Semi-fermented tea (or semi-oxidized) oolong tea, blue tea, call it what you will, in any case it remains a kind of process still very rare in Japan, but which nevertheless tends to get more and more popular in recent years in Japan. The results are highly variable, there are really good teas, and other really bad, but after all, it is the same with the sencha. The reasons for the proliferation of this type of tea, like black teas also, are sometimes good sometimes bad. One makes black tea or oolong because green tea sale is keeping getting worst. Thus, made in Japan black or oolong teas are surprising and attracts a young crowd. This basic reason is for me a “bad” one. But some growers also make these types of tea by passion and for the study also somehow. This reason is certainly better, especially when the producer remains aware that it is not these teas that will save the Japanese tea industry. Making teas that are already manufactured abroad, most often better, cannot bring much to the market at large-scale level. Producing this type of tea with a unique Japanese features is an important issue. I feel that for the moment this “personality” can be found in more and more black teas, but can be a little less in the semi-fermented teas. As always, the cultivars have an important role to play. Nevertheless there are more and more interesting teas, as evidenced by two or three Japanese “oolong” teas awarded during Nihoncha Awards 2015. Nevertheless, I regret that most of those Japanese semi fermented teas is little oxidize, almost not roasted, mostly inspired by Taiwanese Baozhong tea. I say this, but it is precisely this type of tea that I present today.
So this is a “Baozhong style” Gokase (Miyazaki Prefecture) tea from an organic culture by Mr. Miyazaki. This is a renowned specialist of kama-iri cha (Minami Sayaka and Mine Kaori and available on Thés du Japon), but he also produces with much success semi-fermented teas, black teas, or even white teas. All these teas other than kama-iri cha (green tea) are manufactured in a different factory. This is a condition that is not trivial when we want to get serious with oxidized teas processing. Indeed, the design of Japanese tea factories (both ofsteamed and kama-iri type green teas) does not allow for wilting in good condition, because of the lack of space. Thus, a separate plant creates space by pushing the machines, less important for these kinds of teas, on the edges.
Miyazaki-san cultivates numerous cultivars, including the famous Minami Sayaka, which seems to be incredibly suitable to all types of teas. I have simultaneously been able to taste another, made with Takachiho cultivar, which gives very floral perfumes, very nice, very clean, but ultimately lacking in personality compared to Sayaka Minami.
An initial brief infusion (leaves open quickly) immediately sets the tone, with a very thick gourmand perfume, pastry, fruity and buttery. The small tannic touch on palate disappears on the following infusions, giving a fairly clear general impression, with very rich and deep scents and aromas. The fruity flavors are dominated by banana, mango also can be. The two or three following brews continue with this trend, as then, the pastry side (fruit, butter) disappears in favor of lighter flavors, a little floral, spicy and vanilla.
This “Japanese Baozhong” is not to be compared with its Taiwanese models on the front of purity, but it provides different sensations, strong, bright, with a rather exceptional aromatic richness, who change wonderfully on each infusion.
Small Tokoname-yaki gaiwan by Gafu, hon-shudei, reduction baked.