This is the classic Sencha that a traditional Japanese tea enthusiast would choose to drink.
This tea is offered to us by our dear friend and tea producer Mr. Saito. His tea gardens are in Honyama, which many believe to be the area that produces the finest senchas in Shizuoka Prefecture. Because we are able to offer several stunning teas from particular gardens within Shizuoka Prefecture, we tend to think that he is correct in a ‘big-picture’ way, although our delicious offerings from several other famous regions within Shizuoka Prefecture, compel us to temper our agreement with a few caveats! Saito’s tea fields are located in the mountains near the Warashina River. The environment of these tea fields is pristine and filled with natural beauty, healthy plants, birds, insects and all the good components of a thriving tea garden. Indeed it is a magical place for tea gardens and families who strive to farm sublime Japanese Sencha, Gyokuro, and the other cultivars that call this region ‘home’.
We are indeed honored to be among the few select tea vendors to whom Mr Saito offers his tea (which sells out every year) and we eagerly look forward to the arrival of his samples every year. This season’s tea, 2020, is exquisite, an excellent example of a traditional Fukumidori Sencha.
This sencha is made with leaf from a classic tea bush cultivar that has been tweaked by Saito over the years (approx 30 years) to produce his vision of what this cultivar should exhibit. Because he prefers organic growing methodology, he has at the same time been constantly experimenting with new organic fertilizers that allow the soil to encourage the development of rich amino acids in the tea, which results in lots of tasty and desireable ‘umami’ in the cup.
For those unfamiliar with umami, this term combines the Japanese character for ‘delicious’ with the one for ‘taste’. Umami is the name for the fifth basic sensation of taste, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. It is an otherwise difficult-to-describe kind of savoriness associated with many food items such as seared meats, miso soup, aged cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, soy sauce and green tea. A high percentage of certain naturally occurring amino acids in these foods is responsible for the chewy mouth-feel of umami-rich foods.
Tea farmers such as Mr. Saito spend a lot of time figuring out how to make better and better tea without resorting to artificial fertilizers and pesticides. We think that you will agree that his hard work has paid off with this tea, which delivers a hearty and pleasantly astringent cup of tea that flirts with the tongue and is quite satisfying. There is none of the often-found sencha ‘kelpy-ness’ in the taste nor is there an excess of sweetness – but the overall taste and aroma is clean and vegetal with a suspicion of mint in the background. A truly exceptional Fukumidori Sencha.
This tea has the traditional, medium-large length, thin leaf of a high quality Sencha. It is medium forest-green in color. The dry leaf has the cool, refreshing aroma of clear, cold water in a forest stream.
Fans of Mr. Saito may recall that he suffered the loss of most of his tea in the spring of 2015 when he had a fire in his warehouse. We received a small first order that year and then nothing else until the following year. We are pleased to report that his garden has suffered no serious damage from the warehouse and living quarters fire of several years ago, and he is back to full production. Saito’s tea gardens are thriving, and his tea is as tasty as, or even better than when Mary Lou first met him in the autumn of 2012.
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