Wow, this Tea is incredible. Needless to say, everyone will have their own idea of what they prefer and/or appreciate as well as what they are willing to pay for. But, if you are a serious Tea Lover, specifically of Gyokuro and are able to get your hands on this Tea I would not hesitate even half a second to encourage you! First I'd love to say a HUGE "Thank You" to Hibiki-an for being so kind in their decision to share such Grand Tea with the entire World. I think it is a Truly wonderful and sharing gesture!! This Time of year is special for many people and although it's definitely a lovely thing to feel thought about, appreciated, cared for, included, and encouraged during "festive occasions," it's often forgotten about in today's daily society, which is why I feel it is incredibly thoughtful of Hibiki-an to share a Tea that was handcrafted quite possibly by One or more Farmers' TOTAL dedications their entire Lives! We can Self Medicate with Tea, as proven by Time, and even though just One Farmer may "win the prize," EVERYONE will benefit from their Personal devotion in The End. This is proven by the Fact that these Competition Grade Teas are still being cultivated and "judged" at the Tea Competitions which serve to regularly encourage everyone involved in Tea Production to realize Tea's fullest and greatest potentials. I think that is great, because even if "everyone, you, or even I" (which I'm thankful I was, though) did not get to experience this Tea, we will all benefit thanks to the awesome Farmer's efforts to constantly improve future Harvests of Tea that we will all be able to benefit from in so many ways each of us can. I'm very thankful to each and every person who worked so seriously towards their goals and every Farmer should feel proud and congratulated!
As I said before, I know that Tea is experienced differently by Everyone depending on countless factors, even just your brewing vessel or yunomi of choice, that minute of that part of the day, plus whatever mood you are feeling. I personally was extremely happily excited when I saw this Tea offered and placed my order, yet quickly changed to feeling quite down, under the weather, and even sick by the day my order arrived (which of course was extremely fast, as usual.) This caused me to wait some days to even think about touching this Tea because I wished to really very much enjoy it, as I said, I feel we are Truly able to Self Medicate with Tea and "nurse our Souls" in a very Personalized and Private manner when we enjoy our Teas. Therefore, I decided this morning to finally experience this 2012 Competition Grade Gyokuro Pinnacle in a Hohin, specifically the AKEBONO style currently offered here. I highly recommend it, the cost is very fair for a handmade Hohin Set that will bring you countless lovely Tea Time/"Green Moments." It's theme is of "dawn's first light" and is very beautifully profound while remaining simple. I feel it gives the atmosphere of Peace, Light, Tranquility, Serenity, Hope, and so on. I couldn't think of anything better to brew this Tea in at this moment as I am still enjoying my 2nd steeping.
My Personal impressions of this 2012 Competition Grade Gyokuro Pinnacle as brewed in the AKEBONO Hohin Set are that this Tea is indeed as fresh as the early, new day's dew sparkling in the brilliant rays of the rising Sun. This is definitely the freshest of ANY Tea I have ever experienced. I used to quite heavily enjoy ALOT of White Silver Needle Teas, as I very much love tender, young Tea Buds :) This Tea can somewhat be compared to those if you are familiar with the White Teas as it is extremely limited in the amount of days these leaves are able to be handpicked each year to produce such a Tea making it rare, very precious and very "clean" in taste, aroma, feel, and color, etc. I found this Tea to be very light, as if it were the fleeting early morning dew. Hibiki-an's description of this Tea is correct I found, in that it's incredibly translucent in color yet still has a nice body and incredibly smooth mouthfeel to it that feels just like silk to me, which I love! It's like a "Gyokuro Nectar" if I had to name this Tea. This Tea is just extremely "light" all around and although the marine type notes of Gyokuro are there they were not as "salty" to me, they were super mellow and smooth. Very light vegetal notes are sensed but are never heavy and more like a "floral vegetable." This Tea is noble and makes a statement while still being elegant and delicate. Everything about it is Truly as smooth as silk in my opinion. The 2nd steeping was pretty much identical to the 1st steeping in it's grandness which very much surprised me because usually you can tell more of a difference or "drop-off" of at least 1 aspect of the Tea. In fact, I even used less leaves then I would usually use and this 2nd steeping delightfully delivered just as well as the 1st, wow! I think this was due to the leaves being able to open even more fully with the 2nd steeping. The aroma, especially the lingering aroma in your empty yunomi, is a delicate floral that for some reason makes me think of the color white/white flowers but no specific flower. My impressions of the Tea Leaves are these: When I first opened my pack I saw these were indeed like needles, very thin, some longer than others. After I measured some leaves into the Hohin and viewed them in full light I saw what seemed to be that the leaves had been "twisted" tightly to form a long needle type of shape with the Tea Leaf. They were lovely and brilliantly shiny, this invites you to touch them and feel that they are so smooth, once again like silk! After the first steeping I looked at my used leaves to see that some had unfurled completely to form a perfect little leaf, their original shape, completely intact without any holes or rugged/rough/torn edges which shows how delicately this Tea was handled. Some of the leaves still had a bit of that "twisted" appearance but had unfurled some and I think this twisting is probably done purposely by hand. It actually reminds me alot of how those hand rolled "Pearl" Teas will gradually unfurl more and more. The leaves color was a great, bright green, very healthy, fresh, and natural looking. After the 2nd steeping I saw the leaves that had not unfurled during the first steeping were now unfurled. I feel this is what allowed the 2nd steeping to be as full and great as the first, these other leaves had been allowed to open fully now and provide another excellent brew! This is great to know since it means more steepings then usual and even when using less leaves! The color was still perfectly green and the leaves were all in great condition looking like a perfect little leaf you could've just plucked yourself even though they had just been brewed in warm water and done all of their "untwisting and unfurling." Proof of great handling and artisanal Tea :) The scent from the used leaves in the Hohin was that "white" delicate and elegant floral scent, the same as in the empty yunomi, but even sweeter when smelling the leaves outright and very similar to what I really love and sensed in the Autumn Kuradashi Gyokuro but could not put my finger on. It brings to mind "candied florals/sugar sprinkled flower petals." I guess this is just the scent of Gokoh?? (I think that is the breed used for this Tea, and possibly the Kuradashi Gyokuro but I'm not positive.) Either way, it is incredibly lovely, elegantly sweet and light. I honestly would love to have this scent in a perfume, candle, or something, it is simply delicious!!
In all, my experience today was an extremely pleasing, gentle, light yet bright Tea "Green Moment" and I am so happy I decided to try this today while alone in the early morning. It really is an uplifting experience to have such young Tea, at least for me since young Tea is a Personal favorite. One thing I'd like to mention is that this Tea is not the same as a Shincha experience although I noticed a similar sort of "fresh/brisk/coolness" that was a refreshing aspect that yet again reminded me of cool, refreshing, very early morning dew. Although this Tea is totally not effervescent itself, the elegant yet still gentle qualities it gives off bring to mind a sparkling, bright crystal, an expert jeweler's best cut diamond (this IS the Expert Farmer's best dedications, afterall) as well as something close to the gently vibrant beauty of a Special Loved One's wonderfully sparkling, clear eyes.