Three teas from the slopes of Shimizu in the countryside near Shizuoka City. Produced by Yamamoto Kengo, these three organic senchas come from three different cultivars: the classical Yabukita, the fragrant Kanaya-midori and the very refined Oku-Yutaka.
The same land, the same steaming and rolling in harmony with the shape of the leaves, the same producer, but different cultivars. This is a way to grasp in a fairly objective manner the major differences in the flavours of infusions made with these famous tea plant varieties.
All three require not rushing, taking one’s time for the infusion and tasting: this goes without saying.
If you like powerful tea, you should not hesitate to use 5 grams (1.5 tsp). There is no need to cool the water too much: a classical 70°C (158°F) is just fine. A good minute also.
Even 80°C (176°F) for a minute can work very well with these organic senchas.
When it comes to Japanese teas, organic products sometimes seem scary, but these teas are produced with talent, and even though rather strict conditions have to be met, there is no astringency, nothing tannic or rough in the mouth.
In this case, the Oku-Yutaka is perfectly completely lives up to its reputation. Of the three teas, it is the one that is most refined in terms of aroma and fragrance, and it is the lightest in the mouth.
The fragrance of the leaves and the liquor is subtle and refined. It contains something that I identify as almond, but I am not sure whether that is really what it is. Velvety and slightly sweet, the fragrances bring to mind delicate little flowers. The difference with the two other senchas (cultivars) is really flagrant.
In the mouth, the liquor is light. It slips down very easily, but leaves surprisingly persistent sweet flavours in the mouth, nose and throat, given the delicacy of the taste of the liquor itself.
Kanaya-midori unveils a creamy, buttery fragrance, which is also very sweet. Inhaling the scent from the teapot after the infusion is a real pleasure: the milky aromas of this cultivar are joined with incredible menthol fragrances!
The liquor itself is creamy and velvety in the sense that the range of flavours it offers has many different layers. There is also a powerful aftertaste with great length.
While it is very mellow, the liquor remains invigorating, with a kind of rustic touch that seems to me to be a feature of good mountain teas that are organic or produced with very little in the way of chemical products. This strength seems more pronounced with the delicate Oku-Yutaka, but we also find it with Yabukita.
The latter delivers very rich, green scents with a touch of peat, and also notes of roasted hazelnuts, which are probably brought out by the hi-ire.
In the mouth, this sencha is powerful, sweet, very balanced, with some mineral notes. It is also very long. Saying that it is the most classical of the three is a little trite in that the cultivar is the Yabukita heavyweight. It is quite natural that this sencha’s personality is less unusual than those of the other two. It is nonetheless extremely potent.
This Yabukita seems to express itself mainly in the taste, in the mouth, on the tongue, in the cheeks. This may be one of the differences between cultivars: they do not all express their characteristics in the same way.
Kanaya-midori seems to me to speak in a more general manner: while its scents are very present in the nose, it is also very lively in the mouth. In comparison, Oku-Yutaka is a tea that seems to show itself mainly in its fragrances, in the nose, but also in the throat.
An interesting point in common, which is also unusual I think, is that these three senchas from Shimizu unveil a lot in the second infusion, in which they become much stronger.
While these three senchas from Shimizu resemble one another if we look at them in a general manner, it is almost easier to see how they are different. Though they come from the same land and the same producer, these three cultivars are different in enough ways to demonstrate the depth and interest in these varieties of tea plant.