2010 Maeda-en Shincha Gold
With Maeda-en being the only tea company whose shincha I have tried before, it is possible that I carry some loaded expectations about what their tea may be like. Especially considering how much I enjoyed my first O-Cha and how different the second O-Cha was, perhaps I’m heading into these back-to-back Maeda-en sessions with some notion that they may not live up to my O-Cha experiences. Also, I’m not 100% convinced that this tea, the “Gold”, is not the same as the “88th night“, the description for which mentions being formerly called “Select Gold”. I’ll find out soon enough, as it’s next.
The leaves spill out onto paper with a neat blend of moderately small needles and quite a few particles, the apparent result of fukamushi steaming. Warm and in the pot, they glow with briny ocean delight. The first steep smells of light florals, pollen, and some faint plant-like mustiness. In the mouth, the texture is very soft, near-cotton and linen-like. This is pleasing, but the flavor composition is touch duller, with the average blend of kelp, melon starch, and maybe an edge of asparagus. There’s a bright sparkling glow of pepper-y spice right on the front of the tongue.
The second and third steeps yield greener, murkier soups, but fade on the flavor depth, as expected. I absolutely adore the soft textile texture that lingers in the back of the throat, but wish it was paired up with a wee bit more flavor complexity to hold the palate’s interest. Nonetheless, solid, well-handled quality leaves, in my opinion.