The dive into Japan continues, this time with a lesser known style of tea. Today I am drinking two kinds of Wakocha, which is Japanese black tea. I have posted previously about a smoked Japanese black tea, but these two teas are unsmoked. The teas are Sakura Midori and Benifuki Black, both from UNYtea. While I have had the Benifuki black before, this was my first time tasting the Sakura Midori. I have very little experience with Wakocha overall though, so I was eager to see what these were like. So let’s get to it.
For all of these pictures, the Sakura Midori is on the left, and Benifuki on the right. I warmed the gaiwans and put the dry leaf in there and gave them a quick shake, which is something I have recently started doing and recommend. These both gave off some very interesting aromas. The Sakura gave off a spicy and vegetal aroma, whereas the Benifuki was a bit spicy and fruity like tomato. Then it hit me, it smelled like ketchup. I may be wrong there and admittedly I don’t eat ketchup but that’s what it reminded me of.
I used water at 205F for the first two, then dropped it to 200F. 4.5 grams in identical 130 ml gaiwans. My water is filtered with a stick of Japanese binchotan charcoal. First infusion was 15 and I added 5 seconds to each subsequent infusion.
The purpose of this isn’t to compare them to each other and pick a winner, but to note each tea on its own. I will be pointing out similarities and differences, however as they are both grown in the same prefecture. The Sakura leaf had a green tint to it and the liquor was lighter than the Benifuki. The Benifuki leaf had a red tint to it.
Sakura was up first. I noticed a slight fruity note and a vegetal note right away with a slight peppery note. The vegetal flavor was the strongest and it reminded me of peas or beans. The texture was medium. I can’t say I’ve had a black tea that tastes like beans before so it was interesting. The second infusion had a melon sweetness to it and spices that reminded me of chai spices more than just pepper, which I really enjoyed.
The first infusion of Benifuki came out a little bit bitter and astringent and had a medium body with some peppery spice notes. (Yes I think pepper is spicy :)) I did the second infusion for 15 seconds as well and it was like a totally different tea. The bitterness was completely gone and I was hit with some nice sweet fruity flavors with some spice mixed in.
On the third infusion, I noticed something very interesting with both of these teas. The Sakura had a melon sweetness on the front and I was hit with the pepper notes on the back when I swallowed. But the Benifuki hit me with the spice up front but finished with sweet fruit notes on the back. I don’t know that I would have noticed that if not drinking them side by side.
The flavors didn’t change much for the 4th and 5th. I wrote down that Benifuki is the mullet of teas. Spicy up front and sweet in the back. I don’t know how Jeff at UNYtea would feel about that name, but I like it 🙂
According to UNYtea, the Sakura Midori is grown in Kawanehon in Shizuoka Prefecture. The Benifuki is also grown in Kawanehon in Shizuoka Prefecture. They are different cultivars. It is mind blowing how different these teas can taste when they were grown in the same area but they are different cultivars of the tea plant. Tea never ceases to amaze.
I believe both of these were sent to me as samples included in other orders by UNYtea. I didn’t technically pay for them. Sakura Midori is $6.50 for 25 grams. 4 grams per 100 ml comes to 5 sessions per bag. That is $1.30 per session and you can get a good 8 infusions out of these. I stopped at 5 because I was too full but I will return to them later today and finish them off. At 8 infusions that is $.16 per 100 ml cup. That is a great price.
Benifuki is also $6.50 for 25 grams. Same parameters so same price of $.16 per cup. That is a great price as well.
I am learning that there is more to Japanese tea than sencha and I am enjoying the journey. These Japanese black teas were both very interesting and both unlike any other black tea I have ever had. I enjoyed the fruity and spicy notes and they are not expensive at all.
Have you tried other kinds of Wakocha? Please let me know if you have one that you really enjoy. If you haven’t tried it yet, I do hope you will pick up a pack or two. Cheers!