As promised, I continue with Mr. Yoshida’s Sashima teas.
This time not senchas but two black teas, harvests of spring and summer, from the phenomenal Izumi cultivar.
Izumi is actually nothing new, since this variety was registered in 1960. It is one of the only registered cultivars developed in Fukuoka prefecture. It is a cultivar selected from a seed of the famous Benihomare, this variety brought back from Assam in the late 19th century, and mother of many Japanese black tea cultivars. Yet it was as a green tea cultivar, kama-iri cha to be more precise, that Izumi was registered. After the war, Japan is looking to rebuild its tea export market (quality tea is not yet widely sold in the domestic market) and targets Muslim countries traditionally consumers of green tea, but Chinese, ie kama-iri type. Thus, we seek to develop kama-iri cha varieties to make tea for export. However, the 1960s mark the abandonment of efforts to export and Izumi will not spread at all, not leaving the research centers.
Mr. Yoshida, far from Fukuoka, in Sashima (Ibaraki prefecture), looking for something unique, was recommended this chimerical cultivar by a research center. First process as sencha, he then understood the potential of Izumi for black tea. In recent years, Izumi black teas have been a huge success among fans and many producers have adopted Izumi in recent years for black tea or wulong.
With these two black teas from Sashima, we have a light oxidized first flush, and a second more typical and oxidized.
The spring version of this Izumi black tea is the one that makes Izumi’s most characteristic aromas.
The dry leaves are sweet with aromas of citrus, lemon and grapefruit, juicy yellow fruit aromas too.
The infusion leaves us in the field of fruity, but it is the yellow summer fruits that dominate, with apricot and peach aromas especially. Citrus fruits are nonetheless present.
But the infusion also gives a very milky impression, making one almost reminiscent milk tea.
The attack on the palate is very sweet and the absence of tannic notes reminds that this variety was registered as a green tea cultivar, despite the excellence of this black tea.
The return of milk and fruity flavors in the throat and in the length provides a real olfactory happiness, which has nothing to envy to some Darjeeling tea.
It is bluffing and there is nothing to complain about, except that this tea, an aromatic wonder, will not satisfy those who are unconditional of very strong and tannic black teas.
The leaves of this Izumi’s summer harvest have a more classic black tea fragrance, but nevertheless very fine and subtle, and citrus notes are found in a lighter way.
The color of the liquor shows indeed a greater oxidation, giving then more typical characteristics black tea of summer (in fact it is more of a question of technique than of season actually).
It is now first of all the milky aromas which seem to dominate, with then a fruity impression, of peach very well now. In fact it is quite natural that we find aromas close to the first flush but more “riped”, then disappearing citrus, for the most spicy.
The whole impression remains very sweet and aromatic in the mouth (again a super gourmet after-taste !), with a very light astringency, but enough to make this tea a more typical black tea.
Very simple conclusion: here are two wonders to try absolutely for anyone with a minimum of interest in black tea, not only Japanese, but in a general way. They show that on this kind of small productions, Japan has reached a very high level for black tea as well.
In January, I will return to Izumi and Sashima with a great surprise!