I offer each year a very beautiful hand-picked Saemidori from Kirishima in Kagoshima, but this is true that this nonetheless major tea tree cultivar is not very represented in my selection for Thés du Japon.
Why major? Because this Yabukita x Asatsuyu crossbreed registered in 1991 is the cultivar having experienced the greatest progression in the last 20 years, pushed by its very strong umami, its naturally very green color, and its hasty character (at the time of shincha, these are the teas that arrive the fastest on the market that get the higher price). Of course, it still barely represents 3% of the cultivated area, but this places it 3rd after Yabukita (75%) and Yutaka-midori (5%). It is grown mainly in Kagoshima but also in Kyûshû as a whole, in Kyôto where it begins to be very appreciated for gyokuro and tencha (matcha) and in the temperate zones of Shizuoka. Early nature and sensitivity to cold make it a cultivar that it is not possible to grow everywhere. This is an important reason why Saemidori could not establish itself as a replacement for Yabukita, despite its significant success with the great public, as evidenced for example by the results of the Nihon-cha Award since their debut.
Frankly, if Saemidori has qualities that fit prefectly for the market and the tendency to umami and “green”, Saemidori is very far from the aromatic richness of Yabukita and will not offer such an important variety either (let’s say it is only a personal thought). This is why it is ultimately little represented on Thés du Japon.
But I had the occasion to get another Saemidori from Kagoshima, certainly quite typical, but sufficiently different from that of Kirishima.
It comes from Tashiro a locality of the commune of Kinkô on the peninsula of Osumi. It is a gentle mountain area, less known than the giants Chiran and Makurazaki on the other side on the Satsuma peninsula.
It is a reasonable fukamushi, which gives broken leaves, but not in powder form either. It was of course shaded, about 6 days I imagine.
The roasting (final drying, hi-ire) is medium, really well controlled, highlighting the intrinsic qualities of these leaves.
I will first discuss the typical aspects of this Saemidori: a great roundness in the mouth, a lot of umami in good balance with a greenish aftertaste, evoking cooked green vegetables (I mean it is not grassy either). The general sensation, without astringency, is sweet and velvety. Without having a lot of body, the length in the mouth is important and the palate is coated for a long time with these sweet vegetable and sweet sensations.
Already, we have here a typical but quality Saemidori sencha.
However, what drew my attention to this sencha, what made it not a sample of Kagoshima tea among many others, is the presence of aromas, a little on the nose, much more in retro-olfaction, in second infusion even more, of aromas I said evoking me the coconut and the peach (a peach that’s still a little still).
This fruity aspect, almost summery, is what makes all the originality of this Saemidori sencha. This type of aroma is obviously something which is amplified by roasting, but it seems to me that such distinctive aromas are very rare whereas Saemidori with a sensitive roasting is something quite common. “Shading – fukamushi – medium to strong roasting” is an almost standard motif today, however this Saemidori seems to stand out.
So that’s a nice surprise, a typical modern Japanese tea but not without personality, which certainly has the finesse of Saemidori from Kirishima, but is a safe bet.