Following on from my last article on the excellent Yabukita sencha from Nihon-daira, I stay in Shizuoka in the district of Suruga, but this time in Mariko area.
Here is the 2015 vintage of Mr. Matsukawa’s Kondô-wase 近藤早生 and a Kôshun 香駿 cultivar by the same producer.
The both are very unusual cultivars with unique floral scents. Nevertheless both show very different characters.
Kondô-wase, is a “inzatsu” type cultivar, ie a variety having “blood” from India. It is a crossbreed of Yabukita and Shizu-inzatsu-131, himself an hybride of a Japanese variety and a variety from Assam.
This is a very early cultivar, and this sencha from Mariko, harvested by hand, is now a classic in my selection.
The typical “inzatsu” perfume of the dry leaves is very sweet and velvety, like flowers with silky petals.
Begin with a warm infusion, 80-85 ° C is not a bad option.
The infusion gives a dense fragrance, although drier and less clear than the leaves in the teapot. The scents are floral, sweet, and spicy too. Nevertheless, I still have difficulties to bring out every times strongly the fragrance of this extraordinary sencha.
But these unique flavors stand out for sure in the aftertaste, in the throat, where floral notes, warm, almost tropical impressions, encounters an umami mellowness without excess, perfectly balanced.
The liquor of this Japanese tea, while being smooth and velvety, also presents a slightly tannic taste (heritage variety to large sheets of Assam requires) giving a bit of astringency.
This Kondô-wase sencha has an exotic profile by its unusual flavors, but a pleasant umami mellowness reminding that this is a steamed Japanese green tea. More generally this is a very rich tea, where the nose, mouth, throat are highly stimulated, with a beautiful length.
on the other hand, I have a Kôshun cultivar sencha by the same Mr. Matsukawa. This Kôshun from Mariko is new on Thés du Japon, but this is not the first time that I present this cultivar. Kôshun also has unusual flavors, quite floral, but it is a 100% Japanese variety.
Mechanical harvested by hand-held machine (which allows checking the status of the leaves during harvest, unlike bigger harvester), the leaves are still very beautiful.
The scent that emerges is clearly very different from those of usual sencha, but in a very different nature than Kondô-wase.
If the first impression after the opening of the bag is very fruity and sweet, it is rapidly evolving into scents of wild flowers, aromatics herbs with slight menthol aroma.
The brewed liquor has a dense aroma, powerful, very sweet, but much more difficult to define. A little fruity, slightly floral, and then when cooling down, this profusion of scents seems to calm down and found more clearly the aromas of herbs, but very gentle here.
On the palate, the first impression is sweet, not really umami mellowness, and pastoral flavors, dried herbs and flowers. And again, what a density in the after-taste !! all this floral aromas, a little fruity and mellowness that coats the mouth. The length is once again superb. It also has a small tip of astringency, but here nothing tannic, rather like a fresh touch.
While Kondô-wase shows very mellow and exotic scents, Kôshun, although very unusual, proveide a very Japanese feeling flavors.
Kondô-wase is a tea of contrasts, with its tannic astringency and, paradoxically, its typical umami mellowness of Japanese steamed green teas. Kôshun is an equally complex tea, but that forms a more condensate whole. Astringency is finer, and instead of umami, this is a sweetness closer to sugar that dominates.
In both cases, we have a great richness and complexity, teas that are both expressed strongly in the after-taste and a long finish in throat, quite exceptional.
Two sencha that are interesting to taste in parallel, one could even add the Yabukita from Nihon-Daira to get an even clearer idea of originality of these Japanese teas.