Here is the second sencha from Asamiya (Shiga prefecture) to enter my 2018 selection. In the previous article I mentioned the great Kôshun, a very rare cultivar outside Shizuoka. Today it is another cultivar usually found mainly in Shizuoka, Oku-hikari. It’s by another producer, although he bears the same name, Kitada, who is also the grower of the Yabukita I presented last year.
Oku-hikari is a cultivar that was selected from crossbreeding between Yabukita and tea trees from Hubei, China. If its aromas are not as strong and recognizable as those of varieties such as Kôshun, Shizu-7132, Yamakai or even Gokô, yet it nevertheless possesses aromatic qualities that distinguish it from Yabukita. As the prefix “oku” indicates, it is a late cultivar. This small Oku-hikari plantation at Asamiya has thus been little affected by the cold-weather damage that has sometimes been severe in this region last winter.
On the nose, the infusion provides a light but round perfume, sweet, with a slightly spicy impression, reminiscent of mint leaf too. In the mouth, the liquor is very present. Here too, very round, sweet, with a presence of umami, important but diffused, and persists very long in the mouth. This powerful body seems to me quite typical of Asamiya teas. Here, many growers use to practice significant drying/heating during the rolling (moto-bi), which allows here to go almost without final roasting (hi-ire). This is how this sencha is not vegetal but provides a warm feeling, without the smell of roasting.
Oku-hikari is a cultivar that can have a lot of umami, but can also become a little tannic when not shaded, with these stimulating aromas. Indeed, aromatic herbs, spices, pepper, are the nuances, specific to Oku-hikari, that we find in this tea, however, it is mainly is the sweetness and the sugar like impression which dominate, with this roundness and this strength in the mouth exceptionally gourmand. This is probably due in part to the Asamiya terroir, the Okuyama area to be more precise, with its high slopes, often in the mist, and the cool climate (much cooler than in Wazuka, yet nearby).
Thus, we can say that this sencha from Asamiya leaves the characteristics of Oku-hikari in the background in comparison with other Oku-hikari that I will present later, but that on the other hand, it presents itself as a good example of Asamiya sencha, rich and sweet on the palate, with a superb after and a combination of sweet and umami.