This is another tea by Mr. Ota, a Tamaryokucha (steamed) grower from Ureshino, who’s also making black teas (see here) and kama-iri cha. Among his kama-iri, his Fuji-kaori with its enchanting scent of jasmine is very popular, but its Benifûki is also a superb tea.
Let’s remember that Benifûki is a black tea cultivar, registered in 1993 and made from the crossing of a Chinese variety and the famous Benihomare (Japanese historic black tea cultivar, from a seed of a Assamica type variety). Benifûki is probably the most famous black tea cultivars in Japan, not necessarily for good reasons sadly. Indeed, this cultivar contains a very large amount of methyl catechin (eg absent Yabukita) that is supposed to have an effect against hay fever. But in black tea, there is no catechins, because these get oxidized during the process of black tea manufacture. It is process as a green tea that Benifûki has its “effect” (I personally do not believe in it, and this effect anyway does last long, so you have to consume tea all day long). Thus, at the end of winter, Benifûki green tea powder (soluble / instant) invaded the tea shops. Of course, it’s not taste good. Even as loose leaf tea, the Benifûki green teas are often relatively bad, very astringent, black tea cultivars being much richer in tannins than green tea ones. Nevertheless there are also in very interesting Benifûki green teas, as the tamaryokucha from Fuji proposed last year on Thés du Japon, or better yet, this kama-iri cha from Ureshino.
Indeed, despite the obvious manufacturing defects (tea soup color too yellow or orange, due to oxidation of the leaves start during the wilting process, not adequately controlled), this kama-iri cha is damn good ! Sometimes a point of view purely theoretical and academic considered as a manufacturing defect produces wonderful flavors.
This tea requires quite hot water, from the first infusion. However, take care to the dosage, which should be relatively light, and the infusion time, not too long. It is almost not astringent, not tannic at all before the third infusion. On the palate it is very soft and sweet, but with a strong attack.
The scent is especially very rich, dense and thick, it evokes a rainforest. The flavors are sweet, floral at first, fruity while cooling a bit, with reminiscent of alcohol fruit, mainly grape. And then there is this spicy background, a texture reminiscent aromas of black tea.
On the 2nd infusion, the fruit seems to gain strength, then it is the spicy flavors reminiscent of black tea which take precedence over a third infusion, while in the mouth liquor is more tannic.
With a good length, this tea offers rich returns and after-tastes, floral and fruity, very unique, in line with the aromas felt on the nose.
We are far from a typical kama-iri cha from Kyushu, but also far from a Chinese green tea. This kama-iri cha deliciously reflects the personality of the cultivar Benifûki, while eliminate its shortcomings. It is not as simple to prepare as a conventional kama-iri, but with a little attention to the dosage and brewing time, nothing too difficult either. And the effort is worth it because this Ureshino tea offers a rich and unusual experience.