I finished with my series of kama-iri cha with three teas from Gokase (in Miyazaki Prefecture, near the border with that of Kumamoto, it comes with the neighboring town of Takachiho, the mecca of Kama iri cha) by Mr. Miyazaki Akira.
Three kama-iri cha resulting from organic farming, Mine-kaori cultivar, Minami-sayaka culitvar and Yamanami cultivar. Same grower, same region, three cultivars native of Miyazaki, yet these three are still very different.
Having a quick look at the leaves allow to see a significant difference between the Mine-kaori and the other two:
The chaqing (leaf heating phase for stopping oxidation) is performed with traditional Japanese machine, which is the hallmark of kama-iri cha from Kyûshû, while the other two are treated with a Taiwanese machine.
The Japanese machine heated to 280-300 ° C, for a leaf temperature of over 100 ° C while the Taiwanese machine heat at 230 ° C for leaves at 85-90 ° C. The latter requires a little more time, but with the advantage of processing smaller quantities. However, the leaves are less well rolled with a less beautiful liquor color then.
Obviously this is the Japanese machine that gives the most typical kama-iri cha (it isn’t is a value judgment).
Then each of these cultivars gives these three green teas different characters.
Minami-sayaka was registered as a variety for steamed green tea (sencha type), but it is ultimately often used mostly for the kama-iri cha. Mine-Kaori as Yamanami are cultivars for kama-iri cha. Yamanami was developed from a seed of tea tree native of Hubei in China. Minami-sayaka and Kaori Mine are from several crosses which has at the origin tea plants brought from the Caucasus in the early 20th in Miyazaki research center.
The dry leaves of each of these teas have all clearly distinct scents.
Mine-kaori has fairly intense scents of ripe fruit in the field of black grape. It’s almost like an alcool sensation.
With Minami-sayaka, we are in the fresh and juicy fruit, yellow fruit like peach or apricot.
Yamanami is very different (like its origins), the fragrance is lighter, greener, recalling aromatic herbs, thyme, mint (one could almost draw a parallel with Oku-hikari, also from a variety from Hubei).
For all these teas, 80 ° C is very good, one minute on average according to your tastes of course.
Mine-kaori then gives a strong flavor, very different from the dry leaves, in which we find the roasted sweet potato or chestnut flavors, typical with Japanese kama-iri cha. There are also noticeable scents of cooked rice, and a ripe fruit when the liquor cooled a bit. Roasted aromas are also on the palate, with a bit of umami, mellowness, with a slightly astringent texture (I tend to infuse too much though).
Minami-sayaka is not treated as the typical Japanese kama-iri cha and, in fact, the roasted sweet potato scents here are more in the background, then scent is fairly faithful to the fruity dry leaves. It seems to me that the texture is more mineral.
The palate is very light, it is really on the aftertaste that the flavors stand out. After a few time appears the Minama Sayaka typical peach yogurt aromas.
Finally, Yamanami gives a green and vegetal perfume. It does not feel the toasty aromas of kama-iri cha. The attack is a bit astringent, with a subtle acidity. In the after-taste, this tea leaves an impression of herbs, a little mint plant and freshness. Very incisive at first, the brew is rounder, softer on the second infusion. More difficult to grasp, this kama-iri cha has at the same time plenty of flavors, most unusual and unsettling maybe.
Cultivar difference, chaqing difference, even on the same terroir and the same producer, it already shows the potential of kama-iri cha. I remain personally a big fan of classic Kyûshû kama-iri cha, but various openings (Fuji-Kaori from Fujieda, the very unusual tea from Tosa, …) to different possibilities are an important breath for spreading and development of kama-iri cha.