While I just release on Thés du Japon the first 2018 shincha, here is the last, and also the simplest, of the series of regional bancha (see this article about these teas). The mimasaka bancha, as its name suggests, comes from Mimasaka in Okayama, a prefecture known for bizen-yaki pottery. It also produces tea. Although this production is very confidential, it is not less old. I also propose already a sencha from Mimasaka, cultivar Ryôfû, by Mr. Kurosaka, who is also the producer of this bancha.
I did not find any specific discussion about the origins of this tea. Some propose an origin at the Muromachi period, but it is more widely accepted to think of the Edo period.
The summer leaves are not steamed but boiled for about an hour in a large pot.
Then the leaves are sun-dried for three days. Three times they are wet with broth juice (I think it triggers a very slight fermentation, which gives a very slight sourness to the scent of dry leaves, but this is not felt in the infusion).
They are finally roasted slightly before being shipped to the merchants (or packaged for retails).
It is a tea with a very sweet and warm perfume. It is very close to a hôji-cha but with more roundness in the mouth, and also peppery notes. It is a very simple but delicious bancha, very fluid and enjoyable all over the day. For me, it is a wonderful substitute for hôji-cha.