"Izumi" is a rare cultivar that is rarely encountered and is often referred to as a mythical cultivar.
However, its taste is outstanding. It has a distinctly different aroma from other cultivars, and once you drink it, you will never forget it. Here is an introduction to such a cultivar "Izumi".
A very rare "mythical cultivar"
"Izumi" has "Benihomare", a black tea cultivar, as its mother, and was originally created as a cultivar for Kamairicha(kettle roasted tea). This cultivar is also called "mythical cultivar" and it is said that only a few farmers are growing "Izumi" nowadays.
The reason for this is that right after the cultivar was born, the demand for Kamairicha for export declined drastically, and as a result, it did not spread to farmers and was half-forgotten.
However, the taste is extraordinary. Its aroma is so gorgeous that once you have tasted it, you will never forget it.
Because it is such a rare cultivar, it is rare for us to encounter "Izumi," and if we have the opportunity to drink it, our hearts would beat wildly with anticipation. It is such a special and delicious cultivar.
Characteristics of "Izumi"
A very rare cultivar for Kamairicha(kettle roasted tea)
As mentioned above, "Izumi" was originally bred as a Kamairichia(kettle roasted tea) cultivar for export. There are only 6 cultivars for Kamairicha(kettle roast tea) out of the 119 registered cultivars, and they are very rare.
In the 1950s and 1960s, tea exports were very active, and many teas were produced for overseas consumption, so "Izumi" was also a cultivar that was produced to meet the needs of those countries.
Today, it is mainly used for black tea.
"Izumi" was originally made for Kamairicha(kettle roasted tea), but after a long time since its birth, it is now very common to see "Izumi" processed into black tea.
It's no wonder." Izumi" has its roots in "Benihomare", a black tea cultivar, which explains why it is highly suitable for black tea.
"Izumi" is highly evaluated in tea contests, and its high quality of taste is widely known.
Low cold tolerance
"Izumi" has an excellent aroma, but it is susceptible to cold weather.
It is difficult to grow in mountainous areas or in the northern part of Japan, and most of the farmers we know are in the southern part of Shizuoka Prefecture or in Kyushu.
The "Izumi" is a very rare cultivar. What is its taste like?
Taste of "Izumi"
Tropical aroma like the fruits
When I first tasted "Izumi" black tea, I was surprised by its rich aroma. The aroma of tropical fruits such as mango, orange, and pineapple filled the air, followed by a refreshing minty aroma.
Of course, the flavor varies depending on the region and farmer, but the gorgeous aroma is common. It has a mellow aroma that is attractive in a way that other cultivars have never tasted.
The astringent taste is light, and its refreshing taste is one of its charms.
There are only a few farmers in Japan who grow "Izumi". The production of "Izumi" is quite limited, and it is literally a " mythical" tea. If you ever come across "Izumi" tea, you should try it first.
"Benifuuki" is one of the most common cultivars of "Japanese black tea" that has been attracting more and more attention worldwide in recent years.
We will introduce you to the cultivar "Benifuuki", which is famous as a pollen allergy remedy.
First Japanese cultivar for black tea and semi-fermented tea
We usually drink Japanese black tea from all over Japan, and "Benifuuki" is the one we encounter most often.
In Japan, there are only a few cultivars for black tea, and of the 119 registered cultivars, only 13 are for black tea. Even if we include cultivars for kettle roasted tea and those for green tea but with high quality as black tea, there are only about 20 cultivars.
Among these cultivars, "Benifuuki" has excellent quality as black tea and has contributed greatly to the quality improvement of Japanese black tea. We will introduce the characteristics of "Benifuuki", the most popular black tea cultivar in Japan.
Characteristics of "Benifuuki"
A cultivar descended from the Assam variety.
"Benifuuki" is a cultivar for black tea and semi-fermented tea. Its mother is "Benihomare", a Japanese black tea variety, and its father is a variety from India.
While almost all tea cultivars produced in Japan are Chinese species, this cultivar, which is descended from Assam species, is characterized by its extremely high quality when processed into black tea.
Cold- and disease-resistant, made for the Japanese climate.
As the first black tea cultivar produced in Japan, this cultivar is naturally designed to be easy to grow in the Japanese climate.
Because of the characteristics of the Assam cultivar, which is originally produced in warmer regions, it can be grown in most areas west of the Tokai region, although its cold tolerance is a little lower.
Because of its high disease resistance, this cultivar is easy to grow even without pesticides.
Tea for preventing hay fever
One of the reasons why "Benifuuki" has become famous is because of its effectiveness in combating hay fever.
"Benifuuki" contains a lot of "methylated catechin" which has an anti-allergic effect, and it has been found that regular consumption of this ingredient can suppress allergic symptoms such as hay fever.
In the 2000s, "Benifuuki" became a well-known cultivar because of its ability to improve hay fever symptoms, for which there is no fundamental cure.
However, the composition of methylated catechins changes when the tea leaves are fermented.
Therefore, it is recommended to drink it as green tea without fermentation. Please note that "Benifuuki" is a black tea cultivar, and if you do not drink it as green tea, it will not be effective in preventing hay fever.
Taste of "Benifuuki"
Rich aroma suitable for black tea
This cultivar, which has the characteristics of the assam variety, produces a large number of aromatic components through fermentation in the tea processing.
The production of indole, linalool, geraniol, and other aroma compounds that most green tea cultivars do not have produces the rich and complex aroma of black tea.
Assam black tea is also characterized by its strong astringent taste (catechins).
Strong astringency unique to black tea
This cultivar is originally intended to be processed into black tea. The catechin (also called tannin), which is the astringent component of tea, tends to be stronger than in ordinary green tea cultivars.
If you drink it as black tea, the astringent taste is not so bothersome, but if you drink it as green tea to prevent hay fever, you may be surprised at the stronger astringeny than normal green tea.
"Benifuuki" is a high quality black tea!
As mentioned above, "Benifuuki" is the first Japanese cultivar for black tea with high quality. If you are looking for a delicious Japanese black tea, why not try "Benifuuki"?
An excellent cultivar for green tea with a strong popularity
"Asatsuyu" is a very old cultivar, registered at the same time as "Yabukita", but it is still very popular today.
Even those of us who drink hundreds of varieties of tea every year are excited when we hear the name "Asatsuyu" because it is such a reliable and delicious cultivar.
Commonly known as "natural gyokuro"
"Asatsuyu" is often referred to as "natural gyokuro" because of its strong umami. Gyokuro is the highest grade of green tea, which is grown under shade for more than 20 days, and has an exceptionally rich umami that is not found in ordinary sencha green tea.
Its name comes from the fact that it has the same umami as gyokuro, which is usually made with a lot of time and effort, but can be made naturally, which clearly shows that it is a cultivar with such a strong umami.
An early-ripening cultivar that does not tolerate cold temperatures.
Compared to "Yabukita", "Asatsuyu" is an early-ripening cultivar that can be picked 7 days earlier, allowing for a wider picking season, which helps reduce the workload of farmers.
However, it is not suitable for cold regions or mountainous areas, as it is susceptible to frost damage because its shoots emerge in the cold season.
Because of its low tolerance to cold and disease, it is only grown in Kyushu and parts of Shizuoka Prefecture, making it a rare cultivar.
It is a privilege to live in such a warm region, but how does "Asatsuyu" taste like?
The taste of "Asatsuyu"
As Asatsuyu is called "natural gyokuro", and its umami is the most important characteristic of "Asatsuyu".
Sencha is a tasty and gentle green tea
As a cultivar with high theanine (amino acid) content and low catechin (an astringent component), "Asatsuyu" has a mild taste with a strong umami.
In order to make the most of its umami, it is sometimes made by Kabuse(shading) or deep steaming, in which case the aroma is weakened.
"Asatsuyu" has no peculiar aroma, and is loved by everyone for its soft, sweet, grain-like flavor.
As mentioned above, "Asatsuyu" is a cultivar with the potential to be called "natural gyokuro". If you ever come across "Asatsuyu", please try it.
Single origin tea is one of the concepts of FETC. The cultivar "Kohshun" has the perfect personality for this single origin tea, which allows you to enjoy the individuality of each cultivar and farmer.
In this article, we will discuss the "Kohshun".
A remarkable aromatic cultivar from Shizuoka!
"Kohshun" is named after the aromatic cultivar produced in Shizuoka (Suruga country).
This cultivar is a crossbreed of "Kurasawa" and "Kanayamidori" and has a unique and attractive aroma, and is attracting attention as a new genre of Japanese tea.
As described below, because of its unique aroma, versatility in processing, and ease of cultivation, it was selected as one of the recommended cultivars by Shizuoka Prefecture in 2001, and farmers all over Japan have high expectations for this new cultivar.
Characteristics of "Kohshun"
A cultivar for single origin teas with a unique character.
"Kohshun" was registered as a cultivar in 2000, and since then it has been gaining market share mainly in Shizuoka Prefecture.
It has a completely different aroma from standard green teas such as "Yabukita" and is therefore unsuitable for blending, but on the other hand, it is good for enjoying a single origin tea with an appealing character.
Not only for Sencha, but also Black teas
"Kohshun", with its distinctive aroma, is suitable not only for sencha, but also for semi-fermented tea and black tea.
When processed into sencha, this cultivar undergoes a process called "wilting," which brings out its gorgeous aroma. Generally, sencha is made without wilting, but since this cultivar has an attractive wilted aroma, it is often made with wilting even in sencha production.
Of course, semi-fermented teas and black teas, which are made with more advanced fermentation than sencha, have more of the unique aroma of "Kohshun" and produce a wonderful aromatic tea.
In recent years, Japanese black tea growers have begun to pay more attention to this cultivar, and it is now being produced in many different regions.
High cold tolerance
Due to its high cold tolerance, "Kohshun" is a suitable cultivar for many tea growing regions in Japan.
It is more suitable for farmers in mountainous areas where its aroma can be used for tea production, and for farmers who have a sales channel for single origin teas.
As mentioned above, "Kohshun" has been highly anticipated all over Japan for its unique aroma and ease of cultivation.
How is the taste like?
The taste of "Kohshun
First and foremost, the aroma!
As we have mentioned many times before, the charm of "Kohshun" is its aroma. It has a refreshing aroma of herbs and jasmine, and the aroma changes little by little as the temperature changes. It is a cultivar that is so appealing that you will want to drink it again and again, as it shows a variety of expressions in a single cup.
It has a good balance of umami and astringency, and its mild taste on the tongue is the reason why it is loved by everyone.
In addition to the fresh aroma mentioned above, "Kohshun" processed into black tea has a fruity aroma like mango, and a green aroma like watermelon and vegetables.
Since this cultivar does not have a lot of astringency, it does not have strong tannins when processed into black tea, and many teas are refreshing and easy to drink.
The flavor of black tea varies greatly depending on the time of year when it is picked (spring, summer, or fall), so it is recommended to enjoy the aroma and flavor that changes with the season.
As described above, "Kohshun" is widely used for sencha, black tea, and semi-fermented teas. It is a cultivar that is sure to have a wide range of applications in the tea industry, so please keep your eyes on it!
"Tsuyuhikari" is a green tea cultivar that has been gaining popularity in recent years.
Let us introduce you to Tsuyu-hikari, which is excellent in every aspect.
Characteristics of Tsuyu Hikari
Shizuoka's star with "Asatsuyu" and "Shizuka 7132" as parents.
"Tsuyuhikari" is made from "Asatsuyu" also known as "natural Gyokuro," which has rich umami, and "Shizu7132," which has a characteristic aroma like cherry leaves.
"Tsuyuhikari" is a hybrid cultivar that combines the best of both "Asatsuyu" and "Shizu7132".
Generally, cultivars with a gorgeous aroma tend to have a strong astringent taste, but "Tsuyuhikari" overturns this theory and is a superb cultivar that combines both umami and aroma!
This cultivar, which was born in Shizuoka Prefecture. in 2001, it was selected as one of the prefectural government's recommended cultivars, and it spread widely in Shizuoka Prefecture.
It is now a popular cultivar throughout Japan for its flavor, and is truly the future of Japanese tea.
"Tsuyuhikari" is used not only for sencha, but also for Kamairicha, semi-fermented tea, and black tea. The "wilting" process brings out its gorgeous aroma and gives the tea a subtle sweetness.
Since it is a cultivar with low astringency, it is often processed into black tea with a light astringency and a clean, easy-to-drink taste.
High disease resistance and cold tolerance
"Tsuyuhikari" is a cultivar that is resistant to disease, pests, and cold, making it suitable for all regions of Japan.
Because of its resistance to cold, it can be grown in mountainous areas and in the northern part of Japan, and many farmers have adopted it because of its ease of cultivation and excellent flavor.
As mentioned above, "Tsuyuhikari" has only advantages, but how is its flavor like?
Taste of "Tsuyuhikari"
The taste varies greatly depending on how it is grown.
The taste of tea varies greatly depending on how it is grown and processed. Especially "Tsuyuhikari", which has two distinct characteristics, umami and aroma, is a cultivar that farmers have different concepts on which of these characteristics to develop.
①Sencha with a rich, nourishing umami
"Tsuyuhikari" is made by covering and deep steaming to maximize its flavor, resulting in a sencha that is truly rich in flavor.
Compared to "Yabukita", "Tsuyuhikari" has a cool, refreshing aroma rather than a green aroma, making it a tea with a strong umami flavor that can be drunk neatly.
It has a bright and beautiful water color, so when it is made with deep steaming, it becomes a beautiful bright dark green water color, which is also one of its charms.
②Sencha with a sweet cherry blossom aroma
"Tsuyuhikari" has a gorgeous aroma of "coumarin," which is reminiscent of cherry leaves. Sencha made with this aroma has a clear, delicious flavor and a sweet cherry blossom aroma that spreads softly.
In mountainous areas, where the sprouts grow softly, the tea is often made by shallow steaming to take advantage of the aroma, and this type of "Tsuyuhikari" tends to be more common.
As described above, no matter which aspect of Tsuyu-hikari you take out, it is excellent. If you like tea, you should definitely try this tea.
When looking for single origin teas, the "Sayamakaori" is often seen. This time, we would like to introduce " Sayamakaori", a cultivar for Sencha (green tea), which is sometimes processed into black tea due to its characteristic aroma.
An "aromatic" green tea cultivar produced in Sayama
"Sayamakaori" is a cultivar produced in the Sayama area of Saitama Prefecture. The name of the cultivar comes from a variety of sources, but cultivars with the word "Kaori" in their name, such as "Fujiedakaori," "Musashikaori," and "Yumekaori," tend to have a distinctive aroma. The "Sayamakaori" also has a fresh, green aroma, hence its name.
Characteristics of "Sayamakaori"
"Sayamakaori" has the following characteristics.
A farmer's best friend with an overwhelming yield!
The most important characteristic of "Sayamakaori" is its high yield. Even if you look at a tea farm, you can tell that it is "Sayamakaori" with a single glance because of the large number of buds.
The number of tea buds varies depending on the cultivar and the way it is grown. Some farmers focus on the number of buds, while others focus on the quality of the buds, and there are many different styles. This cultivar, which yields significantly more than other cultivars when compared on the same acreage, is a great cultivar for farmers, helping them to stabilize their production.
Excellent cold tolerance
Sayama is a relatively cool region among tea growing regions in Japan, and the "Sayamakaori" grown in such an area has a high level of cold tolerance. It can be grown in all regions of Japan, except in very high altitudes, and with the exception of anthracnose, it is resistant to disease and pests, making it a very easy cultivar to grow throughout Japan.
However, its quality in warmer regions is inferior to that of "Yabukita," so it is more commonly found in cooler regions such as the mountainous areas or nothern area than in warmer regions in the south.
A middle-ripening cultivar that can be picked a day or two earlier than "Yabukita".
"Sayamakaori" is a middle-ripening cultivar like "Yabukita", but it is picked a day or two earlier than "Yabukita". The harvesting season for tea is very short, and even if you pick sprouts every day during the first tea season, you may not be able to pick them in time for the best harvesting season. For such busy farmers, being able to stagger the picking time, even by just one day, is very important in terms of reducing the workload on the farm. The "Sayamakaori" has a combination of characteristics that are very attractive to farmers, including yield, cold tolerance, and picking time. How does it taste?
Taste of "Sayamakaori"
Dry aroma like soybean flour and sesame
"Sayamakaori" has a distinctive aroma. Its aroma is much stronger than that of "Yabukita", and some people find it a little peculiar.
In particular, "Sayamakaori" sencha made by "wilting" has a slightly sweet aroma like soybean flour and a savory aroma like roasted sesame seeds, giving it a somewhat dry impression.
Depending on the region of origin, it may also have a fresh herbal-like aroma, giving it a cool, refreshing flavor.
Compared to "Yabukita", "Sayamakaori" is a slightly more astringent cultivar.
Generally, the word "astringency" tends to give a negative impression, but astringency is an important component of the flavor of tea. Astringency adds depth to the flavor and gives it a lingering taste and sharpness.
Well-made "Sayamakaori" sencha has a refreshing astringency, and brewing it at the right temperature allows you to enjoy the taste of astringency.
Not only for Sencha, but also for black tea
"Sayamakaori" is a cultivar suitable for "wilting" and is used not only for sencha but also for black tea. The black tea made from "Sayamakaori" maximizes the aroma of the cultivar and gives a cool, refreshing impression.
Unlike Assam or Ceylon teas, which have a gorgeous, mellow aroma, this tea has a refreshing taste that is typical of Japanese black tea, so if you are interested, please give it a try.
"Sayamakaori" is a very good tea cultivar!
As mentioned above, "Sayamakaori" has many positive aspects for both farmers and consumers. It is a cultivar that we often encounter in our search for single-origin teas, so if you are interested in it, please give it a try!
"Okumidori" is the fourth most widely produced cultivar of green tea in Japan. This time, we would like to introduce this cultivar, which is popular for its powerful flavor and straight aroma without any peculiarities.
A superior cultivar with the fourth largest market share in Japan!
After "Yabukita," "Yutakamidori," and "Saemidori," "Okumidori" is the fourth most widely produced green tea cultivar in Japan. It is rare to find a farmer who does not produce "Okumidori". Every year, we have many opportunities to see this cultivar because it is a very tasty and versatile green tea.
The reason is that "Okumidori" is excellent in every aspect, including taste, aroma, and ease of production. It is a very popular cultivar among farmers and consumers alike.
Characteristics of "Okumidori"
Excellent late-ripening cultivar
"Okumidori" is a late-ripening cultivar that is picked 7 days later than "Yabukita". Many farmers finish the first tea season when picking "Okumidori".
The picking season for tea is very short, and even if you pick sprouts every day during the first tea season, you may not be able to pick them in time for the best harvest.
For such busy farmers, this cultivar, which allows them to pick with a week to spare, is very useful in terms of reducing the workload on the farm.
Incidentally, as the word "Oku" means "late," all cultivars with "Oku" in their names, such as "Okuyutaka" and "Okuharuka," are late-ripening cultivars.
High cold tolerance and easy to grow throughout Japan.
"Okumidori" has high cold tolerance and can be grown in almost all tea-growing regions in Japan. It is susceptible to certain diseases and insect pests, so as long as you take care to use pesticides and other precautions, you can grow this cultivar all over Japan.
As described above, "Okumidori" is an easy-to-grow, valuable late-ripening cultivar that can be grown all over Japan, and it is easy to see why farmers love it.
So, how does "Okumidori" taste?
Taste of "Okumidori"
Rich umami and a fine aroma
The most distinctive characteristic of "Okumidori" is its rich umami.
It does not have a strong astringency or bitterness, and its high amino acid content (theanine) gives it an attractive mild flavor. The aroma has no peculiarities and has a clean scent of green leaves.
The sweetness is brought out by fire-roasting, and roasting aroma can also be added to create a strong, punchy sencha with a powerful flavor. It is one of the most popular teas for both single-origin and combined brews.
Beautiful dark green color
The beautiful light green color is one of the characteristics of "Okumidori". The beauty of this tea is further accentuated when it is grown with Kabuse(shading) or deep steaming, resulting in a tea with an outstandingly beautiful color as a sencha.
In the tea market, where color is important, "Okumidori" is a cultivar that can easily be highly evaluated.
As described above, Okumidori is produced in various regions of Japan and shows various flavors depending on the individuality and ability of the tea grower. Since there are so many cultivars produced in Japan, it is recommended that you compare different varieties depending on their production areas and farmers.
You can enjoy tea at any time of the year. However, do you know that there is a difference in the tea harvest time depending upon the tea cultivar and the growing area?
In this article, I’m going to introduce the tea harvest time.
When is the tea harvest time?
Tea harvest time is from late March to early October.
However, the time of picking tea leaves differs little by little depending upon the cultivar of tea, latitude, altitude, and hours of sunlight.
If all tea leaves are picked at the same time, farmers will not be able to keep up with their work, and there is a risk that the tea leaves will grow too much and lose their flavor, or the leaves will harden and become unmarketable.
By shifting the time of picking, the burden of farm work is dispersed, and tea leaves can be picked in the best condition for drinking.
Therefore, it is very important that the harvest time is dispersed.
What are “early ripening tea” and “late ripening tea”?
There are more than 100 tea cultivars, and the harvest time varies depending upon the cultivar.
Among them, there are “early ripening tea” and “late ripening tea ”.
Early ripening tea is a cultivar that picking time is early, and tea cultivars classified in this category are called early ripening cultivar.
Late ripening tea, on the other hand, is a cultivar that the harvest time is relatively late. Cultivars classified in this category are called late ripening cultivar.
Farmers can extend the harvest time by around 10 days by cultivating a combination of early ripening, medium ripening (a cultivar that is used as a standard for picking such as Yabukita) and late ripening cultivars.
That makes it possible to pick all the tea leaves at the best time.
Are there many “ early ripening tea” in Kagoshima?
Taking advantage of the mild climate, tea is picked at the end of March in Kagoshima. It is well known as “Hashiri-Shincha (Early-First picked tea)”, the fastest tea on the market.
In Kagoshima, it is customary to produce cultivars of early ripening tea and send them to the market as soon as possible. This is why many of the early ripening “Yutakamidori” are grown.
Representative cultivars of early ripening tea
There are many cultivars of early ripening tea, such as Sayamakaori, Tsuyuhikari, and Kuritawase, but the representative cultivars are Midoriyutaka and Saemidori.
It ripens 0-2 days earlier than Yabukita. Characterized by its rich aroma, it is grown mainly in Shizuoka, Saitama and Mie Prefectures. Contains a lot of catechin, so it has a relatively bitter taste.
It ripens 2 days earlier than Yabukita. The tea leaves are bright green and beautiful. It is grown especially in Shizuoka. It features a refreshing taste that brings out the flavor and sweetness in the astringency.
This is a cultivar called “very early ripening” and, its picking season is particularly early among the cultivars of early ripening tea. It is grown in warm regions such as Tanegashima (an island of Kagoshima). It has sharp bitter and fresh sweet tastes.
Yutakamidori is fertile and has a high yield. It is the second largest cultivar in Japan. It is especially grown in Kagoshima because it is sensitive to cold. The unique cultivation and processing method produces a rich and sweet taste with less bitterness.
This is a premium cultivar that combines “Yabukita” which is easy to grow and has a well-balanced flavor, and “Asatsuyu” which is also called natural Gyokuro and has a strong sweetness and flavor. It has elegant taste with well-balanced taste of “Yabukita” and sweetness and umami of “Asatsuyu”.
Representative cultivars of late ripening tea
Cultivars of late tea ripening include Kanayamidori, Harumidori, and Okuhikari, but the representative cultivars are Okumidori and Benifuki.
It ripens 4 days later than Yabukita and is mainly grown in Kagoshima and Shizuoka. It has a characteristic milky aroma.
A cultivar born from Kanayamidori that ripens six days later than Yabukita. It is a high-class tea with extremely high quality as Sencha (steeped green tea).
This is a rare cultivar that can be grown in cold regions such as mountainous regions. Its scent is strong and the taste is clear.
It has the third largest cropping area in Japan, mainly in Kagoshima, Mie, Kyoto and Shizuoka. Okudmiori has a natural sweet and mild taste. Its aftertaste is refreshing.
It also has a good fragrance, so it is recommended for people who want to enjoy the aroma of tea.
It is the cultivar registered in 1993, which is short in history compared to other cultivars, but it is famous not only for green tea but also for Japanese black tea. It contains a lot of methylated catechin, so it has become a hot topic as a green tea with an anti-allergic effect.
In this article, I’m going to introduce “Saemidori”, a cross cultivar of “Yabukita” and “Asatsuyu”.
Characteristics of “Saemidori”
The characteristic of Saemidori is its excellent quality.
Cross cultivar of “Yabukita” and “Asatsuyu”
Yabukita is easy to grow, excellent in both yield and quality. Asatsuyu is called “natural Gyokuro” because it is sweet and has a good flavor although the yield is small.
Saemidori is a cross cultivar of these two excellent cultivars.
It is the highest quality cultivar and is sometimes used for Gyokuro. In addition, Saemidori can be said a masterpiece because it has as much yield as Yabukita.
Although the cultivation area is the third largest in Japan, it still accounts for about 2% of the total. Saemidori is a cultivar that has great expectations for the future.
Resistant to cold but vulnerable to frost
Saemidori is strong against cold but weak against frost damages, and it is not so strong against diseases.
Saemidori prefers warm regions, so it was grown mainly in Kagoshima and southern Kyushu at the time when it appeared, but recently it is also grown in Shizuoka and some other region.
Early ripening cultivar
The plucking time of Saemidori is about 5 days earlier than Yabukita, and Shincha (First picked tea) is often picked from late April to early May.
However, Saemidori which is grown in warm southern areas such as Kagoshima, is sometimes picked in late March. If you want to buy its Shincha(first picked tea), you should start checking tea shops from the end of March.
Taste of Saemidori
Saemidori is well inherited the good balance of taste of Yabukita and the taste of Asatsuyu with strong sweetness and umami.
Its fragrance and taste are relatively refreshing. Its taste is less astringent and strong with sweetness and umami. The elegant taste of Saemidori can be a real luxury for those who drink it.
In addition, Saemidori is a beautiful green with a bluish tinge, so it is also recommended to serve important guests.
Depending upon the tea harvest time, tea leaves are called Ichibancha or Shincha (first picked tea), Nibancha (second picked tea), Sanbancha (third picked tea) and Yonbancha or autumn/winter picked tea (fourth picked tea).
Generally, the earlier the tea is picked, the higher the quality and the more delicious the tea is.
In this article, I’m going to introduce the characteristics of tea picked in each season.
*The taste and season are slightly different depending upon the cultivar and environment, so I will explain the typical taste and season.
What is "Shincha"?
Shincha (first picked tea) and Ichibancha are the same tea though they are called differently.
Generally, Shincha is picked on Hachiju-Hachiya (the 88th day), counting from Risshun (the first day of spring). It is the tea of the best quality and is traded at the highest price.
You can enjoy its fresh fragrance and taste like fresh green leaves.
Shincha is also popular as a gift because it is a lucky charm that is said “Drinking new tea will keep you healthy for a year”.
What are “Ichibancha” and "Nibancha” ?
It depends upon the growing area and cultivar, but Japanese tea leaves are basically picked 4 times in a year.
- Ichibancha (first picked tea) - from late April to the end of May
- Nibancha (second picked tea) - from mid June to early July
- Sanbancha (third picked tea) - from late July to early August
- Yonbancha or Autumn/winter Bancha (fourth picked tea) - from late September to Early October
The tea picked at a different time from those 4 times is called Bancha.
Characteristics of "Ichibancha"
As I mentioned earlier, Ichibancha (Shincha) is the highest quality tea in a year and it is traded at the highest price.
Ichibancha contains less catechin which causes astringency, and a lot of amino acid which causes sweetness and umami, so it has less astringency, and you can clearly feel the sweetness and umami of tea.
In addition, you can enjoy fresh and refreshing fragrance like sprouts.
The reason why Ichibancha is said to be the most delicious is related to the growing speed.
Other teas grow and are picked about a month after they sprout, but Ichibancha slowly grows by storing plenty of nutrients for about six months after the last plucking in the previous year. Because of that, it is packed with umami and fragrance.
By the way, as for the distinction between “Ichibancha” and “Shincha”, “Ichibancha” is used to distinguish tea picked in other seasons such as Nibancha (second picked tea) and Sanbancha (third picked tea) as described in this article, and “Shincha” is often used to mean tea picked for the first time of the year.
Characteristics of "Nibancha"
Nibancha is picked about 40 days after Ichibancha is picked.
It grows during long hours of sunlight, so it contains a lot of catechin produced by the action of light. For this reason,some people find Nibancha more bitter than Ichibancha, but it is said that Nibancha is good for antibacterial and prevention of lifestyle-related disease.
Characteristics of "Sanbancha" and "Yonbancha"
The taste and nutrition of Sanbancha and Yonbancha are lower compared to Ichibancha because it is picked without taking long time to grow.
Like Nibancha, Sanbancha and Yonbancha grow during long hours of sunlight, so they contain a lot of catechin and have a bitter taste.
Some farms leave Sanbancha grown and pick it at the time of Yonbancha or pick Sanbancha and do not pick Yonbancha.
After Sanbancha, it is often used as raw materials for processing such as PET bottle processing and Hojicha (roasted green tea).
Characteristics of autumn-winter Bancha
Autumn-winter Bancha is grown carefully without picking Sanbancha and picked from autumn to winter.
This tea has a refreshing taste and contains less caffeine, so it is recommended for those who do not want to take caffeine often.
Characteristics of Bancha
Bancha is coarse tea made from old or hard leaves picked at a late time, and it means the tea of inferior quality.
Bancha includes leaves that have grown too long and become hard, leaves that have been picked later than the normal harvest time and left over, leaves that have been picked in the next harvest time, leaves that have been selected because they were too big in the finishing process of Sencha (steeped green tea), and stems and leaves that have been cut for training.
Bancha is a green tea that is often used as a raw material because it is refreshing, has little bitterness, and has a high degree of transparency in its leached color. It is also often used as a raw material in PET bottles.
There are more than 100 tea cultivars in Japan alone, and there are an enormous number of cultivars in the world.
However, there are only two groups of tea plants that are the origin of so many tea cultivars on the earth.
Assam group and China group
All tea cultivars including black tea, oolong tea and green tea, are roughly divided into two groups: Assam group (large leaf tea) and China group (small leaf tea).
Branched from these two groups, various kinds of tea cultivars have been produced.
By the way, almost all of Japanese tea belongs to China group.
Characteristics of Assam group
Assam group is mainly used for black tea because it is rich in tannin, has a rich aroma, and it is easily oxidized.
It is grown mainly in Sri Lanka and India because it is sensitive to cold and it likes hot and humid climate.
Assam group has no particular plucking tie and it is picked 40 ~ 50 times a year.
By the way, the best tea leaves can be picked from March to June and from September to November, which is called the quality season. In particular, tea leaves picked in March and April is called first flush, and you can enjoy a particularly rich taste and aroma.
Characteristics of China group
China group is often used for green tea because it has less tannin, has a delicate taste and aroma, and is difficult to oxidize.
It is not only resistant to cold and grown in cold and dry places, but also adaptable and grown in hot and humid places. It is grown in Japan, China and Taiwan.
From the beginning of spring to the beginning of autumn, China group is picked about four times a year. In Japan, the first tea picked that year is called “Ichibancha or Shincha (first picked tea)” and the tea picked at that time is the highest quality and is traded at a high price.
History of Assam group
Assam group was a wild tea tree found in Assam, India. However, there were various difficulties before it became widespread throughout the world.
In the 1780s, imported tea trees of China group were already planted in India.
The people in India were looking for wild tea trees in their own country, not from China, but it was hard to find.
In 1823, British botanist Robert Bruce visited in Assam, India, and discovered a tea tree he had never seen. This was the discovery of Assam group (later).
However, the Indian botanist's verdict was “This is not a tea tree, but a camellia tree.”.
It was not recognized as a tea tree at that time. Robert Bruce died in despair.
It was finally recognized as a tea tree thanks to the efforts of Robert’s younger brother Charles, who took over his will. It was the birth of Assam group.
Under the direction of Charles, the first Indian green tea made from Assam group was produced in 1838. In the following year, it was auctioned off in London at a high price.
This had raised expectations and interests in the tea business, but it had been difficult.
The land of Assam had been inhabited by dangerous wild animals and poisonous snakes, so it had been hard to develop.
Meanwhile, infectious diseases such as malaria and cholera spread and many workers died.
Tea leaves of Assam group was managed to produce, but it was too hard to secure a transportation route for exportation.
However, Assam group was a hope for the people of that time, so they had never given up.
As a result, tea production took off around 1850, 27 years after the first discovery, and the cultivation of Assam group tea trees began in Southeast Asia and Africa.
After that, black tea was born, and it has spread all over the world, mainly in the UK, until now.
History of China group
The origin of tea is China. The history of tea is started before Christ. The tea has existed since ancient times and it appears in ancient mythology.
There are various theories about the origin of tea, but the theory that the first tea tree was found in the southwest area of Yunnan is widely accepted.
Around this time, tea leaves were recognized as a medicine and began to be consumed as a luxury around 59 B.C.
Around 760, the world's oldest tea book, Chakyo (The Classic of Tea) was completed, and the way of drinking and brewing tea became close to the current style.
Chinese tea arrived in Japan in 805. The history of Japanese tea has started from here.
A long time later, around 1610, Chinese tea was imported to Europe for the first time.
Chinese tea was brought to Taiwan even later, around 1810.
Assam group was discovered more than 10 years later.
The history of Assam group is much shorter than that of the China group, and it is a very new variety that was discovered less than 200 years ago.
In this article, I’m going to introduce “Yutakamidori”, the second largest cultivar in Japan.
Characteristics of “Yutakamidori”
Yutakamidori has the following characteristics.
Resistant to diseases but vulnerable to cold
Although Yutakamidori is resistant to mold diseases such as anthracnose, it is susceptible to frost damages and vulnerable to cold climate, so it is grown mainly in the warm Kyushu region.
It has a high fertility and a high yield, so it is a tea cultivar that is profitable for farmers in the warm and frost-resistant areas.
The production area is mainly Kagoshima Prefecture.
Although Yutakamidori accounts for only 5% of the total production in Japan, it accounts for 30% in Kagoshima Prefecture and is a very popular cultivar.
They are often cultivated in southern countries because they are sensitive to cold, and they are often cultivated in Miyazaki Prefecture other than Kagoshima.
Kagoshima is now known for its delicious tea, but there was a time when it had a bad reputation as “The tea in Kagoshima is cheap and not so good.” It is said that Yutakamidori overturned that image and brought Kagoshima to the famous tea production area.
Early harvest time
Yutakamidori is an early ripening cultivar with an early harvest time and picked more than 5 days earlier than Yabukita. Generally, new tea is picked on Hachiju-Hachiya (the 88th day), counting from Risshun (the first day of spring). Yutakamidori is called Hashiri-Shincha (Early-First picked tea) because it is picked on the 77th day after Risshun. Yutakamidori is distributed throughout Japan at the end of April, a little earlier than other teas.
Taste of “Yutakamidori”
The southern part of the country, including Kagoshima, where Yutakamidori is grown, tea leaves get more bitter and astringent due to the long hours of sunlight. In order to prevent this, the tea field is covered with a black cover from a week before harvest to block out the sunlight. This method reduces bitterness and astringency.
In addition, by lengthening the time of “steaming” which is the production process of Sencha (Steeped green tea), it becomes strong and mild taste.
Yutakamidori is a cultivar with attractive balance of astringency and sweetness, rich and deep tastes, and beautiful light blue color.