I will this time have two kama-iri cha from Ureshino in Saga Prefecture. Ureshino sometimes returns a very strong image of kama-iri cha but in reality the production has now become relatively confidential, and Miyazaki Prefecture (next article) and Kumamoto (previous article) are the largest producers. The specialty of Ureshino is actually steamed tamaryokucha (or guri-cha).
Indeed, Mr. Ota, the producer of our two kama-iri cha of the day is in fact primarily a tamaryokucha producer. It has just the past two years to make the production of kama-iri cha in his own factory, to broaden its horizons with its many cultivars, but also to reconnect with the roots of this ancient tea-producing region, where the monks returning from trip in China, brought tea seeds. That said, from an early age he had numbers of opportunities to study the manufacture of kama-iri cha.
Also, M. Ota works on a small scale, using no chemical pesticide and very little fertilizer. Plantations are located between 150m and 500m above sea level.
The first of these teas is a Fuji-kaori cultivar. It is (as Sôfû or Kondô-wase) a crossbreed between Inzatsu 131 and Yabukita. This is a variety with ¼ Indian-Assam blood. This Fuji-Kaori (who was born in Fujieda, Shizuoka) is known for its fragrance quite exceptional.
After infusion at 80 °C, either in the cup and in the pot, this tea exudes a powerful and sweet flower scent. I used to speak of “floral scent,” but with this Fuji-kaori it is really a “flower” scent, with strong reminiscent of jasmine. It’s really nice, almost intoxicating, hard to believe that we have to do in a Japanese tea, which again, is still a Japanese tea without seeking influence in any other producing country tea.
On the palate, it is immediately the aroma of flowers that come into play, so at first we could be afraid having something disturbing or too heavy, but then not, it all fits, the liquor is light and refreshing, like a really good Japanese kama-iri cha. No excessive astringency or umami otherwise, this is a tea very pleasant to drink. It leaves behind a long taste but not heavy, sweet. In the throat, these flowers flavors are not outrageous; everything seems in its place, as it should.
Fuji-kaori cultivar seems to fit perfectly with kama-iri cha process. It is true that this cultivar and others too, are sometimes used in other areas in more experimental kama-iri cha types, tending to approach (loosely) of baozhong, resulting in a thunderous fragrance, but often heavy and vulgar liquor. Here we stay in finesse, with relaxing scent coming out the warm the teapot.
The second of the tea is made from botanical varieties tea plantation (“zairai-shu”, reproduced by seed). But this is not any “zairai” tea bushes; they are from seeds of tea threes made themselves from seeds the Grand Tea Tree dating back over 300 years planted by Yoshimura Shinbei on Mount Fudo, considered as the origin of current Ureshino tea. Well, that does not work on the quality of tea itself, but it’s an interesting anecdote.
(By the way, in 1191, on the road to his return from China, even before he planted tea in Kyoto and transmit the manufacture of Matcha, the monk Eisai, also planted seeds of tea in Hirato (Nagasaki prefecture) opening the first tea plantation in Japan, then on Mount Sefuri at the border of the present prefectures of Saga and Fukuoka)
Again, 80 °C brewing. The scent is less surprising than in Fuji-kaori. However, it is deep, with volume. He presents himself as a kind of ashy texture, on which grow slightly floral and creamy aromas.
The liquor also has body. I would say it has more body than Fuji-kaori while remaining light and fresh. Its sweet flavors, creamy and floral, circulate in the mouth, nose and, throat. It is long lasting in mount, very good balanced; this tea brings a lot of pleasure.
I feel this kama-iri cha gained much in density and complexity since the harvest season when it seemed a bit shy still.
If this kama-iri cha is not a “model of its kind” because this tea has its own personality, we still do have a traditional Japanese kama-iri cha, authentic, which, I think, honors the Kyûshû tradition of Kama-iri cha.
Thank you to Mr. Ota for the plantation pictures. Here are some pictures of his estate: