Competition grade tea from Yame. 

Today I will look at a sencha, and later this week, the grand jury prize winning gyokuro.

Japan, like many tea producing countries, holds nationwide competitions to showcase the skill of the nations farmers and tea producers. We have been lucky enough to get a hold of some of these coveted teas. There is very little of this tea on the commercial market because its production volume is so low, and its prices so high. This is not tea you would drink everyday. When I asked the producer about the sencha pictured above, he said, “I pretty much only give this tea as a gift, I rarely drink it myself”. These teas are like the pampered cows that produce the famous Wagyu (or Kobe) beef Japan is famed for. The leaves are coddled and swooned over, the soil’s nitrogen levels closely monitored, and then hand manufactured. There is no commercial need to actually produce these kinds of tea. They are more pet projects than anything else. We love the idea that the producers are having fun, and getting to show off a bit. The sencha shown above will be a jury judged tea in the All Japan Sencha Competition this month. I actually don’t know the varietal, I’m guessing some mix of saemidori or okumidori. The tea is incredibly smooth, deeply savory, and as fresh as you can imagine. There is little in the way of bitterness. It is a refined and smooth tea with no chewiness at all. The grass note is very focused with a wash of marine and note of the firing in the finish. It’s a treat to get to taste something like this. You can see the fine rolling of the leaf, done by hand and a special rolling machine. The funny thing is, you get one good steep thats perfect, and thats all. The 2nd steep leaves little for you. I am grateful to have been able to try this tea. Our Tsutsuji sencha is very similar in structure and can be found HERE

This tea was brewed:

4 grams of tea.

2.5 oz of water at 165F°.

1.5 minutes steeping.

Listening to Sam Amidon.

Check back for a review of this years prize winning gyokuro.