I did a few weeks ago a little article on Sayama, the most famous tea producing region of the Tokyo area, just north of the capital. The occasion was the release on Thés du Japon of four new Sayama teas, fukamushi that are added to the beautiful Yume-wakaba futsumushi that I have been presenting for several years.
Indeed, with the opening of the Yanaka store, I want to put more emphasis on teas from the Kanto region.
With these sencha from Sayama, I also present four cultivars native of this prefecture of Saitama, from the oldest Sayama-midori to the most recent, Oku-haruka, through Sayama-kaori and Yume-wakaba.
I will present here these four teas.
So let’s start from the beginning with Sayama Midori. This is the first Sayama cultivar registered in the first cultivar registration session in 1953. It was selected from a Uji “zairai” tea plant. Despite a small success initially, it is today an extremely rare variety, whose characteristics are far enough from nowadays criteria. Sayama-midori also has the peculiarity of having leaves that could hardly be rolled, giving a tea with flat leaves, rather folded than rolled.
The perfume of the infusion is very sweet but also warm. It’s a bit mineral, with a sweet cooked bean sensation, not at all vegetal. In the mouth it is a very fluid tea, with a light attack but yet a lot of strength in the mouth. No astringency, not really umami either, we are really in the field of sweetness, with hints of grilled nuts.
This Sayama-midori from Iruma city offers a beautiful length, with a very gourmand after.
It is a sencha that has body but no aggressiveness. It clearly gives a rustic impression, and most probably recalls the teas of a bygone era.
It is no longer really necessary to introduce the Sayama-kaori cultivar, registered in 1971, it is the variety of Sayama that has spread the most throughout the country. Nevertheless, it is for many years in decline of speed. It is appreciated for its resistance, its good productivity for a good quality, but it nevertheless has a particular perfume and astringency that are dislike by many.
In spite of everything, with a Sayama Kaori cultivar sencha steamed rather strongly (without being big fuka either) from Sayama, here city of Iruma, one has a tea quite representative of the Sayama tea.
Here we have a greener scent, with both floral and woody notes typical of Sayama Kaori. This fragrance, like the aromas on the palate, also evokes the baked potato but with a very fresh and stimulating sensation.
In the mouth this sencha has strength, with umami present in the after. The first infusion, if it is not too long, gives only a light astringency, very clean, not at all unpleasant, which even gives a lot of charm to this Sayama-kaori.
The following infusions follow this trend, always with punch, and a stronger but still clean astringency. The length, sweet and mellow, is phenomenal, especially for a tea of this price range. Thank you Sayama-kaori.
A nice concentrate of Sayama, for those who love tea with volume and impact without being “thick”.
Yume-wakaba is a very young cultivar, registered in 2006, a cross between Yabukita and an unregistered variety created and kept at the Saitama Research Center. This tea variety has been talked about a lot, being the cultivar that has reached the fastest registration in history. It was noted for its floral scent, and is now produced mostly in Saitama with withering process. It is indeed a cultivar that seems to react extremely well to this process.
The one I am proposing today is clearly a fukamushi, with withering, again coming from Iruma city.
We understand immediately what makes the success of this variety. It has a sweet perfume, certainly floral like osmanthus fragans scent, but especially evoking the yellow peach with a milky sensation. These aromas are also present in the mouth with the pole milk particularly strong finish and after.
The tea arrives in the mouth with force, and one also feels a slight astringency, and umami in the length.
These flavors are always present on the following infusions. These are very intense, very characteristic of fukamushi, while one could get three excellent infusions, a rare thing with this type of tea.
This sencha gives a rare combination: very aromatic tea and very deep fukamushi.
Finally, Oku-haruka. This cultivar is a real novelty, introduced in 2013 and not yet registered. it is a cross between two unregistered varieties of the Saitama Research Center.
It is still a cultivar very interesting for its aromas, which is rare for recent cultivars, for which umami, green color, hasty character, seem to be the only characteristics sought. As for Yume-wakaba, we see the character of Saitama’s research center (that of Miyazaki is also very adventurous). Indeed, Oku-haruka is described as rich in coumarin, this molecule that gives its characteristic fragrance to Shizu-7132!
It will surely take a little more time to fully understand the methods to bring out the cherry leaf scent. we know that it is not always easy with Shizu-7132 to bring out this well.
What about this Oku-haruka fukamushi from Sayama city?
We are far from the perfume of very good 7132, but we have a well balanced fukamushi with a hint of astringency, a little umami, a moderate force, and a little freshness. It is especially in the aftertaste that we find in a light manner this floral sensation, sweet, slightly acidic evoking sakura-mochi. This also seems to dawn in the length behind this sweet aroma typical of good sencha.
And then comes the second brew! This is where these delicious, characteristic aromas appear more clearly. Without having the volume of perfumes very good 7132, there was still excellent fukamushi very aromatic, more subtle than Yume-wakaba (no withering with this Oku-haruka).
The combination of these aromas with the slightly tannic intensity of fukamushi is very interesting.
Once again, it seems to me that this tea has something typical of Sayama.
To conclude with these four teas that seem to give us an almost historical overview of Sayama’s tea today, I would say that with this type of fukamushi or at least a little pushed steaming, necessary in this type of environment, associated to these more or less unusual cultivars, there is an excellent example (beyond the questions of personal taste) of terroir, “environment, method of manufacture, tea cultivar” representative of a region. In this, Sayama is a very interesting production area, unfortunately too little known, even in Tokyo.
Moreover, I will probably come back early next year with another Sayama cultivar of the rarest and most interesting.