It is now a strange habit, but this year nothing happens as usual with the spring harvests. First planned very hastily, return to the cold, and finally harvest in a normal timing, or even a little late. In a very sporadic way, some plantation suffer damage due to hail, never seen before! Then arrived very hot temperatures …..
So there are very big disappointments this year, but overall it seems to me that the quality is rather here, especially compared to 2018 and 2017 relatively poor. On the other hand, the quantities harvested are low this year.
Regarding my 2019 selection, things are moving slowly (there are still issues of refining raw teas that can push things away), but surely with already a lot of very good things. I have already mentioned the Saemidori from Kirishima really wonderfull this year. Mariko’s Kanaya-midori is still so milky, the Yabukita from Harayama more balanced and enjoyable than ever.
Beautiful discovery last year, the non-shaded Uji-midori from Ishidera in Wazuka is even better this year, a little rounder, and a floral and aromatic fragrance already very promising, that the maturation will make even more intense. This is a very small production, see below only the 6 rows curved in the foreground!
Uji-midori remains a very rare tea tree variety, and is mostly used for kabuse-cha.
The Fuji-kaori sencha from Fujieda is once again super typical, robust, rich in both astringency and umami, and especially with its characteristic jasmine fragrance, which get stronger throughout the infusions. Here also a tea that we can expect a lot with the maturation.
Very big joy this year, online in a few days: an unshaded sencha from Wazuka, again the famous Harayama area made with the cultivar Yamakai !!! This particular variety, endangered, that I appreciate so much is very rare elsewhere than in Shizuoka, and outside Shizuoka it was mostly dedicated to shaded teas. Here is an excellent, unshaded, which retains the character of Yamakai while being definitively a sencha in the style of Uji. I will come back to that, of course, shortly.
Lastly, I repeat the same thing every year, but it seems that the informations are still going badly concerning Japanese tea in the West :
- “shincha” is not a particular type of tea. It is just a marketing name under which are marketed tea (sencha mainly) during the few weeks after the spring harvests (only, we will not speak of “shincha” or “new tea” for new second harvests). But these are the same teas that are sold all year round.
- Generally speaking, this concept of “shincha”, new tea, does not exist for gyokuro and matcha (tencha), which will be released (or begin to be integrate in blends with teas the previous year) from fall, sometimes even winter. These very special teas need aging to reveal themselves, and are still of no real interest in the spring. Now is precisely the right time for enjoying last year’s gyokuro.
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