Saturday, December 7, 2013

Quick Sip and Sniff: Harney & Sons Japanese Sencha

The subtitle of Harney & Sons Japanese Sencha (indicated on the bag envelope) is "nourishing green tea". That must be included for those who do not appreciate the taste of sencha and need some inducement to finish their cup--for this is indeed sencha, yes it is. It's also telling that they identify the tea as "Japanese" Sencha. I do not believe that they are doing this for connoisseurs (who would be aware that there is such a thing as Chinese Sencha); it seems rather to be an attempt to educate the Lipton tea-swilling masses.

One look at the color of the brewed tea, and the Japanese origin of this tea is immediately confirmed:

The scent of the bag is unmistakeably that of sencha, as is the gorgeously hued brew. Unlike "anonymous" green teas, sencha does not smell like dried grass clippings or dusty herbs; it smells like sencha, a clean and limpid vegetal scent. If you like sencha, you will in all likelihood imbibe this cup happily. 

Harney & Sons' subtle sencha brews up light, clean, and refreshing, with no bitterness whatsoever. This tea is similar to hotel-staple sencha tea bags in Japan, albeit slightly weaker and not quite as crisp. Still I found this to be a satisfying cup for the early afternoon.

Teabag Rating: 8/10


  1. Wow, I love the idea of reviewing teas... unfortunately, I have not yet come across Harney&Sons here in Germany. From what you tell us about your experience with tea in general and green leaves in particular, I gather that you've been to Japan? I haven't, but I'd love to go and attend a genuine tea ceremony. I'm also looking forward to a review of yours which deals with white tea. Today I made some chocolate truffles... and guess what I did? I did some pralinés with "chai", using a special strong chai brew and typical spices. The truffles are now in the fridge, haven't tried them yet. But I wouldn't have come up with the idea without your blog and the rice-pudding-recipe. MERCI!!!

    1. De rien, chérie! ;-)

      Yes, it occurred to me that tea is just as important as perfume olfactorily, so why not discuss it explicitly? I'm also becoming disenchanted with the designer perfume houses. Tea at least we know is natural, and there's so much variety and nuance.

      Just as with perfume we have chypre, oriental, floral, woody, etc., with tea we have Darjeeling, Assam, White, Green (Chinese, Japanese and more!), Herbal Infusions, Chai, Yunnan, Maté. Come to think of it: there are many more tea categories than perfume categories!!!!

      Another interesting difference is that people don't get all hung up on the authorship of teas. And yet does not a fine blend require a nose and palate every bit as refined as those of a skilled perfumer? I'll be exploring some of these questions in more detail here at the salon de parfum, but just throwing out a couple of ideas here...

      A discussion of white tea is coming soon, although I'm no expert--we'll need your input for sure!

      Yes, I have been to Japan, and I absolutely loved it. The culture, the people, the food, the language, the rituals, the tea (obviously ;-)). Everything about Japan is a source of infinite fascination to me.

      Your praline truffles sound delicious!!!!! ;-) Always remember: every recipe was initially someone's experiment or (probably more often than not) mistake! The only reason why I discovered the chai rice pudding recipe was because I disliked my chai coconut milk beverage! ;-)

  2. You are right - tea categories are even more varied than perfume families. And there is a profession called "tea taster" , of course.
    Cheap, artificially flavoured tea is the equivalent of all those chemical-lab-fragrances we are fed up with, in fact, most of the flavours and aromas used spring from the same company. Many teas "designed for kids" contain massive amounts of artificial fruit flavours, mostly mango, passion fruit and berries of all kind - the equivalent to fruit-salad-perfumes. So the consumers is bombarded with those flavours and the result is a distortion of taste, an insensitivity to natural aromas and - of course- a rise of allergies. The beauty of the Japanese teas is their natural high quality and the diversity of aromas you get out of them without having to "improve" them by adding any aroma from the outside, be it artificial or natural. I'm not a huge fan of milk when it comes to diluting any kind of tea with it, I even enjoy the traditional spicy black "chai" without milk. The truffles, of course, were made with cream and turned out quite delicious. Btw, the pudding-recipe is great for my vegan friends, too, because the stuff is made with coconut milk. I'll prepare it again on Wednesday, I'm expecting two vegans for dinner, so that's ideal. But I haven't thought about the rest of the menu yet... I don't want to prepare the usual tofu-vegetable-stir-fry... I'd like something more "christmas-sy".

    1. Hello, Jalé!

      Glad to hear that the chai truffles worked out--they sound delicious!

      A propos of artificially flavored tea: I eschew it completely. The words "artificial flavor" among the ingredients list of any food item immediately signal to my mind "do not buy". The problem is that it's anyone's guess what those words mean in any given case. Basically you're opening yourself up to any and everything: carcinogens, poisons, who knows? It's a black box!

      I did accidentally buy some artificially flavored tea online. The tea is called "Sakura Cherry Blossom Green Tea", so naturally I assumed that since it was Japanese, there was no possibility that it would contain artificial flavoring. I was really very disappointed. It turned out that the tea had not been produced in Japan, and the bag now sits in my pantry unused. Perhaps I'd drink it if I ran out of every other tea in my possession, but I don't see that happening in this lifetime. ;-)

      One good thing about tea is that artificial flavoring is the rare exception, perhaps in part because tea drinkers tend to be health conscious. In contrast, in perfumery aromachemical nonsense has become the rule, not the exception, at least in the twenty-first century. Someone at Parfumo started an interesting thread about this topic: whether anyone can say that the aromachemicals being substituted are less or more harmful than the natural substances which they replace. A great question, since the results of new chemicals on human bodies only emerge years, sometimes decades, later... In the meantime, I'm focusing more and more on natural perfume. There are some excellent natural perfumers, happily. I still wear some of the designers, but I pretty much gave up on LVMH and Coty Prestige. Unfortunately, they cover a huge swath of territory at this point in history.

      Feeding vegans will be a challenge, no doubt, but I'm sure that you'll create a masterpiece all the same!


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