sale Sencha Saito Honyama-jo green tea

Sencha Saito Honyama-jo


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Orig $20.00 / Sale $15.00


Green Tea


Sencha Saito Honyama-jo


Organic: Shizuoka Organic Tea Farmers Union (SOTFU)

completely farmer-made and processed tea
Tea Farmer:
Mr. Saito


Grade: Ichibancha
steamed and oven-fired (baked)
Steaming Method:
Asamushi (light)


Appearance: Medium forest green color; long, thin, elegant leaf
Flavor: hearty and pleasantly astringent style
Aroma: booming, pure aroma
Liquor: deep, golden straw liquor


Packaging: vacuum-packed in Japan in a classic foil envelope
Quantity: 1.8 oz (50 grams)



Honyama Tea Harvesting Area
Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan

2020 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 2 teaspoons (2 grams) or 4 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)




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.

This namesake tea is produced by our dear tea producer Mr. Saito. This particular offering, 100% from the most classic of Japanese tea plantings, the Yabukita cultivar, was grown in his tea gardens in Honyama, which many believe to be the area that produces the finest senchas in Shizuoka Prefecture. 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. This offering of 100% Yabukita was grown at some of the highest altitudes of his tea gardens in the mountains, which is how it earns the designation “-jo” (highest quality).

Yabukita, the tea bush cultivar that was used for this Sencha, is what 70% of the tea bushes planted in Japan are. This cultivar is not only the work-horse of the Japanese tea industry, but also the one that has proven itself over time to be best-suited to the climate and over-all production methods for fine Japanese tea.

Yabukita tea plants are to Japanese tea production what china bush plants are to China and assamica tea bushes are to northeast India and most of Africa. It is the same theory as to why Burgundy grows pinot noir grapes and why the sauvignon blanc grape thrives in New Zealand: there are places in which certain cultivars grow best and produce better examples of a food production than that plant will produce in another location. The food world is replete with examples of this phenomenon, but for tea, it is often of paramount importance. While most varieties of tea plant can be grown ‘anywhere’, in most of those locations they will simply survive, while for high quality, special tea, we want the plants to thrive, so finding the place(s) that mesh with the specific nutritional needs of each cultivar is critical! And that is what Honyama is to the Yabukita tea plant, and in specific, the cultivar of the Yabukita tea plant family that Saito plants in his fabulous gardens there. This tea is some of his highest grade, the “-jo” tea.

Tea farmers such as Mr. Saito spend a lot of time assessing how to make better and better tea while maintaining their commitment to organic production. We think you will agree that his hard work has reaped rewards with this tea, which delivers a rich and full  flavor with a smooth, buttery, matcha-like depth of flavor. Truly an exquisite example of Japanese tea-making art, this is a perfect representation of the most classic of the Japanese green tea flavor profiles.

In keeping with the mountain origins of this garden and to celebrate the history of tea-making in this region, Saito continues to practice what is known locally as ‘shallow steaming’. This is a variation on Asamushi steaming, which is generally the lightest of the Japanese aracha steaming levels.

This tea has a slender leaf that is a perfect ‘vegetal’ green in color. (Think celery, avocado, and peapods) The dry leaf has the booming aroma of a hearty tea, and is that perfect, evenly-sized mix that steeps very easily.The booming aroma continues onto both the wet leaf and into the teapot, and ultimately from the steeped liquid in the cup as well.

The flavor is over-all in the stronger style, as it should be for this cultivar and place. The style is exquisite with a rich and full, smooth flavor that offers a buttery, matcha-like depth of flavor. Saito Honyama tea has a very full body and is rich with umami.

The tea liquor is a deep golden straw color, unusual, but beautiful and confidence-inspiring as we watch it steep. Do not wait for the color to deepen as it may not depending on your water’s chemistry.

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 permanent damage from the warehouse and living quarters fire of three 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.

Want to know more?

Shizuoka Organic Tea Farmers Union