As Ôhira, from you will find some sencha on Thés du Japon, Ryôgouchi 両河内 is a village in the mountains of Shimizu sector dependent of Shizuoka city. This is a tea producing area, where the few remaining producers continue to make teas with standard or light steaming, in other words whole leaf Sencha.
The Katahira are growing nearly 20 varieties (cultivars) of tea. Today the son, Jirô, plays the lead role in the production, always supported by his father (which should especially take care of the interviews I think plantations). Jirô shows a love and boundless passion for tea, and I therefore intend to establish a lasting relationship with the Katahira.
A choice made for culture is to maintain each planting the same way. According Jirô, it allows to make relevant comparisons between each tea cultivars. With 20 of these cultivars in the mountains, the quantities are quite limited, and it is not easy to get everything we want, as Katahira-san enjoys a flattering reputation. This year, here are four sencha, Asatsuyu, Shizu-7132, Tsuyu-hikari, Kurasawa. All are non-shaded.
Asatsuyu, with the fragrance of leaves, leaves no doubt about the cultivar. It is indeed Asatsuyu with its so particular bean scents, some even evoke sausage (beware, I notice that many often seems to confuse the particular aromas of Asatsuyu with those of teas from Kagoshima, indeed most of Asatsuyu on the market come from Kagoshima, are fukamushi and shaded).
All this is reflected in the brewed tea, with a very full and round liqueur. A vegetal pole alongside a strong but not too intrusive either umami. Infused at 80 ° C, I do perceive no astringency in this powerful sencha. The after-taste offers an intense sweet sensation, and this tea offers a long finish. In any case for me it is always a pleasure to be able to enjoy a Asatsuyu not from Kagoshima, with beautiful leaves.
Logically, here’s come Shizu7132.
The leaves are very beautiful at first glance, but there are more broken leaves.
The characteristics appear less clearly here. I speak of course of the typical and unique perfume of Shizu7132, a scent that evoke the smell of “sakura-mochi” Japanese pastry with pickled cherry leaf aromas. This is a very mild, sweet flavor, difficult to define, I see a similar feeling also with the frangipane tart with a tip of salt.
Here, as often, 7132 seems to like rather lukewarm and slow infusion (in fact 7132 is marvelous brew with cold water). Thus, with a significant proportion of leaves, with water at 60 ° C for 100 seconds, the result is a tea with a strong first attack, followed by the aromas described above, specific to the cultivars, but not too pronounced. There is a slight umami, a light astringency, for a medium body tea, with a light but very silky and sweet after.
The evolution of flavors between each infusion is very clear, with a more floral and spicy liquor for the second infusion, and finally more vegetable and incisal third infusion.
The typical flavors of the cultivar are still present in the background and appear more strongly while the cooled liquor.
Here now the son, Tsuyu-hikari, a very trendy cultivar today, a cross between Asatsuyu and Shizu-7132.
It’s also a favorite of Katahira-san, these are tea bushes full of vitality, giving a very rich tea, tending sometimes toward Asatsuyu, sometimes to Shizu7132.
The leaves are beautiful, with a delicious fresh, sweet fragrance.
The infusion gives a full body tea but very delicate. No astringency, and a subtle umami, is accompanying a silky smooth feeling. The aromas are a bit fruity and floral, and it seems to me that this one tends more towards shizu-7132 here. This impression seems stronger in the fragrance of the second infusion, where we perceive this perfume of sakura-mochi, while the liquor is very refreshing. Sharper umami, but still no astringency, the liquor develops light fruity flavors. It’s very smooth in the throat.
Tsuyu-hikari is a cultivar which, regarding on the region, the producer, etc, can give very different results, always very good, but this, of Ryôgouchi is probably the most subtle and delicate that I have come across so far . This subtlety does not prevent richness, on the contrary, it highlights a multitude of flavors.
Although in a different family, Kurasawa also brings us into a relationship story, since it is, crossed Kanaya Midori, the parent of the famous Kôshun.
Kurasawa is also a cultivar of the famous “7000 Series”, ie a series of cultivars developed after war in Shizuoka research center from Yabukita seeds (and therefore unknown fathers). Kurasawa is Shizu-7111. Other famous examples are Shizu-7166 (Yamakai) and of course Shizu-7132 (which was never officially registered and therefore has no defined name).
Kurawasa is particularly rare, it is a minor cultivar. Yet this Sencha Kurasawa from Ryôgouchi brought me something I was looking for, a clearly astringent tea, but very fine and elegant. This is exactly an example of a tea in which astringency is so delectable, it is not tannic, and comes with rich floral aromas, having a family resemblance to those of Kôshun precisely. Well-proportioned with the infusion parameters, this astringency is not necessary in a brutal way. The liquor remains silky and smooth, very fresh, with a hint of sweetness and umami taste back. This umami-flower-astringency mixture into the aftertaste is just great.