as an intentionally aged tea. Traditional gyokuro is aged for up to 6 months, while kuradashi gyokuro can be stored over a year for enrichment. Hibiki-an aged their kuradashi in unsealed foil bags in wooden boxes, which are then kept in a refrigerator. For more information than you probably want on Hibiki-an's kuradashi, and kuradashi tea in general, see here.
The first thing noticed in the tea liquor is how clear it is. Wow! I'm not well versed in the area of gyokuro, but I've never seen one come out so clear! Along with the color, the aroma is also subdued, but has notes of sweet honeydew and grass. I'm also somewhat surprised at how light the flavor is. There's no punch, not at all, instead, if one weren't paying attention, it might seem like water! But there is still some viscosity that follows the honeydew and grass on their sweet passage across the tongue, and the very slightest hint of astringency that is the tea telling you it's still there. A later note on this tea is that it stays very consistent from steep to steep, hardly being able to distinguish one from the next. It does drop off in flavor in the 4th infusion, even though the flavor consistency stays.
Synopsis: A much refined tea for the initiated palate. Likely a pleasure to those new to Japanese greens as well, but more stimulating for those who can appreciate the flavors locked by refinement. In other words, experienced tasters can be analogized to sound systems with very powerful amplifiers, being able to pull out tastes that could easily be looked over as "noise." Characterized mostly by the sweet honeydew, it is an easy-to-enjoy pleasure, but at $24/40g, it's also a very expensive one.