Mariko II: Kondo-wase

An early cultivar, the Kondo-wase by the young tea producer, Mr. Matsukawa in Mariko, Shizuoka is the second 2014 shincha available on Thés du Japon. Like Sôfû, Kondo-wase is a cross between Yabukita (male) and Inzatsu 131 (female). It is thus a cultivar that has ¼ Assam blood. Its special feature is its sweet floral scent, which can be compared to grapes and jasmin.

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Yabukita leaf (the variety known as Chinese, like the majority of Japanese cultivars)

Kondo-wase leaf (Chinese–Assam hybrid)

Kondo-wase leaf (Chinese–Assam hybrid)

During my visit to Mariko on March 25, I was able to meet the producer and admire his plantation. Kondo-wase accounts for only a small part of the area. The tea plants are not pruned; the harvest is thus by hand.

Have a look at the beautiful setting.

 

View of the mountain where Mr. Matsukawa’s plantation is found (on the other side)

View of the mountain where Mr. Matsukawa’s plantation is found (on the other side)

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Grower, Mr. Matsukawa

Grower, Mr. Matsukawa

This rare sencha was picked on April 19.

The powerful, mellow fragrance of the dry leaves is already wonderful, brought out marvellously by just the right amount of roasting. No roasted scent, but no green grassy odor either.

P1180542Frankly, this sencha is a stunner. No matter how it is infused, it produces a beautiful, deep mellow liquor, with a luscious floral, fruity aftertaste. You should inhale the steam from the teapot after brewing!!

However, how can we bring out the strongest fragrance in the liquor?

First, one thing is obvious: with time and a little maturing, this kind of tea will show what it is really worth. Even just one short month after the package has been opened, it will already be much more assertive, and of course once we get to the fall and winter, the fragrance will have really come into its own.

P1180535I tried many different methods, and all of them pleased me. However, none seemed to really stand out from the others.

In any case, it would be a mistake to think that this sencha is good only for its fragrance. No. It is a tea with a very rich aroma in the mouth. Natural sweetness, very little astringency (which makes it radically different from its Inzatsu daddy and other very floral Kôshun-type cultivars). I have also often noticed that the fragrances of this type of cultivar do not necessarily need very hot water to come out.

This is a very high quality tea, handpicked from unpruned plants, so beginning with a relatively lukewarm infusion is, in the end, not a bad idea.

On 4-5 g (around 1 tsp) of leaves, 60 ml (2 oz) of water at around 65°C (150°F). I tried 45 seconds. A bit too short. A bare minute would be better perhaps. Mellow, rich liquor. Fragrances of jasmine and grape dominate a powerful aftertaste.

For the second infusion, 70 ml (2.3 oz) of water at 80°C (176°F), pour 40-50 seconds, approximately. Still, once again, a lot of mellowness, rich aromas and exceptional length!

At least 4 infusions are possible.

In fact, the fragrances develop a lot in the throat, more than in the nose.

P1180547We can also be a little more original, with a first infusion at 80-90°C (176-194°F), 10 seconds, not too much water (50-60 ml / 1.6-2 oz), then 80°C (176°F ) with 70 ml (2.3 oz) for the second infusion. This produces a very concentrated, very dense liquor.

To tell the whole truth, it is even harder than usual to make real recommendations for this tea. However, at the same time, what is wonderful is that everything seems to work really well. This sencha seems almost impossible to brew badly. Thus, more than ever, I want to say that you should experiment and have fun with this little marvel.

Only one thing is certain: I can’t wait to see this Kondô-wase mature over time. (Last year we ran out too quickly…I ordered a little more this year.)

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Categories: Coverage, Reviews, Tea producing area

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3 replies

  1. Hi Florent,
    I recently opened the 2015 version of this tea and am enjoying it just as much as previous years. I’m curious about your statement of aging… is it recommended to let kondo-wase sit in the packet after first opening for a lengthy period of time? My general experience with Sencha is that it should be used quickly once opened, and I usually finish a packet within a few weeks to prevent the tea from going stale.

    That being said I usually prefer tea that has been aged by a few months in contrast to the bright flavors of shincha, so I’m curious if you think the flavor of the kondo-wase will hold up over time. Or will it just go stale like most other sencha?

    • Hi, thank you for your comment.
      As you said, a lots of Japanese tea are actually better (or lets say stronger, with more aromas) after few months. This is no true for all teas or all cultivar. But there is no doubt that strong scented cultivars (like Kondo wase, Sofu, Koshun, Yamakai, 7132, etc) got they specifics aromas stronger by aging.
      But once package is open, the question is a little different, but basically, a sencha with good drying could be kept few weeks to few months. Almost of fukamushi sencha cannot be kept opened very long time because of a bad drying (there are many reasons for this…). But i would say that whatever the tea, once opened, it’s better to drink it quickly, within few weeks. But in other hand, in lot of case with good teas, it is getting better few days after opening.

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