It has been ages since I have had time to take care of my blog. I must say that the end of the 2014 shincha season was full of surprises.
In the meantime, among the new items this year, there will be a broader selection of senchas from Yame. Four senchas: two yabukitas and two other cultivars. I am pleased to be able to promote this region a little more. It is relatively well known, but in the end few boutiques offer a really broad selection of its teas.
In fact, even though the name, Yame, is familiar, Fukuoka Prefecture, the economic engine of the Island of Kyûshû, remains a very small tea-producing area in comparison with Shizuoka and Kagoshima, or even Mie and Miyazaki. In Yame, tea is grown only in the limited area of Yame City and Yame District. Indeed, in Japan much more tea is sold as “Yame tea” than is produced there…
Yame produces about half of Japan’s gyokuro, more than Uji, in Kyoto Prefecture. However, this is strangely a little-known fact, and in the end it is for its fukamushi sencha that Yame is famous. In both the plains and the mountains, fukamushi reigns supreme, and moreover the tea is often shaded. As usual, the tea grown in the plains generally gets the best prices on the markets. This is not because it is better, but only because it is ready earlier. Nonetheless, in the mountainous areas of Yame (Jôyô, Hoshino, Kuroki, Yabe, etc) there is no lack of enthusiasm, and there are a number of young producers.
At the beginning of April, I visited Yame, in other words, more precisely, Jôyô and Hoshino. There I met Mr. Kuma, who produces the Yame Oku-yutaka that I am offering this year.
Sencha from Hirokawa Village in Yame, Yabukita cultivar
This tea is the beginning of my little Yame sencha selection.
It is a tea with a character that charmed me. It has a particularly intense fragrance, with typical chocolate and mellow notes, but also hints of aged wood and aromatic herbs, especially after the second infusion.
The strong fragrance is not misleading since the liquor also has a powerful impact when you sip it. Vanilla aromas and light astringency. It also has a perfectly satisfying length in the mouth.
There is something about this tea that is a little unusual and untamed.
Sencha from Jôyô Village in Yame, Yabukita cultivar
This one is perhaps less surprising, but it is a high quality sencha from Yame that is also very powerful.
The first fragrances that appear as soon as the tea is poured are not disappointing. Very classical scents of chocolate, vanilla and roasted hazelnut. Then, in the mouth, there is very mellow length that is a little thick, and contains the delicious flavours in the fragrance. At the same time, there are green, beany notes that bring a little freshness to the powerful aromas.
Sencha from Jôyô Village in Yame, Oku-yutaka cultivar
Mr. Kuma is a young producer who is around 30 years old. He also grows Sae-midori, Yabukita, and Oku-hikari using minimal pesticides and fertilizers.
Oku-yutaka is a late cultivar (as are all cultivars with names beginning in “oku”), which has experienced quite a lot of success recently in many tea-producing areas.
Once again, we have a tea with a strong fragrance. However, while its scents are very sweet, they are more delicate and subtle than the preceding Yabukitas. It has a sort of balance that is carried into the sweet, velvety liquor, which is also more airy than the first two senchas.
The aftertaste is more discreet, but very long, with pleasant aromas of yellow fruit, especially peaches.
In short, we again have a lot of strength, but this sencha does not attack our tastebuds the same way as the preceding ones. It begins more calmly, but finally also makes its presence clear.
Sencha from Hirokawa Village in Yame, Tsuyu-hikari cultivar
The fragrance of this one is quite unexpected at first. It has something earthy about it, but also aromas of ripe fruit. Once again, there is a lot of strength in this sencha, both in its fragrance and in its liquor, which contains a complex variety of flavours: sweetness, fruit and flowers, but also green notes with light astringency in the background. .
This is a tea with a special personality, very different from the three others, but it nonetheless shares something with them. If we stop focussing on comparing them when we are drinking it, there is no doubt that it is indeed a Yame tea.
Each of these teas has its own special features, but each is also an honourable representative of the gardens of Yame, and emphasizes the area’s special features: fukamushis with a fragrance that is especially present, and with strength, in other words, not only a strong liquor but a rich aftertaste and length in the mouth. Finally, they are all mellow, but there is none of the boring “sickly sweet” flavour of an amino acid soup. The mellowness is stimulating, and it has originality and character.