MAIKI: Tea Tasting by Alex Ahearn


Name of the Product: MAIKI (shop here)
Type of tea: SENCHA
Producer: Koga Kumiko of Kogachagyo — 4th generation of tea masters 
Location: Yame City, Fukuoka Prefecture, northern Kyushu, Japan
Harvest: Shincha — May 2021

Read about the incredible work of Kogachagyo below. 

Kogachagyo, established in 1938, is a family business operated by Koga Kumiko san and her mother and father. Koga san represents the fourth generation of tea masters from the Fukuoka prefecture. The business produces a stunning national prize-winning Gyokuro, and one of its Sencha is served on the renowned Seven Stars train that travels across Kyushu Island. 

Beautiful leaves and fragrance as soon as you open the bag

Enjoy this tea like Koga san!  

Koga san’s recommended steeping parameters 

80°C (176°F) water
6g (2 teaspoon) tea 
150ml (~5 fl oz) vessel 
60-second steep 

A fragrant aroma escaped the package as I opened it. The surrounding air filled with subtle hints of milk, steamed edamame, and toasted pine nut. I poured some of the leaves onto a small bowl to be scaled, and as the shiny deep green needle-like leaves fell out of the bag they formed a neat mound in my bowl. As my water warmed up in the kettle beside me, I smelled the vegetal and slightly nutty leaves. I poured my warmed water into my kyusu, then into my cup. After, I put the scaled leaves into the warmed kyusu, and notes of sweet corn, lima bean, and sweet pea wafted from the vessel. 

While pouring the water into the kyusu, I watched as the leaves slowly absorbed the water. The liquor soon became a vibrant green hue that looked particularly rich. I decanted the liquor into my cup and smelled the aroma of the liquor and the wet leaves. Both aromas were reminiscent of sweet corn, steamed zucchini, steamed soybean as with the dry leaves. There was more complexity in the aroma of the freshly steeped leaves. The liquor was a vibrant green hue with hints of green-yellow, creating a gradient to a bright gold.  

I lifted the cup to my nose and smelled the aroma of the liquor another time. The liquor was bright and light-bodied with a coating mouthfeel. I took another sip and let the liquor sit in my mouth. The tea’s subtle umami characteristics balanced with its delicate astringency and slight bitterness. A consistent sweetness lingered in my mouth as I continued to enjoy the tea, and light hints of wildflowers and water chestnut balanced with the bitterness in the tea’s finish.

The tea’s lively characteristics continued to develop sip after sip and even more as the tea started to cool. The recommended steeping parameters of Koga san elevate the tea’s aromas and create a rich and complex liquor that you can enjoy at any time of day. This tea is made with a blend of the Yabukita and Saemidori cultivars. 

Enjoy MAIKI at any time of the day! 

Hot preparation:

If you would like to enjoy this tea by itself, following Koga san’s steeping parameters allows you to experience many of the tea’s nuances and depth of flavor. You may steep the tea another time with 80°C (176°F) water, for 30 to 45 seconds. The tea’s flavor will become more intense and prolonged with the second steep. The deep green-yellow liquor has notes of corn, artichoke, and clover with an underlying sweetness. A rich umami characteristic also intensifies, and subtle notes of wildflowers and zucchini develop. 

For making a lighter preparation of this tea, I would recommend preparing the tea using 75°C (167°F) water, 5g tea (1.5 teaspoons), 150ml (~5 fl oz) vessel, and a 45-second steep. You will notice slightly elevated umami characteristics with this preparation method. The tea also develops a richer body with a lingering sweet finish. You may steep the tea for another 30 to 45 seconds with 80°C (176°F) water for a second cup.

If you would like to make a larger serving of this tea, I would recommend steeping 7-8g tea (~2 teaspoons) in a 200-250ml (~6.7-8.5 fl oz) vessel with 75°C (167°F) water for 45 seconds. You may steep the same leaves for an additional 45 seconds using 80°C (176°F) water for your second cup. As the tea is steeped more, the tea’s body and characteristics will lighten. 

Dry leaves of Maiki, first and second steep
© Alex Ahearn

Cold brew preparation:

This tea can be enjoyed as a cold brew made in a 750ml (~25.4 fl oz) cold brew bottle or a pitcher. This preparation method highlights the underlying umami characteristics and sweetness of the tea that are not as apparent when prepared hot. Put 8-10g (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 can taste test the tea throughout its steeping and enjoy it at any point to your liking. 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 grilled or raw sweet corn salad tossed with fresh stone fruit such as peaches or nectarines. You can also enjoy this tea with a steamed and lightly salted edamame or a small bowl of Goma-ae, a traditional Japanese side dish. 

The beautiful liquor of Maiki subtle as its taste
© Alex Ahearn


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