Continuing my selection of teas from Hon.yama, here is another Tamakawa area tea, but from Yokosawa this time. It is again a tea by Mr. Tsukiji, whom I mentioned here. While it is of top-notch quality, this tea is more reasonably priced than the exceptional Tôbettô.
This is thus a futsumushi sencha, normal steamed, even minimalist (see the preceding entry), as close as possible to what the tea plants themselves would give us.
The leaves are long, thick needles, dark green; this alone is already a real pleasure.
I used 4 g (1.2 tsp) of these beautiful leaves with a little more than 60 ml (scant 1/4 cup) of water at about 60°C (140°F). An infusion a little more concentrated than usual. Why? The reason is arbitrary and purely pragmatic: the size of my cup. However, one should not be afraid of making a stronger infusion with this type of nice big leaves: they have nothing but goodness to give.
1 minute 30 seconds.
Perfectly clear liquor, captivating golden yellow. Green fragrance, spring-like and sweet, very pure, the very essence of fine mountain teas.
This session with this sencha was also the opportunity to christen a new teapot, very understated, inexpensive, small (150 ml – about 1/2 cup), banko-yaki. I was not used to banko-yaki, since I had mainly used Tokoname-yaki until then (although this was not an especially intentional tendency). In truth, I am not sure that it was not just my imagination, but it seemed to me that this teapot sharpened the flavours a little more than my Tokoname, with very good yield in the throat, once the liquor had been in the mouth and swallowed. However, this was at the expense of the nose, of the fragrance from the liquor in the cup. Anyway, this was the case with this tea because it seemed to me that the fragrance got thicker, in contrast with kama-iri tea (for example, Minama-Sayaka).
Of course, the liquor does not have extravagant aromas, unlike some rare unusual cultivars. This is a Yabukita, with great depth, refinement and balance. It has a very light touch of astringency but a great deal of mellowness. It is light but at the same time very full, a little fruity and floral. Once again, it provides the pleasure of an authentic Japanese tea in the purest tradition.
The sequence of infusions continued with pleasure. I did five, all very satisfactory. I increased the temperature each time, and steeped the tea for 20 seconds, then around 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, and then an indeterminate time for the fifth, surely 2 minutes and a few seconds. The liquor became very slightly cloudy in the second and third infusions, before becoming perfectly transparent again in the later ones. Always very light and refreshing, the liquor naturally became more astringent. The sweet, green fragrance remained, but some aftertaste was lost in the fourth and fifth.
At first, this type of traditionally steamed sencha may seem more tricky than heavy, thick, sweet fukamushi senchas that are more or less fail-safe when it comes to steeping, but that also have fewer possibilities when it comes to preparation methods. However, I think that, when successfully brewed, this type of traditional, carefully steamed and rolled sencha provides much more pleasure: there is always something new to discover. Even if it is a little unsuccessful, the liquor will always reward us with at least a wonderful aftertaste, length, that can also be sensed in the throat, whereas many fukamushis do not have this, or leave a thin sweet film in the mouth. They are certainly pleasant, but lack length and above all refinement.