This black tea that I introduce today is from Nearai, north of Hamamatsu town in Shizuoka. I already mentioned Nearai for its very unusual fukamushi-cha cultivar Inzatsu 131 (that I particularly like). Here, this second flush black tea is not an “high end tea” as one could describe my black teas from Ashikita or Sashima, but it is a tea that has exited me as soon as the first sip. I was immediately charmed by its unusual fragrance for Japanese black tea.
The cultivar used is very rare. This is Karabeni, whose characters are 唐紅. The first refers to the Tang, and by extension China, and the second the color red or scarlet, it is the character “kô” in kôcha, which means black tea. Indeed, it comes from a seed from Hubei in China (as Yamanami cultivar as well), selected at the prefectural research center of Shizuoka in the 60s. With the end of the government support of black tea production at the end of the years 60, the production of black tea in Japan stopped short, Karabeni had no time to prove itself, nor even to be officially registered.
[we see that the shape of leaves and bud is very unusual for a Japanese tea plant]
Without being able to cite a specific example for comparison, the aromas of this Karabeni black tea evoke very clearly some Chinese black teas. This is very different from most Japanese black teas made with Benifuki, Benihikari, or even Izumi, whose roots are Indian. This is another example that shows the potential and the major importance of cultivars.
This tea is very sweet, with little astringency, and what appear in the first place are for me aromas of old wood and leather. Then, we feel something more fruity, evoking berries, red or blue / purple fruits. The whole seems very velvety, but without heaviness.
This type of flavor seems to me quite unique for a Japanese black tea, and also absent from the range of flavors of Indian teas and even Taiwanese. Clearly we aren’t netiher in the case of particular flavors obtained with green tea cultivars. This tea seems to me to have a purely black tea character.
It is a tea at a very affordable price; it would be a shame not to try it for anyone having a little interest in this category of tea.