The week before last I started a series here on my blog titled Sakura Sessions. I knew that the first tea featured for this series had to be my favourite Sakura Sencha, a true staple in my tea collection at all times of the year. My aim with this series is just to show how I celebrate Hanami – (花見, “flower viewing”) at home and share the pre-blended sakura teas I love the most as well as showcasing how I create my own sakura teas and work sakura into my tea sessions. For the second instalment of this series I want to share with you all my favourite sakura black tea; Chiyonoen Tea Garden’s – #27 Mountain-Grown Yame Sakura Leaf Black Tea.
”This sakura (cherry blossom) leaf black tea from Chiyonoen that has been in the process of experimentation since 2016. This black tea is made by blending handpicked leaves from their own sakura trees with their tea leaves, then processing the blended batch with their black tea. With this characteristic black tea, the Harashima family won the Fine Product Award at the 2017 Nihoncha Awards (a kind of people’s choice award held annually). Naturally flavoured, this award-winning black tea has a pleasant spring aroma which comes from sakura leaves.” – Yunomi.Life
Upon opening the bag that houses the tea you are immediately met with a beautiful aroma that is a delicious mix of woodiness, light maltiness and the unmistakable delicately floral, soft, creamy and sweet notes of sakura. The dry leaves are dark black tea leaves with spots of brown, reddish brown, black and khaki green from the sakura leaves. Sakura leaves and stem sections are a mix of sizes, predominantly mid-small and mostly broken. The black tea leaves are wiry and mid length when dry and again a mix of sizes, some bigger and fuller and some smaller.
As soon as steeping starts, the aroma of the sakura’s leaves and blossoms fills the air with that trademark sweet, floral and creamy aroma that just encapsulates spring for me. Usually that aroma involves a nice vegetal freshness from green tea but this time it’s accompanied by the aromas of a forest just after rain. Its a unique combination but still sings spring to me. The liquor for almost ever single steep of this tea is a golden copper and only lightens slightly with each steep.
When it comes to how this tea tastes you of course have the wonderful sweet, floral, creamy and floral sakura notes. Though they are prominent in this blend, they aren’t as prominent as the sakura elements in the sakura sencha I featured last week, but that works well for this blend. It has a fantastic level of malt and woodiness from the black tea base. The sakura notes become sweeter and fruiter in taste the longer the tea is left to cool in the cup. This tea really has a beautiful balance to it, you would think that the black tea would overpower the sakura but that’s far from the case, they instead work perfectly together and sipping on this transports me to a forest of only sakura trees, with fresh spring air blowing through my hair and the sun shining through the branches of the trees and hitting warming my face.
The sakura notes remind me of the one time I was lucky enough try sakura flavoured wasanbon which is very hard to come by here in the uk. Theres both poppyseed and subtle citrus elements present and I can only assume they are to be attributed to the provided by the black tea, as well as a subtle spice. Fruitiness from both the sakura and the black tea base is a mix of red current, cherry candy and strawberry.
In the second steep, the black tea seems to take more of a back seat, letting delicious floral, juicy, fruity, sweet, floral and creamy, jam-like notes take the forefront. I would say this tea is good for three steeps, I have pushed it further than that but three is where a lot of it’s elements become their lightest so I wouldn’t recommend going over that.
Texture wise, this tea is very smooth and easy to drink, but does have an an ever so slight touch of astringency right at the back of the tongue. That becomes more prominent the longer you steep it for and depending on how hot the water is. I have found that the sweet spot with this tea is 95°C. The perfect steep time for me for that first steep is 1 and a half minutes, adding 30 seconds on with each steep. Following those parameters I was able to get rid of that astringency completely as it wasn’t extremely prominent in the first place.
It’s finish is smooth, with just a hint of dryness, wet wood, sakura and fruitiness which are present in the mouth for a long time after you finish sipping, with a sweetness that breshes along your tounge as your breathe in. Both the wet leaves and the empty cups at the end of tea session have an aroma that is a mix of sea air, wet wood and sakura sugar cookie dough.
More than anything this tea each time I have it just makes me feel incredibly relaxed. That being said, it is guaranteed that if I am sipping on a sakura tea as long as the sakura element is natural and not artificial, I am the most relaxed. There really is just something about the taste and aroma of sakura that just hits a spot for me and instantly flicks the stress switch in my brain off.
Should you want to give this tea a try this sakura season, you can find this and many other fantastic sakura products over on the Yunomi website. Don’t forget to use my code INFKKYU which will give you 1000yen off of a purchase of 5000yen or more.
Until next time, Happy Steeping – Kimberley
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