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Tea Tasting by Alex Ahearn: HAKUSEI

14
July
2021

Name of the Product: HAKUSEI (shop here)
Type of tea: Japanese White Tea
Producer: Takaki Akihito — a leading voice among Yame tea producers
Location: Yame City, Fukuoka Prefecture, northern Kyushu, Japan
Harvest: Shincha — May 2021

About the wonders of Yame

Yame, the prized origin of many award-winning dento hon gyokuro, only produces about three-percent of the total Japanese tea. Its unique microclimate and beautiful terroir are also home to other styles of tea, including sencha, shiraore, kabusecha, and matcha. Some stunning examples of koucha or black tea are also produced in rich Yame soil. You can read more about Yame here and watch a video of Takaki san talking about dento hon gyokuro from Yame. 


Takaki san's white tea crops around 2017
Young tea tree of Takaki san white tea HAKUSEI

Taste Hakusei like Takaki san! 

Takaki san’s recommended steeping parameters:

75-80°C (167-176°F) water
8g (~2 teaspoons) tea
160ml (~5.4 fl oz) vessel
90-second steep 

The first time opening the gold vacuum-sealed package, a delicate and slightly sweet aroma of spring flowers and snap peas filled the air. Takaki san has crafted this tea in a way that emphasizes the wonders of the white tea, or hakugouginshin, cultivar which Takaki san has bred and cultivated for many years. The stunningly beautiful and shiny leaves are a mixture of bright green, vivid yellow-green, and a subtle gold-green.

The lingering sweetness of the tea’s fragrant aroma remained as I weighed the tea and gathered my teaware. Using the same warmed water needed to prepare the tea, I warmed my kyusu and cup. I gently placed the scaled tea into the warmed kyusu and closed the lid for a few seconds. As I lifted the lid, a familiar sweet aroma filled my nose, full of rich notes of sweet corn and steamed asparagus. As I slowly poured the water into the kyusu, the vibrant green leaves started to swell as the liquor developed a similar green hue. I closed the lid once again and waited for my timer to go off.

The tea was ready, and I started to decant the bright green liquor from the kyusu. As the liquor filled my cup and the sediment settled, the same captivating vegetal and slightly floral aroma wafted from my cup. I raised the cup to my lips and inhaled once again, appreciating the aroma. A strong umami presence, followed by a reserved bitterness, filled my mouth as I took the first sip. Both were soon overtaken by a gentle and long-lasting sweet and slightly floral finish. Takaki san’s preferred preparation parameters highlight the delicate balance between the tea’s dynamic umami, vegetal characteristics, and balance of sweetness and bitterness. 

Enjoy Hakusei at any time of the day! 

Hot preparation:

If you would like to enjoy this tea by itself, I would recommend following Takaki san’s preparation as it offers all of the tea’s complexity and richness. You may steep the tea up to two additional times using slightly warmer water, at about 80°C (176°F), for one-minute each. The tea’s bold umami characteristic will continue to develop during the second steep and be replaced with the delicate floral characteristics and residual sweetness. If you would like to enjoy this tea using a lighter preparation, I would recommend preparing the tea using 75°C (167°F) water, 5g tea (~1 teaspoon), 150ml (~5 fl oz) vessel, and a 45-to-50- second steep.

This preparation will accentuate the tea’s vibrant vegetal characteristics while maintaining its bold umami and rich body. The tea will be slightly more aromatic, and you will notice more of the subtle floral characteristics. You may steep the tea an additional time using the same 80°C (176°F) water for 45 seconds to one minute.

If you would like to make a larger serving perfect for daily enjoyment, I would recommend steeping 7g tea (~2 teaspoons) in a 200-250ml (~6.7-8.5 fl oz) vessel with 80°C (176°F) water for 45 seconds to one minute. You may steep the same leaves for another 45 seconds using the same 80°C (176°F) water for your second cup. With each subsequent steep, the tea’s body and characteristics will lighten. 

Different colors for different brewing methods, from hot, to a lighter brew and a finally a cold brew
(© pictures Alex Ahearn)

Cold brew preparation:

Hakusei can also be enjoyed as a cold brew made in a 750ml (~25.4 fl oz) cold brew bottle. This preparation method highlights the underlying characteristics and flavors of the tea that are not as apparent when it is prepared hot. You get to test a completely different profile of the tea. Put 7-10g (~2-3 teaspoons) of tea in the bottom of the bottle.

Fill the bottle to the top with cold or room temperature filtered water. Place the bottle in the refrigerator and allow the tea to steep for 8-12 hours. You may also enjoy it at the 4-hour mark for a light and refreshing cup. After the desired amount of time has passed, strain and enjoy the tea. Store in refrigerator up to one day after preparing. 

Food pairing recommendations 

This tea can be enjoyed by itself or paired with a spring or summer salad lightly dressed with oil. You can eat the fully steeped wet leaves by themselves or mix them into a salad. It would also pair nicely with a baked or pan fried white and lean fish, like haddock or cod, or with a sautéed vegetable and lentil dish. 

The multiple green hues of Takaki san's white tea dried leaves
(© picture Alex Ahearn)

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