We were in the mountains near Hoshino today in a town named Yabemura. Yabemura lies at the top of a small twisting road surrounded by sugi (Japanese cedar) trees and blossoming Azaleas. This small village is home to award winning gyokuro. We spent the afternoon with our friend Yuji san who is farming very high grade gyokuro and sencha. Yabemura is unique in the area as it consists primarily of red clay soil. This soil creates a naturally mellow flavor profile compared to other teas grown just 3 or so miles to the south. Farming here, like many places in Japan, is a dying art. Yuji san and the remaining farmers growing traditional style “hon gyokuro” have banded together to share resources including man/woman power, fertilizer, land, and processing equipment. We tasted several great teas including a gyokuro from the same plants as one of his award winning teas (sold out completely). We really loved a saemidori varietal gyokuro that was incredibly nuanced with an umami that was remarkable. The sound of the pines in the wind and the azaleas in bloom was as good as it gets.