Regulars to this blog and Thés du Japon online shop surely familiar with this producer, but I present it again briefly.
At the foot of Mt Fuji, Akiyama Katsuhide is a passionate farmer and experimenter, the most remarkable fact is to grow more than 40 different cultivars. He seeks to bring out the maximum flavor characteristics of each of these cultivars, with the risk of getting very unusual for some teas that will not please everyone.
More on this character in a coverage here and interview here.
I’ll start with the Tsuyu-hikari cultivar sencha, a cross between Asatsuyu and Shizu7132.
The leaves are very fragrant. We have very addictive and sweet flavors, dominated by sweet floral notes, reminding something like Shizu7132 to a lesser extent, the sakura Japanese cherry leaf.
After a quite conventional infusion (for me), 4g / 70ml, 70 ° C, 1 minute, we immediately have an intense aroma, very soft, with this “sakura”-like scent and a depth that evokes a tropical rainforest.
The liquor is bright green inherited from Asatsuyu, slightly cloudy.
In the mouth it feels first a gentle “umami”, sharp but not too much, despite the softness felt very strong in scent. There is a very good balance. This liquor is stimulating with a little tannic touch that little fade by adjusting the infusion parameters.
The few roasted leaves of this very pleasant Japanese green tea remember the green flavors of Asatsuyu cultivar typical beans aromas.
A long finish quite satisfactory with an after both floral and fruity.
If a second infusion reveals more clearly astringency, then the after is all the more sweet.
It is a rich flavored sencha, and enhancement of this cultivar characteristics seems very successful.
I will continue with THE Inzatsu 131 (hand-picked). Cultivar which takes half of his blood from a variety of Assam, Inzatsu 131 is characterized by a very stimulating floral fragrance, reminiscent of small white flowers like lily of the valley.
Moreover, Inzatsu 131 is the parent of some popular cultivars as Sofu, Kondo-wase, or Fuji-kaori.
From the first contact, no mistake, it is indeed a Inzatsu 131, the producer sought to put forward maximum features, great for some, much less for others.
The leaves have a strong fragrance of flowers, spicy while having a sweet background texture. I also feel fragrances recalling a very juicy pear.
4g of leaves for 70 ml of water at 60 °C, 1 minute, I got a fine liqueur surprisingly airy with sweetness, without astringency or tannin tasks. With its parent from Assam, Inzatsu 131 is a cultivar that can show overflow of tannins, but nothing on this first infusion with this sencha by Mr. Akiyama. Everything goes perfectly through the throat. Yet there is much force in the floral aromas, plus a touch fruity. In fact, this sencha is expressed primarily in the nose and throat.
By increasing the temperature a bit, even with a very short time, the second infusion is drier, and much bitterness is felt!
Considering the strength of the aroma of tea, using less leaves would provide a better outcome.
However, on the third infusion, the liquor revives with finesse and balance, still rich in flavor, bitterness disappears and sweetness and slight astringency complete each other perfectly.
As always I must say that this is not a Japanese tea for everyone, but this is a sencha for amateur who are seeking for change, discoveries, sensations. I like it.
Then, a cultivar that I love, the very floral, Kôshun.
With their scent like big yellow flowers and fresh hay, these sencha leaves leave a country and summery feel.
I use 5g of tea for 70ml of water at 80 °C, I let brew 40s.
There is a very present and very captivating fragrance. The floral pole dominates but with a sweetness that is not felt in the dry leaves. The aromas are very deep.
In the mouth, the liquor is highly expressed by a first frank and incisive attack. The flood of flavors on the palate is very complex. The floral aromas dominates first, before letting appear rustic notes of hay, then this is the sweetness that invade slowly, slowly in the mouth a long aftertaste.
In throat it feels both of soft-sweet notes and green freshness.
In the second brew, appears a buttery, almost pastry-like aroma that we would not have suspected from the scent of the leaves. The floral notes remain present, Kôshun cultivar trademark.
The liquor is then a little more astringent with a slight bitterness. Everything is very dense, with a fresh and floral after-taste, which is intense, and a sweetness that is even gradually growing with time.
As with Inzatsu 131, softness and balance is coming back on a very nice third infusion.
I continue with a tea that was a big surprise for me this year, a Benifuki cultivar tamaryoku-cha.
Benifuki is the most famous of the Japanese cultivars developed for black tea. It is also known to be rich in methyl-type catechinl that is said to affect against hayfever. For this, the tea should be a green tea, otherwise catechin get oxidized. But process as a green tea Benifuki is generally not very good.
So this Benufûki tamaryokucha (guri-cha) by Akiyama-san was a huge surprise.
The leaves are nicely rolled, shiny, deep green, far away from traditional tamaryokucha (very rare indeed), but that seems like a good steamed Japanese green tea.
But above all, this is the dense, rich and complex fragrance of the leaves that is stunning. A bouquet of fruity aromas, pear, peach, apricot, spicy tones, sweet and slightly floral. In short, a summary of what will offer successive infusions. Also, the scent is reminiscent of some black teas.
An initial infusion with 4g for 70-80ml of water at 80 °C, 1 minute, and we first have a powerful and fruity fragrance reminding the impressions of pear and peach of the dry leaves, with spicy notes.
In the mouth, the liquor is at first slightly bitter and astringent, but this is dominated by a particular sweetness, different from the usual Japanese green teas mellowness, which would be closer to the spicy sweetness of black teas.
The after is powerful, and with time, the aromas of fruits and spices are transformed into something buttery.
The second infusion, very short, is much gentle. It offers a nice rest after the flood of flavors of the first infusion. The fragrance reveals a bit of orange also found in the liquor with very subtle citrus aromas. It is light and airy, without bitterness or astringency. The after is mellow.
The third infusion reveals a more floral scent, although the spicy pole recalling black tea remains a constant. This perfume, subtle, is sweet, warm, almost tropical.
In the mouth, there is a resurgence of bitterness and astringency which could provide a quite delectable stimulation.
Despite the floral and spicy flavors of the after, it is now quite tannic (Benifûki is still a cultivar originally created for making black tea). However, after a few minutes, fruity aromas appear again, and the tannins are converted into sweetness.
This Benifuki tamaryokucha blew me away. Despite some defaults not shocking for a tea that price, its richness in flavors is exceptional. According to Akiyama-san, processing as a tamaryokucha rather than as a sencha allows tea with flavors diffuse more slowly, and gently spread over several infusions.
Then, Yabukita. This is actually the first time I have a Yabukita by Mr. Akiyama. Yabukita is the most prominent Japanese tea cultivar, 70% of the cultivated surface. It is also the standards for competition.
The leaves are a little broken but beautiful, well proceed. They have a mild and fresh scent, a typical good Japanese green tea.
First infusion with conventional parameters (70 ° C, 4g, 70ml, 1 minute) results in a rich scented liquor, velvety, powerful but not aggressive. It contains hints of hazelnut and butter.
In the mouth, the liquor is very sweet, with just the right amount of ‘umami’ flavor, and a very slight astringency.
It is simply very good. In fact, no doubt, this is a very classic Yabukita, there has its landmarks, no surprises, no disappointment.
The last Akiyama Katsuhide’s tea I will present today is a Yama no Ibuki cultivar sencha. Developed from a Yabukita seed, Yama no Ibuki shows no aroma extravaganzas, but has its little personality, especially with lots of umami sweetness. Mr. Akiyama enhanced this characteristic by a shaded culture, which making this Yama no Ibuki very close to a kabuse-cha.
For my part, judging from the good thickness of the leaves, I prefer not to play the card of the sweetness (with warm water) and I chose to infuse just hotter water, 80°C, to take over complexity above umami.
The resulting liquor has a very strong and sweet fragrance. There are impressions of ripe fruit and a mineral touch.
On the palate, the first attack is undoubtedly very mellow, rich in umami flavors, a roundness that grows continuously in length, but not to the extreme: it is dense and strong, but not heavy (maybe the choice not to use too warm water is good?). I feel more green aromas in the after, but the ” sugar ” remains the dominant.
The mineral pole seems more present in the subtle scents of the second liquor.
In the mouth, a slight loss of power, but it is very close to the first infusion, with a very mellow tea.
However, the after is more complex, richer, a mixture of sweetness, green and velvety, something I cannot define.
The third infusion is very light, but this sencha continues to show a great expressivity in length. Pleasant and refreshing. Still no astringency.
But ultimately, after several tasting, I realize that sencha is generally very good, a great success, although without excessive originality.
In total, six steamed Japanese green teas from Fuji, six different cultivars produced by the same farmer. More than ever, we understand the importance and potential of cultivars, but also the qualities of Yabukita. Classic, umami, exotic flowers, oriental, etc., six really different and strong personalities.