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. Sometimes these elements are brought together in sencha manufacture by the split-second choices made by the tea blender/buyer while tasting samples of ‘aracha’ at the tea market. Other times it is the local tea bush cultivars that determine uniqueness: they may be ‘heirloom’ varieties, or 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 ‘Junior’. These may occasionally be offered ‘straight’, or more popularly, blended together into a unique sencha that is proprietary to a specific garden or farmer.
Our Sencha ‘High Aroma’ is blended with leaf from just two tea cultivars. Both are tea bushes developed by the Iwasaki family on their gardens in Shizuoka. Due to the limited amount of supply, this is only the second year that we here at Tea Trekker have been offered this leaf, and it is ….’extraordinary’. Starting with their outstanding Yabukita plants, they have been blending their various senchas over the years and this is one of their favorite combinations.
This is a carefully-made sencha with a clear, fresh flavor that is ever-so-pleasantly ‘green’, with only a hint of the ‘seashore’ taste that can be characteristic of some Japanese senchas. Tea Trekker’s ‘High Aroma’ has no kelpy style or spinachy flavor. This sencha’s leaf is a soothing, dark green color – almost greenish-black in some light. The leaf is quite long, and resteeps very easily. 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. Steeping time is also more easily controlled due to the longer leaf size. Having leaf this large is quite non-traditional, but we admire it on many levels.
The tea liquor is clear golden-green 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 wants an excellent example of a classic rich & smooth, 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 (2020) Mr Iwasaki, one of the original ‘Four Musketeers’ of SOTFU, wanted to continue to show us examples of the current work of his son who has now really become a masterful tea farmer. Known to his friends and colleagues as “Junior”, he is following in his father’s footsteps and has stepped up to 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 four teas from the Iwasaki family’s tea gardens this season and, on tasting them, accepted all of them without hesitation!
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