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Review of Harney & Sons Yanagi Green Tea

Folks often tell me that they would like to drink green tea but don’t care for the taste or for the difficulty in preparing it. I think “dishwater,” “weeds,” and “not worth the effort” are the words most commonly used to describe their past experiences with green teas.

Over the years I’ve identified a couple of green teas that I recommend to these tentative tea lovers, both of which are relatively simple to steep up properly as well as easy to drink.

The first of these is the familiar genmaicha, a light sencha mixed with roasted rice kernels – almost like tea with breakfast cereal thrown in. The other tea, less well known, is Yanagi Premium Green.

A couple of years ago I was placing an order with Harney’s and needed an inexpensive item to add to qualify for free shipping. The story of Yanagi – how it is a by-product of the sencha-making process – as well as the translation of the name as “willow” caught my eye. Okay, so did the price: $10 for four ounces. Inexpensive, yes, but it’s not a cheap tea.

When you open the foil bag within the tin there’s a wonderfully fresh aroma of springtime. Dry leaves are long and mostly dark green, with a few light greens mixed in.

I use water at “string of pearls” temperature – about 160deg F. Then steep the tea for between three and four minutes; some days I like it a little stronger, some days less so. Clearly it’s not quite as fussy as most green teas. And there’s at least one more infusion left in the leaves.

Taste is more to the vegetal/brothy side, not grassy at all. Light, slightly sweet – rather like fresh peas – and more so as the tea cools. Very smooth and pleasant to drink; the Japanese often choose this pale yellow cup as a digestive after meals.

In full disclosure I’ve got to say that the spent leaves are not very attractive. In fact, they look rather like a mouse has been nibbling at them. This is a result of the processing, and does not have a negative effect on the tea other than aesthetics.

Lovely aroma in the leaf, smooth taste in the cup, ease of preparation, and an amazingly low price add up to a tea that is accessible for newbies while also appealing to experienced green tea lovers. It’s a tea that has become a staple on my tea shelf.

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