To my tamaryokucha from Sonogi (Nagasaki prefecture) Asatsuyu cultivar, this month was added another tamaryokucha from the same producer, made with the tea tree variety Samidori. This is not Saemidori, but Samidori, a cultivar familiar to Uji matcha and gyokuro lovers. Samidori is indeed a variety developed in Uji from a native Zairai tea tree seed, and widely used for both gyokuro and tencha (raw matcha material), but very rare outside the Kyôto prefecture.
But let’s take this tea as an occasion to briefly recall what a tamaryokucha is.
In general, even if one sometimes speaks of mushisei-tamaryokucha (steamed) and kamairisei-tamaryokucha (pan-fired), by this term it is the first one, steamed therefore, which is designated (for the second one one uses in general simply kama-iri cha). The tamaryokucha, I said, is like most Japanese teas a steamed green tea. It can be shaded or not, but is most often today. The major difference with sencha is that the last (seijû) of the four phases of drying of the latter, the one that gives the leaves their needle shape, is not proceed. Thus, to fill this lack of drying, the previous phase (chûjû) is generally stronger, with a greater effect of heat. Also, additional phases of drying (suikan and saikan) are performed, again without rolling and only effect of heat in drum shape machine.
This is why tamaryokucha, in addition to their characteristic shape, often have a warmer, sweet, roasting flavor, even when the final drying (hi-ire) during tea refining is light.
This method of manufacture was invented in the 1920s for export, to allow the production of tea whose shape could be blend with Chinese green tea while using the existing infrastructure designed for steamed tea.
Tamaryokucha, sometimes called guri-cha, remains a very marginal genre in terms of quantity of production.
Their fragrance is indeed warm and sweet, very slightly vegetal, with a particular density reminiscent almost of buttery meat jus.
The infusion, on the nose, is very faithful to what we felt with the dry leaves. However, there is little or no plant, and a little vanilla.
In the mouth we have a very rich tea, complex, but where the umami is what appears in the first place. However, this umami, much less heavy than on Asatsuyu, is here more elegant, evoking that of yaki-nori dry seaweed.
Despite the fullness of sweet aromas, this Samidori is very fluid, again clearly out of the relative thickness of Asatsuyu. There are also fewer greenish aromas.
Finally, this tamaryokucha develops absolutely no astringency. (less rolled than the sencha, the tamaryokucha tend indeed to more softness, participating, with the shading giving more umami, to a reception often very favorable of the general public and the beginners)
To conclude, although it is the same grower, and there are close lines, characteristics of this type of tea, in detail, this Samidori has a very different personality, more subtle and refined could- we say, that of Asatsuyu. They are not redundant, and very interesting to discover, or rediscover in parallel in the light of my explanations about tamaryokucha.