2018 Sencha Iizuka Fukamushi green tea

Sencha Iizuka Fukamushi

$8.50$120.00

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Green Tea

 

Sencha Iizuka Fukamushi

 

Organic: Shizuoka Organic Tea Farmers Union (SOTFU)

 

Jien-cha: completely farmer grown and processed tea
Tea Farmer: Mr. Iizuka ‘Jr.’

 

Grade: Ichibancha
Oxidation: none
Manufacture: steamed and oven-fired (baked)
Steaming Method: Fukamushi (deeply – steamed)

 

Appearance: Fine, broken leaves – typical Fukamushi appearance
Flavor: Sweet, deeply smooth flavor
Aroma: Fresh, bright aroma
Liquor:  Rich, clouded, medium-green colored liquor

 

Fujieda-shi Tea Harvesting Area
Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan

2018 1st Spring Pluck Ichibancha
(May, June)

Steeping:

 

Japan makes many styles of green tea, and each type requires its own steeping parameters. It is easier to mis-step with Japanese green tea than it is with Chinese green tea because Japanese green teas are more sensitive to water temperature and length of time in the water. Sweetness/astringency in Japanese teas can be influenced by steeping technique. It is important to know for each tea you have what water temperature and steeping time is appropriate.

The reason for this is that premium, spring-plucked Japanese green tea contains a large amount of amino acids and a lesser degree of tannin, which is what makes a tea bitter. Steeping Japanese green tea in cooler water encourages the amino acids to release into the steeping liquid, but not the tannins.

 

We follow our mentor Mr. Saito’s instructions for steeping Japanese green tea and he has been spot on.

 

However, we decided to see if we could come up with two different measurements of tea – one for those who like their Japanese green tea lighter and another for those who prefer a fuller dimension of flavor.

What was interesting is that the tea did not become astringent when we used 4 grams of leaf (twice the usual amount).  In fact, the larger quantity of leaf brought a more complete fullness of flavor to the liquor without any bitterness. We tried this test with all the tea from the Shizuoka Organic Tea Farmers Union, and found that across the board these two measures worked beautifully.

 

And for us, Bob preferred the tea steeped with 2 grams of leaf while I preferred the same tea made with 4 grams of leaf.

 

Steeping Instructions:

 

Use 1 teaspoon (2 grams) or 2 teaspoons (4 grams) per 4 oz water

Steep 1-2 infusions at 1 minute each
Water temperature should be 170°F – 185°F
(depending on your preference)

 

Re-steeping:

 

Japanese green teas can generally be re-steeped with delicious results.

We recommend:

4 ounces of water cooled to 160°F
1 minute re-steep
Steep as many times as you can until the flavor is diminished.

 

This tea is classified as Jien-cha, a term that means that it has been grown, processed and packed by a tea farmer.

This is an uncommon situation in Japan regarding tea. Most Japanese tea is manufactured in a small or large tea factory by a company that does not own its own tea gardens. Instead, the factory purchases aracha (stable, semi-processed leaf) from various tea farmers and blends different lots of aracha together to arrive at the flavor that they want. These teas are sold under the label of the tea company and the origin of the tea is usually unknown to the consumer.

While it is unusual for a tea farmer to process his own tea, this is an accomplishment that Mr. Saito and the other members of the Shizuoka Organic Tea Farmers Union are proud of.

Jien-cha gives them total control over the finished tea, and also allows them to put all their years of knowledge about tea cultivation and manufacture into making truly delicious artisan tea.

 

In 2012 Mary Lou was asked to visit Japan with an international group of tea experts, on a trip to meet with a variety of tea farmers and evaluate the tea market and explore new export potentials for premium tea farmers. In Shizuoka Prefecture she met with a group of farmers who were united in their desire to grow premium tea organically and to attempt to continue to grow some of the more unusual cultivars that many farmers have ceased to maintain. Mary Lou affectionately gave these farmers the moniker of the “Four Musketeers’ of Shizuoka premium organic tea. We have developed a strong relationship with this group in the years since, and their tea has been amazing. One of the farmers in this group was Minoru.Iizuka. He has been an organic tea farmer for more than 40 years now, and his eldest son, Iizuka Jr was just starting to follow in his father’s footsteps when Mary Lou visited with them.

For this season (2018) Mr Iizuka, one of the original ‘Four Musketeers’ of SOTFU, wanted to show us an example of the current work of his son. Known to his friends and colleagues as “Junior”, he has really come into his own as a tea farmer and manufacturer in the last decade. The family gardens are in a region known as ‘Fujieda-shi’ which is of historical importance regarding both green and black tea manufacture in Japan (for those who follow Japanese tea gardening and manufacture).

We were offered two teas from the Iizuka family’s tea gardens this season and, on tasting them, accepted both without hesitation!

This tea, a superb Fukamushi Sencha, is special for many reasons: the history of the location of the gardens, the long history of the family in this region, the depth of commitment to organic farming, the knowledge and experience of the family regarding tea cultivation and manufacture, all of which combine to realize the over-all goodness of the leaf being produced.

Junior’s Fukamushi Sencha is very full-bodied, as one would expect with a fukamushi steaming (see below), but what is so special about this tea is the balance that Junior has achieved between the body and the flavor. Many fukamushi sencha teas become all ‘mouthfeel’ and little taste because of the deep steaming and its affect on the chemistry of the leaf. Some Japanese tea producers include a small amount of deeply-steamed leaf in their blend to provide body, but it is rare for a tea that is completely a fukamushi steaming to have such exquisite flavor.

Junior has started with the most traditional of the Japanese cultivars, the Yabukita variety of tea bush, and given it a perfect deep steaming. The finished leaf is therefore a deep dark green, chopped to the traditional fine-ness for quick, easy steeping. The particles have the beautiful mottled coloration that deep steaming can provide when done perfectly. The flavor is classically pure and straight-forward – fresh, deep, smooth, and sweet. The aroma is solid and balances nicely with the flavor and color. The aroma is also fresh, and bright – and teases the palate to expect the flavor that follows.

The steeped tea liquor is a cloudy medium green (the cloudiness is a by-product of the fukamushi steaming) and is the perfect visual for the incredibly well-flavored tea that it is.

A note on the meaning of the term ‘fukamushi’ as it applies to tea production:

On entering the tea factory, all fresh leaf in Japan that will be manufactured into green tea undergoes a short period of steaming. While there are 3 or 4 specific levels of steaming possible (depending who you ask in Japan) the steaming step (which is one of the largest influences on the taste of Japanese green teas) determines what style of sencha each batch of tea will be. The steaming step is also one of the principle reasons (among many) as to why Japanese green tea tastes different than Chinese green tea.

Fukamushi refers to the longest period of steaming – it lasts for 120-150 seconds depending on the preference of the tea maker (and this may vary throughout the season). Sencha in this style has a rich and soft , buttery taste. This level of steaming tones down the fresh green vibrancy of early-plucked leaf, and creates a harmonious, delicious tea that has abundant umami.

Essentially this is sencha for tea lovers who like their tea rich, smooth and vegetal; full in the mouth; and with rounded edges and very little astringency.

Want to know more?

Shizuoka Organic Tea Farmers Union