April 19, 2018

Jun Chiyabari Himalayan Teas - 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba

In medieval times I might have been a scribe. I always carry a notebook and keep a separate tea notepad in my kitchen. Many of my tasting notes become the tea reviews you read on the blog. Today's post is second of two reviews of  Jun Chiyabari Himalayan Teas. The first review was of the 2017 Himalayan Orange Autumn Flush. Read on for notes on the 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba.

I'd like to start this review by again thanking fellow tea blogger, Tristan Jordan of Tea With Tristan, who kindly arranged for me to sample the 2017 Autumn Himalayan Orange and the 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba both grown on the Jun Chiyabari garden in Nepal and sourced by Kora Tea and Crafts.

2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba 

The origins of this tea are Japanese. The Himalayan Shiiba tea is made from Camellia sinensis trees imported from the moutain village of Shiiba located in the Miyazaki Prefecture of Japan. The dry leaves are variable in size, lightly twisted, varying along the brown color spectrum with charcoal and khaki green leaves as well as silver buds present. The leaves were very dry to touch.

As with the Orange, I prepared the Shiiba in several ways:
  • Professional cup: 2.5 grams / 4 ounces / 200F / 3 minutes
  • Large ceramic teapot as recommended by Jun Chiyabari: 3 grams / 200 ml / 175F+ / 2 minutes, 1m, 2 m
  • Small kyusu: 4 grams / 70 ml / 200F / 20s; (dropped temp. to 190F) 40s; (transferred leaves to a 150ml clay pot) 20s, 30s 

Professional Cup

Steeping the leaves in a professional cup for three minutes yielded a golden liquor tasting green, sweet, and slightly bitter akin to biting into a stone fruit's pit. The tea was thick and layered with honey, fruit, and lingering spice. The second infusion of four minutes was full of deliciously unripe, fruit flavor.

Ceramic Teapot

I infused fresh leaves three times in a ceramic teapot. The first cup was the best of three. The tea was very sweet and floral with a grape must texture. The second cup was enjoyable. It was also sweet but with notes of green. The tea's texture was luscious once it cooled. The third infusion had a dry texture with a significant loss of flavor.

Kyusu (then larger clay teapot)

The dry leaves smelled like a semisweet brownie studded with dried fruits. Shaken in a warm kyusu, the leaves released a muscatel, fruit fuzz, pie scent. The first infusion tasted like a Taiwanese green oolong but with the green notes on the front and the floral and fruit notes on the tail. Even at this early stage, I realized that there was too much leaf in the pot. The Himalayan Shiiba is more voluminous than the Himalayan Orange. The next infusion yielded a bitter liquor which confirmed that the leaf to water ratio was out of proportion. I transferred the leaves to a much larger clay teapot and started with a short infusion. The tea was light in body, slightly fruity, and pale amber in color. There was a paper/linen tail note on the cooled liquid. The next infusion was disappointing.

The Takeaway

Unlike my experience with the Himalayan Orange, the kyusu was not the most successful mode of preparation. That honor goes to the professional cupping set. The Himalayan Shiiba is an excellent tea so do not take my failures in preparation as an indication of the quality of this tea. I am lucky to have enough of this to continue experimenting with gram to ml ratio, water temperature, and teaware.

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