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