After having presented a Kondô-wase, a Sôfû, here is the “father” of these cultivars, a Shizu-inzatsu 131 cultivar, the 2017 vintage of the incredible, unique, fukamushi-cha from Nearai in western Shizuoka, manufactured by Mr. Tarui. Once is not custom, I would start with the conclusion, this 2017 version is great.
Inzatsu 131 is an ancient cultivar, developed in the 1940s by the visionary Professor Arima, from crossing the variety of Assam Manipuli 15 and a Japanese variety.
For more details, I urge you to read this article.
Nearai is a lowland area north of Hamamatsu city that was developed after the war as a tea production area. Nevertheless, today there is only the exploitation of Mr. Tarui left. It is composed mainly of Shizu-7132, then Yabukita, Yamakai, the very rare Karabeni, and of course a small parcel of Inzatsu 131.
It must be said that Nearai is an area where the soil is clayey, which is not very suitable for tea production. This is also the case in the large producing areas of the Makinohara plateau, and it was to adapt to this type of soil that fukamushi cha was developed in the 1950s and 1960s.
But on the advice of Arima, the Tarui also improved their soil by bringing minerals, in the form of green shale stones from the mountains of Tenryû.
On April 25, 2017, 70 kg of leaves are picked, that is little. Little area for this cultivar on the one hand, and the harvest was fairly early, could be the 26 would have been ideal, but the weather forecast was rain. This will give only 12 kg of finished product.
First of all, one could notice the yellow color of the young leaves of this cultivar, as well as the way they grow laterally without pointing up to the sky like most other tea plants.
The particularity of Mr. Tarui’s factory is the use of machines of the manufacturer Akitsu, which no longer exists today, as well as a treatment of leaves with hot air after steaming.
The Akitsu tea kneading line has a special feature of continuous operation, that is to say that the leaves advance continuously from one machine to the other, without pause between each phase. Of course, inevitably, the time spent in each machine is much shorter than on a regular line. So, for example, six “sojûki” (1st phase, coarse kneading) are put online ….
Some modifications compared to the conventional machines allow this (springs to vibrate, opening in the bottom, etc). Only “seijûki” (final kneading) are usual.
The treatment with hot air after steaming makes it possible to eliminate drops of water, and to keep the leaves at high temperature. Then, the continuous line also makes it possible to knead at a higher temperature (and more constant) than on a conventional line. In fact, today, it is usual to knead and dry leaves with not too much heat, and this to obtain very green colored tea leaves and soup (this is sadly the trend in Japan, more attention to color than taste and scent…). But on the contrary, Mr. Tarui (and in the past Professor Arima) tries rather to put forward the perfumes, and to obtain a strong tea, with a taste that lasts. And indeed, to come to our Inzatsu 131, it seems to me that the default of most fukamushi of not giving more than two infusion, here is greatly improved with this sencha which will give five superb infusions (although the characteristics of this cultivar is also for something).
Then of course, it remains an Inzatsu 131. I am a big fan, but can understand that its very particular flavors do not appeal to everyone.
The perfume is very intense, almost spicy. The scents are floral and stimulating, recalling orchid and lily of the valley, small wild flowers. But there are also notes of sweet butter, as well as a fresh vegetable impression, something very slightly menthol, and also notes of old wood. This rich set of flavor finds echo in the mouth and throat, after-taste, with a strength that is not common for a green tea.
Inzatsu 131 is a cultivar with a pronounced tannic character. This is not a tea for fans of strong umami. Apart from maybe a little in the after-taste, no umami here. The liqueur is astringent, but not too much; it is a natural tannic feeling, soft in a certain way, in perfect match with the aromas of this sencha. The attack is rather strong, and this tea has volume, body, and a large presence in the mouth.
Rich and powerful, fragrant and typical, infusions succeed each other, always vigorous. Astringency increases, but the perfume is still as intense, and the experience stimulating for the senses.
Last year I presented this tea as a big favorite, and this excellent 2017 vintage only confirms my love for this unconventional sencha on many points.