Kabuse (from 被せる, to cover ) usually gets labeled as a tea “between sencha and gyokuro”. This is true, but I argue it is more beneficial to really consider it on it’s own terms. While it does share the fresh spring notes of sencha and the deeper amino “tang” of gyokuro, its the point where the two overlap that interests me.
Kabuse is shaded for about about 5-10 days depending on the producer. Hon gyokuro, or true gyokuro, is shaded for 20 days. A big difference is the amount of sunlight blocked: Kabuse is grown with a reduction of about 55%-60%, while gyokuro is 70%-95% (sencha is grown in full sunlight).
Kabuse is a rich tea. The dry leaf can have a certain “fruity” aroma, more like peeled apples or ripe pears. It also has the “kabuse-ka”, or shaded aroma of gyokuro. In Yame, the tea is produced early in spring and is not aged. Some producers in Uji will (like gyokuro) age the tea slightly and release it for market in fall. Yame Kabuse has a tendency to maintain a fresh and bright flavor reminiscent of shincha.
The flavor of the brewed tea is pretty remarkable. My notes are: Piney, subtle lilac, apple peel, fresh cut grass, dashi broth. Complex for sure. Again, I really think it is worth trying to consider this less in relation to sencha and gyokruo (I understand that is a tall order) and more for its own strange meeting of flavors. It really is a remarkable combination that is worth trying.