With the fall, we begin to grind the tencha that was picked last spring, so here comes the 2016 matcha. This year I continue for the 2nd consecutive year with teas by Mr. Tsuji from Shirakawa in Uji. I propose unblended matcha, things not so common, so presenting the cultivars separately. No need to say that this is real matcha, 1st harvest grown under arbor (no direct coverage), manual picking from uncut tea trees. There is a Yabukita (there are actually 10% Samidori in), a Samidori, an Asahi (this one is shaded according to “Honzu” traditional method, very rare today, with bamboo blinds and straw), and a novelty this year, a Uji-hikari.
Apart Yabukita, these are all cultivars for shaded tea, all from Uji. Samidori being the most versatile, Asahi rather dedicated to tencha then Uji-hikari is usually dedicated to gyokuro. Non-blend Uji-hikari is rare, and I have also very little amount.
Yabukita unsurprisingly is the least mellow of the four, with a little astringency, vegetal enough, but it also has interesting aromas of red fruits, and a lot of strength.
Samidori is both the simplest and most typical premium matcha. Very soft, no astringency, velvety and slightly “green”, it represents a perfect introduction.
Asahi is obviously the more mellow and depth without common measure with its sweet egg cream flavors, it is a delight, a real dessert. Very high-high, competition level, it might for some missed some impact in the mouth (especially for those who have the image, however erroneous, of matcha as an astringent tea). But I would also say it still lacks perhaps some maturing and lots release later will be better still.
Uji-hikari then represents a good compromise. The general impression is velvety and elegant premium matcha, but with a greater impact in the mouth, a touch of pleasant astringency.
So here are four very different matcha, with all the characteristics of their respective cultivar, bringing a significant variety. However, it is generally said that the matcha is not made to be used in single and must be blended to have real depth. I’m only half agree with that, but never mind !! With four matcha, four different cultivars, the best isn’t to do your own blends?
So for example, for those who just want an Asahi with a little more impact, add a bit of Yabukita in proportion or 3: 1.
And my particular recommendation, Samidori + Uji-hikari 1: 1, just divine!
Moreover, it is of course not limited only to matcha. With a variety of single plantation sencha why not compose your own blend? It is quite fun. To stay on Uji, other recommendations, 1: 1 with Yabukita sencha from Wazuka (Harayama) and Uji-tawara (Okuyamada); where the first powerful attack is balanced with tranquility and umami of the second.
Finally, to return to the matcha, the arrival of the 2016 vintage was an opportunity to compare with the 2015 vintage.
The case of Samidori is interesting. At first sight, the 2015 has clearly lost its beautiful bright green. Yet in the mouth, it is no less interesting. There is absolutely more roundness and strength, remains longer in the mouth. However, it might be less complex in flavors, less “fresh” than the 2016. From a personal point of view, I prefer this version matured in 2015.
With Asahi, the assessment is more difficult. The 2015 has a lot more strength and impact that the 2016 which seems to need more to mature than Samidori. However, in 2015 it has an astringency that does not exist at all in his younger version. At the time I write this, I would say that a blend of the two vintages would approach an ideal (relative after all).