Comparing two different teas, different regions, different producers, made from the same cultivar is always very interesting. This is all the more so for the informed connoisseur when it is a very rare tea tree variety like Musashi-kaori. I propose one from Sayama (Saitama) and one from Hon.yama (Shizuoka).
As its name suggests, Musashi-kaori (the Musashi plain designate part of the current Saitama prefecture) comes from “Sayama” just north of Tokyo. We know the research center of Saitama (which is located in the city of Iruma where there is the most important area of production of Sayama tea) active in the development of tea cultivars. Indeed, for this region with a difficult climate, very hot in summer but especially very cold in winter, having specific tea tree varieties is very important. Also, beyond this purely climatic aspect, when these cultivar also have interesting aromatic characteristics, this becomes a particularly important asset today. If Sayama-kaori is by far the most widespread, present in all of Japan, there are also some really great and obvious from the point of view of perfume, Fukumidori and Yume-wakaba especially. Musashi-kaori is also singular, but less easy to understand, less sexy one could say, than those cultivars named above. However, this Musashi-kaori has great strength, and deserves the attention of connoisseurs.
Registered in 1997, it comes from a Yabukita x 27F1-73 cross, the latter being itself from Sayama-midori (the very first variety developed in Sayama to be registered in 1953, selected from a Zairai tea plant in Uji) x Yingshu Hongxin (Taiwanese variety).
Let’s start with Sayama tea, a sencha from Iruma, which you should not hesitate to prepare hot, even if it means reducing the infusion time.
The first impression is that of a sweet fragrance mixing of wood and dry herbs (roasting is present, without being very strong) with spicy nuances, sometimes reminiscent of cloves.
In the mouth, the infusion is well structured, very present, with very little astringency and a sweet impression rather than umami. In addition to the woody aromas and dry herbs, there are also more vegetal notes.
Rustic in a way, powerful and rich, this sencha is nonetheless very fluid.
The second and third infusions are less a change than a complexification. Added to the characteristics of the first infusion, are more floral notes with sharper and dynamics aromas, a pleasant and fresh “soapy” feeling.
The sweet and warm impression remains dominant with always a deep aftertaste and a long finish.
The Musashi-Kaori from Hon.yama (we are in the Uchimaki sector, still very close to the center of Shizuoka but with important relief, however surprisingly uneven) offers a different experience, without obviously being free from common points. Like Sayama’s one, the leaves have withering process but clearly stronger.
We immediately have a much more floral, slightly lemony and spicy (clove) scent, where the woody and sweet character seems to pass in the background. This aromatic set also evokes a pleasant and refreshing scent of soap.
The astringency is still very light but this time we note a small hint of umami. Again, the infusion is very full and present in the mouth but very velvety.
Here, taking into account the already great richness, the second and third infusions are in continuity, always very aromatic (can be a little more fruity) and velvety.
What stands out in the first place from this double tasting is a very powerful Musashi-kaori cultivar. Lots of aromas, tastes, persistence, etc. The absence of marked astringency and a significant sweet presence without umami highlighted. Woody and spicy seem to be common aromas but in detail, these two sencha express themselves in very different ways too.
Rustic and warm, that of Sayama is powerful but very fluid, and can thus be prepared very hot and be consumed in large mouthfuls. That of Hon.yama is from the aromatic point of view even more abundant, powerful it provides an infusion which is by no means heavy, but more velvety than fluid.
Musashi-kaori is definitely not a lambda cultivar, it is very unique, perhaps not to be put in all hands (on all palates?), but in any case extremely interesting and full of possibilities.