After talking about the incredible Tôbettô, pinnacle of Tsukiji Estate teas in Tamakawa (in area known as Hon.yama in Shizuoka) now produced by young Mr. Kosugi, I will present the following two sencha from this Estate, the Sôfû蒼風 and Yamakai 山峡 cultivars. Two great teas, again very good this year despite all the difficulties, however, two very different characters.
I’ll start with one that is completely new on Thés du Japon, Sôfû.
Sôfû is a “inzatsu” 印雑type cultivar, crossbreed between Yabukita and Shizu-inzatsu-131, the latter being itself crossing between a Japanese variety and a variety from Assam.
Fuji-kaori or Kondô-wase are two other examples of “inzatsu” cultivars. Their common characteristic is primarily a sweet floral fragrance, in the field of white flower, which could sometimes remind jasmine, or sometimes the grape. Another common feature, a relative abundance of tannin which can make them quite astringent.
This Sôfû from Tamakawa is of course gorgeous, with beautiful, long, thin needles, very elegant leaves. As Tôbettô it is manually harvested from uncut tea plants. The fragrance is intense, sweet, I would not describe it as very floral, rather a mixture of flower and fruit that gives a whole complex “inzatsu” typical aroma, but anyway, it is particularly captivating and relaxing.
This tea should be brew with hot water, not boiling, but 80 or 85 ° C will be perfect for the first infusion. 4 or 5 g of leaves, 70 or 80 ml of water, 1 minute.
Then, it is better to wait a little for brewed tea to cool down slightly in the cup to enjoy its fragrance. These combine freshness and mellowness, and then there was this perfume so particular that some mention as jasmine, but it does not seem that this is appropriate. Yes, we have some white flower scent, but there is something more lively than jasmine. But nothing in that Sôfû is too “stimulating”, everything is in the subtlety and balance.
This quality is reflected in the liquor. The first attack is very soft and light, then a little bit of astringency (this could be avoided with more warm water though) appear in the mouth, not a problem, on the contrary it fits with the nice flavors, floral and sweet of this tea. A subtle umami comes to finish everything. What remains in the length fill up the mouth with freshness.
The second infusion, a little warmer but very fast gives a very aerial liquor without astringency this time and a great freshness to simply enjoy the aromas of this cultivar.
Just like his always clear and bright liquor, this Sôfû is a tea of high purity, great subtlety, which is something that is not always true with this type of cultivar. There is no excess in the mouth, all in the fresh, floral fragrances, sometimes a little menthol, their impressions on the nose, in the throat. Of course, from the third infusion, astringency is back, but this subtle astringency is delicious! This tea continues to slip smoothly down the throat.
Yamakai’s profile is on the opposite side that one of Sôfû. Given the sophistication, the female personality of Sôfû, we have a lot more male tea that is very powerful.
Yamakai is a cultivar that I love, which is not anymore very appreciated today but was very popular in the past for shaded teas, including gyokuro. But it is a difficult cultivar with very thick stems, and aromas which are kind of “oily” are not the taste of everyone.
Let’s go back to this Yamakai from Tamakawa, the leaves are very beautiful too, long, thick, manly.
Their fragrance is also very present. It contains warm notes of dried herbs, but are mostly sweet fragrance, reminiscent of raspberry jam, a very rich texture, which strong impact.
We have here a tea that is sweet with umami, tea with lots of body, the preparation will be also very different from Sôfû. Low-temperature infusion, 60 or 65 ° C, 5 g of leaves to 60ml of water, 1mn30s.
The brew makes a perfect echo of the dry leaves sweet scents of raspberry. This rich scent is intense despite very warm brew.
In the mouth this tea has great power, with a rich and full of sweetness attack, umami is spreading in the mouth, but not too much, teas from Tsukiji Estate have nothing similar to standardized competition tea ideals. In short, this sweetness is not without strength. There we find these sweet jam flavors. These seem then line the palace for eternity.
It is important to raise the temperature for the second infusion. Very sweet, fragrant and tasty, it is also lighter, like a nice rest, just as long in the mouth though.
Slight decline in perfumes from the third infusion, but return to power. Splendid after taste and length.
With this type of heavy brewing parameters, we will get 5 very good infusions.
This Yamakai from domain Tsukiji in Tamakawa is a tea with great force, that could almost rival Tôbettô, but with very different aromas, more typical, a stronger impact, depending on your point of view can be taken as a quality or a defect.
His brute force, his very “sweet” perfumes opposes clearly to Sôfû, with its delicate floral perfumes like “aroma therapy”.
Tôbettô, Sôfû, Yamakai form a group of three exceptional teas from domain Tsukiji, all handpicked, all extremely different that should be enjoyed in parallel. They show the power and aromatic richness, almost unexpected, that can have Japanese teas …. unfortunately too rarely.