Do you ever just want to sit back and relax to a cup of tea? That’s how I feel these days with the holidays with the latest COVID wave and with all the things happening to wrap up the year at work.
To do that, I popped open a bag of Himekura. So here it is, a tea review, just in time for the Winter Solstice.
Himekura is the collaboration tea between Shizuoka tea maker Kimikura and Laid-back Camp. You can find more about this product tie up here. As of this writing, I think they discontinued this product, so I don’t know if you can still purchase it anywhere. The Kimikura online store doesn’t even link to the product anymore. But what’s on the internet stays on the internet, so go to the link there to see some more PR for the tea when it was announced earlier this year.
Let’s do a bit of Sencha 101 first. Sencha is Japanese green tea leaves (ryokucha) that is either steamed or boiled so that it stops fermenting after the tea leaves are harvested. Then it is dried and processed similar to garden variety tea. Unlike Matcha, sencha is consumed like typical green tea in rest of Asia–steep the finished product in hot water (~175F) for a bit, and drink. Japanese people drink sencha as a matter of course. Matcha is fancyass stuff reserved for those cultural moments, or increasingly, in confectionary and cooking.
Himekura is fukamushi style sencha that has been aged over one summer. Fukamushi sencha is steamed for “a long time” as opposed to typical asamushi sencha. We’re talking about 90-120 seconds for fukamushi versus 30 seconds for asamushi. Also, of course, fukamushi sencha is something that originated from Shizuoka, so of course the collab tea is fukamushi. Typical sencha are steamed and retains more of its bitter profile. You can read this for more info (which is what I have paraphrased). In this case, it’s aged in addition before roasting, all of which will take the edge off your typical sencha and it will yield a milder tea.
Fukamushi sencha has a soup-like quality, it is smooth and milder than normal sencha (such as what’s inside an Itoen tea bag). Once you add the aging, the result Himekura tea makes for a mild and sweet front profile with the deeper sencha taste that follows. As the tea cools, the sweetness yields a bit to a fuller-body taste that typifies the familiar sencha experience. It’s actually quite rare to have a sweet tasting tea that is purely just tea leaves (sans any additives), so that is nice.
The overall effect is that it is calming and soothing. It is Rin-right-on-the-bag feel. It’s perfect right now. As an aside I even fell asleep during my very first cup of Himekura, so I wager it works.
At about 1480 yen per package, and each pack containing 15 tea bags, it’s not even that expensive considering the boutique nature of this product, or that it is licensed character goods. Then again, I’m well aware that high quality tea can be in the hundreds of dollars per pound–at 2.5g x 15 we’re saying this tea is almost 40000 JPY per kilo. Well, it does come bagged. I think this is still in line with that this is a tea drinker’s tea ultimately. I don’t think it will be a crowd pleaser, unless you whip it out at the right time.
As typical with sencha, especially deeply steamed sencha, it sort of disintegrates during the roasting process. Basically this means a lot of tea marries into the hot water while it is steeping. Having a short steep time is important as well as getting the temp right (which is always important). The packaging says 30 seconds at 80C or 176F (my kettle has a button for 175F, which is typically the temp for green teas), and yeah, it works.
Tea is something humans have imbibed for many millenniums, and it’s good to know that there exists anime collab teas that actually kicks me in the right spot, as an East Asian tea snob. The last time I got anime tea, it was really punchy, umami-forward sencha and it was a tough sell for my not-quite-everyday-Japanese palate. Think of it as “morning tea” versus “vibing in winter camping” tea, I guess.
You can read up on this collab and Kimikura here. The Shizuoka tea shop sells all kinds of stuff online, including other teas that are pretty similar to Himekura I think, so it’s worth a jab if you are into exploring regional Japanese teas.