In general, tea produced in Shiga prefecture is called Ômi-cha (Ômi tea). Nevertheless, let’s remind it also can be used as “Uji tea” in a blend with tea produced in Kyoto (!!).
The origin of the tea production in this prefecture that surrounds the famous Lake Biwa certainly dates back to the 8th century, when the Saichô monk founder of Buddhism Tendai in Japan, on Mount Hiei, brought from China tea seeds like the monks Eichû and Kûkai (the latter is associated with Nara’s tea). Although it is difficult to connect them directly, there are very ancient zairai (indigenous) tea trees at the foot of Mt. Hiei on Shiga hillside.
The tea is cultivated in Shiga in many areas, but it seems that the place where tea cultivation has spread most quickly would be Shigaraki, specifically Asamiya (now south of Kôka city). At Senzenji Monastery in Iwayazan there is the “birthplace of Asamiya tea”, a crop that would have started with seeds received from Saichô himself. There is no specific date, but given the short distance to Mount Hiei, the thing is quite likely.
I have already mentioned it, but Asamiya is right on the border of Uji-tawara and Wazuka (Kyôto Prefecture), which makes it a particularly rich area for tea. Nevertheless, with an average altitude of 400 m, Asamiya is a region with a cold climate, much more than Kyôto. And more generally, this whole area east of Lake Biwa is rough with frequent heavy snowfall in winter.
Asamiya is a region where unshaded teas still dominate, and especially where steaming remains very short, usually 20 seconds.
The sencha from Kami-Asamiya that I propose is a perfect representation of this trend. It is a Yabukita by the “young” Kitada Takuya, coming more exactly from Okuyama, a hilly plateau where the plantations are concentrated.
In addition, Takuya, who does not like roasting perfume (hi-ire), does not proceed with this drying phase during the refinement of raw tea (aracha). The manufacturing process of the aracha itself is done so that the drying is already sufficient, he explained to me.
For this sencha, I prefer not to follow the advice of the producer, and I use hot enough water, at least 80 ° C.
The scent is green and fresh, but not simply vegetal. Cooling a little bit there are slightly sweet flavors with a touch of hazelnut. The attack on the palate and very light and velvety, very fluid, the liquor then reveals a touch of balanced umami, then more vegetal notes. Finally, the after is simply sweet. Even with hot water, there is no astringency in this first infusion.
On the following infusions, hotter, this sencha is more aromatic with vegetal fragrances of flowers, very fresh. The whole remains simple, easy to apprehend. The umami disappears, but we still do not find astringency, we keep a sweet and fluid impression, with a pleasant light and sweet after.
It is a simple but enough powerful sencha, with a nice presence in the mouth, a very good Yabukita, the kind of Japanese green tea that we never tire of, and which represents the terroir of Asamiya.