Hello Tea Friends. Happy New Year!
My first review of the year is something special and I’ve been looking forward to sampling it for a long time. Yunomi was kind enough to send me a 20g sample of Whisky Barrel Wood Smoked Black Tea from Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden.
The Matsumoto family has been farming for more generations than there are records, but established their first tea processing factory in the 1930s. Today, 3rd generations tea master Hiroki Matsumoto is pioneering the production of smoked black teas.
Based on Shizuoka’s Oi River, the Matsumoto family practices a centuries old way of farming called Chagusaba. Designated as a UNESCO Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System, the Chagusaba farming method involves surrounding your tea fields with fields of susuki or sasa, two different types of tall grass. In Autumn, the grass is harvested by hand, dried, chopped and laid on the ground around and between the hedges of tea fields providing soil fertilization, preventing the growth of weeds.
This system was studied and honored with the UNESCO designation because it has helped to preserve biodiversity in the areas of Shizuoka where it is widely practiced. Endangered insect species native to the region are also more widely found in areas practicing Chagusaba.
Silver Medal Winner of the 2014 International Tea Tasting Competition, Matsumoto-san smokes his black tea using the wood from Japanese whisky barrels. No flavorings or additives used.
Opening the packet (like a kid on Christmas morning) I tear back the strip and vice grip the tabs apart. Smoke, rich and dark with wood and charcoal qualities announce themselves with a punch. So strong yet so complex. Much more going on than your average smoked tea.
In appearance the leaves are dark brown and light yet crisp with a few sticks/stems present. They are loosely chopped and vary a little in size.
Steeping Parameters: 3g of leaf – 90C water – 270ml vessel – 3 minutes
Once steeped the liquid is Golden, red/brown and bares a smoky, wooden scent somewhat toned down from it’s raw form.
Flavour is rather mild considering the stronger scent. The first sips are smoky and wooden with some dryness but it quickly dissipates and becomes sweet (like honey) with a lingering aftertaste. No where near as strong as say a Lapsang Souchong, and far more complex in flavour.
As it cools slightly and my mouth is coated in it’s essence I can note the whisky in it’s ever growing sweetness. Malty yet smooth and sweet with a hint of smoke, sounds like a good whisky right? And I am a whisky sorta gal, it’s my poison if you will. Also a fruit note comes through a bit better half way down my cup, like plum or apricot. Sour and sharp but also sweet and juicy.
A good second steep with plenty of smoke and sweetness left to speak of. Perhaps not like honey at this point, more like brown sugar. Still the sweetness comes through in the after taste and it lingers on the tongue, coating my mouth with it’s beautiful glory.
More wooden in this steep too.
Very soft but hints of smoke and sweet fruit remain. A refreshing finish to a complex and flavourful tea.
This tea was frankly everything I wanted and more. Packed with flavour without an overpowering smokiness and delicious throughout each steep. The whisky barrel has added so much depth and sweetness, it was a truly beautiful touch. I achieved all of this with only 3g of leaf, very impressive.
I paired it with some leftover Panettone cake from over Christmas (after the review). It was delicious! Very complimentary to each other.
This is definitely a sample I can finish with a smile on my face. Somethings are just worth the wait.
Thank you once again to Yunomi for sending me this sample.