In my last article, I introduced the Yamakai cultivar tea by Mr. Tsukiji Katsumi. While we are at it, here is Mr. Shigeta Seiji’s Yamakai, also from Hon.yama.
It is a traditionally steamed sencha: beautiful plump, shiny needles. This tea is grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Unusual in Shizuoka, Mr. Shigeta also grows rice (which is used in genmai-cha).
These lovely leaves have the wild, sweet fragrance of fine mountain teas cultivated with no, or very little, fertilizer. In this case, the fragrance is very powerful and deep. It is not the sickly sweet smell that rises from some teas right after you open the package but disappears a few hours later. This tea’s fragrance is still very much there, even several weeks after opening the package. A very very appetizing scent.
Nothing very original with respect to preparation: 4 g (1.2 tsp), 70 ml (1/4 cup), 70°C (158°F), a little more than a minute.
A beautiful translucent golden liquor. No artifice, the fragrance of the leaves is also in the liquor. Peat, licorice, caramel(?). It is very much there.
And then in mouth, the same presence, the same aromas. No astringency. Mellowness that is still natural. Yet, despite its density, this liquor quenches your thirst.
You have to wait for the third infusion with very hot water to see something vaguely tannic and astringent appear, yet it remains very discreet.
Yamakai is certainly not the easiest cultivar to describe in words, but one thing that seems to me to be obvious is its strength.
In fact, the power of the aromas, and fragrance also, is the common point with Mr. Tsukiji’s sencha. Of course, Mr. Tsukiji’s tea is more mellow, even deeper, with floral notes that are not in Shigeta-san’s, but in contrast its astringency appears more easily. However, in both cases the fragrances and flavours in the mouth assert themselves strongly, but without the slightest heaviness.
In any case, I would not say that one is better than the other. They are made from the same cultivar, in the same region, with the same traditional steaming, but they are expressions of the work and personalities of two different talented producers.