Traditional gyokuro from Yame, Yamakai cultivar

Here is a new “Yame traditional hon-gyokuro” (there is several rules about growing method to obtain this name, like uncut trees, hand picking, “honzu” straw shading, etc.). More exactly, it’s from Hoshino village in the mountainous part of Yame. It is a Japanese green tea grown and proceeds by Mr. Takaki, like the other one Gyokuro from Hoshino, Yabukita cultivar, available on Thés du Japon. And great fun, this one is the Yamakai cultivar !

Yamakai is said to be difficult and is loosing popularity, but even if it is originally a sencha cultivar, it is widely used for shade growing, kabuse-cha and gyokuro.


I had already noticed that about another great vintage, the Yamakai cultivar sencha by Mr. Tsukiji (Tamakawa), but I find a perfume which remind raspberry, dominating the umami and “green” gyokuro clean flavors. This amazing scent of raspberry seems to be the result of maturation, as it is little or not present at the time of shincha in spring.
These leaves are very thin, delicate and are relatively broken.

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The first infusion lasts 1 minute 30, with 5 grams of leaves, 40ml of tepid water (50 ° C) and without cover.
A very sweet fragrance with an impression both sweet and very fresh characterizes the few drops of green tea obtained with this first brew.
It is rather in the mouth that we found raspberries aromas, which grow on the palate after a very soft and sweet first attack, which is also slightly astringent, providing power and depth to this very thick first infusion.


The after-taste is intense. The “green” umami of gyokuro appears on a texture with reminiscent of red fruits. Despite the presence of a kind of astringency on the first attack, it is clear that this tea has absolutely nothing tannic; it is like an intense and deep velvet.
40 seconds, a little warmer, still without cover for the second infusion, thinner perfume, but the brewed tea still had a very powerful attack in the mouth. A stimulating attack, which is followed immediately by a wave of raspberry aromas, then by a second wave of sweetness. This second aromas come over the first ones without erasing them. This all create a deep aftertaste.
For the third infusion, I let brew one minute, with hotter water, this time with the cover.
Subtle perfume brings to the nose red fruit impressions.
In the mouth, gyokuro now gives a less stratified taste, with a dense and complex liquor still, but where slight astringency and sweetness take a very interesting balance, where the fruity aromas fade.
This balance also characterizes the aftertaste, absolutely not tannic, and where the sweetness is salivating, and discrete astringency brings a refreshing sensation.
It appears to me this third brewing had much more length than the first two infusions.

Hotter still, the fourth infusion continues to give in force, but this time the astringency is very clear, not unpleasant, but sharp. A remnant of red fruit continues to grow slowly in the mouth, and the sweetness of the aftertaste still appear, delayed, with green notes of fresh grass aroma which was imperceptible before. It is possible that for this relatively warm infusion, using a bit more of water, 50 or 60 ml instead of 40 ml could be a good thing.

Even with punchy, but usual brewing parameters for gyokuro, Mr. Takaki’s Yamakai shows quite docile, easy to drink, with no excess umami, with a lot of complexity and depth in flavor.
Maybe he lacks a bit of body and length on the first 2 infusions, but the following two widely catching the shot, always excellent where many gyokuro disappoint.


Categories: Reviews

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