At the end of the year, I have released on Thés du Japon a nice series of high-end teas. Among them a new “yamacha” of Tosa (Kochi prefecture).
Both are hand-harvested and manual pan-firing (these are kama-iri type) as well, nevertheless they come from different “plantations”.
I use quotes because the “yamacha” is very far from the plantations that we usually see in Japan or elsewhere. “Yamacha”, literally “mountain tea”, refers to tea trees, of course not wild (this does not exist in Japan), but say semi-wild, not only from seeds, but probably not planted by humans. If there is undoubtedly a human activity at the origin, with tea trees planted, they may have given seeds that have rolled in the forest on the slopes of the mountain, giving birth here in a natural way to a new plantation.
Although very rare today, we find this kind of place, in many places over the mountains in Japan.
The group of tea plants use for the #1, growing among other trees and shrubs, are unpruned, and this “plantation” is not the subject of any use of fertilizer, even organic.
In contrast, for # 2, tea plants are pruned, and organic vegetal fertilizers are used. It is difficult in the “bush” of # 1 to see that there are tea plants, however, the planting of this # 2, pruned gives a tea landscape quite magical, difficult to believe in Japan.
On both plantations, producers make green teas with and without wilting.
Last year, for # 1, I chose a tea without wilting, to have a tea closer to the flavors of this soil, this unique place, or the human additional work is limited to a minimum. It is a very raw, wild, rich and powerful tea that smells of humus, earth and forest.
On the other hand, for this second yamacha from Tosa, resulting from this pruned plantation, I wanted to present something clearly different (more sophisticated?), thus with a wilting process.
The perfume is above all very floral, sweet but still stimulating, with something a little green, and notes of citrus and white grape in the background.
On the palate, we are on something that seems at first light. However, after some time, we notice that the rich and varied aromas of liquor are strongly present in the mouth, with a very long after.
The aromas then tend more towards fruity, evoking orange and grapefruit, with sweet floral notes in retro-olfaction.
There is also a slight bitterness, but that sticks well with the citrus pole.
Throughout many infusions, we enjoy the evolution of these flavors, both on the nose and in the mouth.
From one session to another we can have a rather different result, this tea being made from zairai (grown from seeds) tea plants, all different. The floral may be more or less present, while we can feel more or less strongly sweet fruity, sometimes with dominant citrus sometimes with dominant grapes.
In spite of the relative lightness of the tea soup, this tea, drawing from a rocky soil, is powerful, so the aromas are very dense, giving a rich tea but nevertheless easy to approach. This is indeed where yamacha # 2 clearly differentiates from # 1: the wilting process giving it aromas closer to light oxidized wulong, floral and fruity, which flatter nose and palate more easily than wild aromas, closer to the earth and woody of the extremely powerful # 1.
The comparison is of course unavoidable.
Moreover, the # 1 seems to me particularly suitable to aging. There are still some bags of 2017. I will switch to 2018 then, so I could only recommend strongly to test the 2017 while there is still time.