Reviews

Oscar Brekell’s Tea Selection The First

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark green, small and needle-like
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: kyusu
Liquor: greenish-yellow

I had the pleasure of meeting Oscar Brekell at a signing for his book in NYC last year. He kindly gifted me several of his teas and this is the first that I will be writing about. Keep your eyes open for a few more in the future. His carefully curated line of teas is only available in Japan for the time being so this was an extra special treat.

The First is a Shizuoka sencha made from the new-to-me cultivar Kondowase. It is a rare variety that is known for its bitter yet floral character. Kondowase is a hybrid of Yabukita and Inzatsu 131, making it about a 1/4 Assamica. Oscar explained that this is likely where the tea gets its strength from.

Leaf

The dry leaf was deep green in color and impressively whole. Each individual needle appeared to have a subtle sheen. There are very few farmers who grow this cultivar so I can imagine that the ones who do take great care during harvesting and processing. It was just as aromatic as I had remembered from when Oscar brewed it. The floral aspect was definitely prominent in the nose along with a mild vegetal sweetness.

The First

Liquor

The First brewed up a vibrant greenish-yellow with great clarity. Japanese teas often have lots of tiny particles that slip through filters but this one was very clean in the cup.

My first infusion was a real umami bomb but the floral aroma really lingered in the aftertaste. It almost reminded me of some “semi-oxidized” Japanese greens that I tasted years ago. It was vegetal but I did not find its strength overwhelming or unpleasant in any way.

The second infusion definitely had more astringency but it was still a very delicious tea. Oscar’s description of this tea said that it makes him feel like good things will happen. I have to say that I agree. This is one tea that I might save for when I need some sunshine in a teacup.

If you haven’t already read Oscar’s book, The Book of Japanese Tea, I highly recommend that you do! Have you ever tried The First? Let me know about it in the comments below!

The First gifted from Oscar Brekell’s Tea Selection.

Nicole has been writing about her love of the leaf since 2008. Her work has been featured on World Tea News, The Daily Tea, Tea Journey, and other publications. She is the winner of the 2018 World Tea Award for Best Tea Blog.