Once again and it’s not over, I’m going to talk about a genre that I’ve been particularly passionate about lately: (Japanese) black tea. And not just any of these this time since it is a Benihomare.
Benihomare (pronounced Bénihomaré) is a historic tea tree variety in Japan, for black tea of course, but not only since it comes from a selection from the so-called “Tada-inzatsu” tea trees, breed of tea plants from seeds brought back from India by Tada Motokichi in 1877, first experience of this kind in Japan.
It was in the 1930s that it was selected, then named C8, and was planted with other Tada-inzatsu type black tea cultivar in various pilot regions, including Kameyama in the prefecture of Mie, from where my tea of the day comes from.
In 1953, the first official series of tea varietal was registered, with 15 cultivars, including 5 destinated to black tea! C8 is then renamed Benihomare, number 1 on the list. We obviously find in this list Yabukita or Asatsuyu.
Benihomare served to create other black tea cultivar, Benifuji and Benifûki, or even Izumi originally destinated to kama-iri cha.
Although it was recognized for its quality in local competitions, as well as in London where samples were sent, the failures of black tea production in Japan and the liberalization of the international tea trade sounded the death knell, of this variety as well as of other black tea varieties.
From some Benihomare tea plants remaining in Kameyama, this black tea has been resurrected since 2011.
I wanted to present with Thés-du-Japon this Benihomare from Kameyama for a long time, I could have a little bit of this 2019 first flush this year.
At first glance, the very pleasant perfume seems very simple, or at least very classic in the good sense of the term. However, with a little more attention, we notice how the scent of this black tea is rich, sweet with hints of vanilla, woody notes, a touch of grapefruit too.
In the mouth it is very well-balanced, with enough body, but not excessively strong as well. The first impression is that of a very fluid infusion, then with just the right amount of tannin, the astringency is present but very refined. There are still slightly woody aromas in the mouth, but above all sweet, evoking citrus candies.
The whole gives an impression of freshness which contrasts both with the aromatic richness and with the body of this Benihomare tea.
This black tea may seem a little too expensive, it is certainly not as spectacular as the Izumi (variety selected from seeds of Benihomare remember) from Sashima, but it is nevertheless a high global quality, with sufficiently typical aromas and at the same time very classic, very “black tea” from an international point of view. It is for me an important thing to be able to have a black tea which can approach standard things with a subtle Japanese typicity.