The hand-picked Saemidori from Kirishima (Kagoshima prefecture) is a classic of my selection, present since the beginning of Thés du Japon. However, this year, to my great joy, it is a little different: it is now a futsumushi, a standard steaming, and no longer a fukamushi as until now.
On the one hand, this is better to enhance hand-harvesting, but it also highlights the characteristics of the Saemidori cultivar. The latter unfortunately remains in an overwhelming way process in fukamushi.
This sencha remains shaded, however, the final roasting “hi-ire”, without being very weak, is lighter than in the past.
As a reminder, Saemidori is a cross between Yabukita and Asatsuyu. Recorded in 1990, it is probably the tea tree variety (cultivar) that has had the greatest success in the last 15 years, due to its high umami, its freshness, its beautiful green and its hasty character. Nevertheless, this last point, with a low resistance to the cold, slowed its expansion, because difficult to produce elsewhere than in sufficiently temperate zones. It is widespread in Kagoshima, but not very common in Shizuoka. It has become the reference for gyokuro in Yame, and spreads in Uji also for gyokuro and matcha since a few years (which thus lack the aromatic characteristics of Uji cultivar).
Saemidori will not replace Yabukita, but has become an essential player.
In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, Saemidori does not have a particular flavor, but it is also this overall balance that makes it a cultivar that could have spread widely.
(In terms of new Yabukita replacement candidates, a number of new cultivars, such as Kirari31 for example, have begun to emerge in recent years, but it is difficult to predict how these will develop without a sufficient number of years of experience).
Let’s go back to our sencha from Kirishima. The leaves are frankly beautiful, sparkling and very finely rolled. The very deep green comes to remember the shading. On the other hand, no marked perfume, if not a slight vegetable scent, a little sweet, and also this particular note of shading.
For the infusion, 70 °C is a good standard for this tea, but it will also be very good both warmer and hotter.
The infusion, on the other hand, gives off a very pleasant and delicious sweet perfume, not the sweetness of the strongly roasted teas, but that of young leaves rich in amino acids, typical of the good steamed green tea. There are also vegetal notes and a very slight hint of vanilla.
On the palate it is first of all a good dose of umami that flatters the palate. With a fukamushi, such umami could be too heavy, but with this futsumushi, it remains elegant and well balanced. Then come very fresh greenish flavors, but not raw, reminiscent of bean. After, with the persistence of umami, we finally have aromas closer to fresh grass.
This tea full-bodied.
A second, warmer infusion brings forth more notes of bean in the fragrance, while in the mouth the umami softens. The liquor then seems a little more fruity.
We must wait for the third infusion to finally taste a little astringency. The umami is more withdrawn, and the liquor is more simply sweet, fruity, always very rich, with now a nice refreshing sensation, whereas one does not feel any more really of vegetal character.
This Saemidori sencha is a real pleasure! Powerful and rich, sufficiently changing from one infusion to another, there is no excess. This tea is also an opportunity to reevaluate this Saemidori cultivar, to understand why it is considered of excellent quality, this being finally too often eclipsed by very common Saemidori processed in fukamushi.
Of course, I hope being able to find a non-shaded futsumushi Saemidori also!