2018 Sencha Iwasaki Yabukita green tea

Sencha Iwasaki Yabukita Spirit of the Winds

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Green Tea

 

Sencha Iwasaki Yabukita

 

Organic: Shizuoka Organic Tea Farmers Union (SOTFU)

 

Jien-cha: completely farmer grown and processed tea
Tea Farmer: Mr. Iwasaki Jr.

 

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

 

Appearance: Large, full leaves of a deep, forest green color
Flavor: Fresh and clear flavor with a hint of ‘seashore’ flavor
Aroma: Fragrance is deep and rich, telegraphing its full body
Liquor: Pale yellow colored liquor

 

 

Ryougouchi Tea Harvesting Area
Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan

2018 1st Spring Pluck Ichibancha
(May, June)

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 his 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 a generous 2 teaspoons (2 grams) or 4 teaspoons (4 grams) per 4 oz water
(this leaf is quite bulky for a Sencha)

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.

Those who enjoy Japanese sencha understand that Sencha is traditionally a blended tea and that the elements of terroir including tea garden location and tea bush cultivar conspire to create the the many varied tastes of each particular sencha. However these elements are brought together in sencha manufacture by the split-second choices made by the tea blender/buyers while tasting samples of ‘aracha’ at the tea market. Local tea bush cultivars can be ‘heirloom’ varieties while others are new cultivars that have been developed by one of the Japanese government’s tea research institutes or by educated and experienced tea farmers such as Mr. Iwasaki and his son.

This sencha is made from Yabukita, the most widely grown tea bush cultivar in Japan. But as evidenced here, many other elements of terroir such as soil, climate and the skill of the tea farmer come into play to make something that could be ordinary be….’extraordinary’.

This is a carefully-made sencha with a clear, fresh flavor that is ever-so-pleasantly ‘green’, with a hint of the seashore taste characteristic of some Japanese senchas. This tea is a soothing, dark green color – almost greenish-black in some light. Very large leaf particles point to expert handling and Iwasaki ‘s efforts to keep the leaf intact despite the fact that this is sheared leaf.

The tea liquor is pale yellow and for those in the know, shows a high proportion of amino acid content.  The fragrance is deep and rich, also signalling the full body and super smooth overall flavor.

This is the Japanese green tea for those who are not yet sure whether or not they like Japanese green tea. Or for those who have not discovered the joys of Japanese green tea. Or for anyone who want an excellent example of a classic Shizuoka sencha.

For the enthusiast as well as the beginner, this tea is easy to steep and utterly delicious.

This tea is the taste of traditional Japanese green tea.

Background on our relationship with Iwasaki and his family:

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 Shinobu Iwasaki. He has been an organic tea farmer for many years and his son is now following in his footsteps.

For this season (2018) Mr Iwasaki, one of the original ‘Four Musketeers’ of SOTFU, wanted to show us examples of the current work of his son who is just now really becoming a masterful tea farmer. Known to his friends and colleagues as “Junior”, he is following in his father’s footsteps and will soon be in charge of the tea garden.

The family gardens are in a region known as ‘Ryougouchi’ which is of historical importance regarding tea manufacture in Japan. This region was traditionally one of the premier locations for tea gardens, but at one point fell into disrepair. Because of the efforts of tea farmers such as the Iwasaki family this area has reclaimed its reputation as a first-class tea-growing region in Shizuoka Prefecture.

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

Want to know more?

Shizuoka Organic Tea Farmers Union