Category Archives: Tea Posts

Uji Tencha Report 2012!

Last week our artisan tencha grower in Kyoto sent us a progress update from his farm along with a few images that we thought you might like to see.

By the way, these are genuine images of present day artisan tencha production tea gardens in Kyoto! We know it’s possible to find quite a few tea companies showing customers out-dated 20th century covered tea garden images or videos of Uji tea plantations, or using stock images, or even getting somebody who lives in Kyoto to snap a few images of one of these type of rare tea gardens to give the impression their matcha comes from one of them. However, the truth is there is very little tencha still being cultivated in tea gardens like as follows in Kyoto, and pretty much all tencha that is produced at these tea gardens is already reserved each year within Japan.

What you see in the following images are known as “Oishita Chaen” in Japanese, which are tea gardens that are covered from above by what is known as Tana which is black sheet coverage suspended above the tea bushes. There is not just one black sheet by the way. In artisan tencha production there are a number of black sheets that are used to cover the tea bushes in stages over a prolonged period of time. Second, what you see are “Shizen Shitate (sometimes written jitate)” style tea bushes. Shizen Shitate style tea bushes grow upright in the traditional style and the leaves are 100% handpicked.

For your information, this grower’s Oishita Chaen with Shizen Shitate style tea bushes are the only 100% certified organic ones known in Japan! They are totally authentic tea gardens and he is growing tencha to what is considered the highest standard in present day Kyoto.

The following image shows the Oishita Chaen where the goko (sometimes written gokou or gokoh) cultivar is growing. This is the tea garden that Tenkei Hana comes from (photo taken on the 24th of April 2012):

Goko Tea Garden 2012

Goko Tea Garden 2012

A close up of the goko leaves growing on the 24th of April 2012:

Goko Cultivar Close Up

Goko Cultivar Close Up

The following image shows the Oishita Chaen where the samidori (not to be confused with saEmidori) cultivar is growing. This is the tea garden that Tenkei Tori comes from (photo taken on the 24th of April 2012):

Samidori Tea Garden 2012

Samidori Tea Garden 2012

A close up of the samidori leaves growing on the 24th of April 2012:

Samidori Cultivar Close Up

Samidori Cultivar Close Up

The grower tells us this year he has already had his annual inspection of his Oishita Chaen and once again gained JAS certification. We therefore will most certainly continue to offer his Tenkei Hana and Tenkei Tori, and hope that our customers will continue to support him because what he is producing is true authentic artisan matcha for his customers. That is something really worth supporting!

First Shincha Of 2012 – Kagoshima Saemidori!

Kagoshima Saemidori 2012!

Kagoshima Saemidori 2012!

Our first shincha of the year has arrived and it’s so great to finally taste this years spring harvest! This year our Organic Kagoshima Shincha Saemidori is the first to arrive.

Today, with our order we received a hand written message from the grower. Here is a small part of it. If you can read Japanese then you will understand his sentiment:

Farmer's Message!

Farmer’s Message!

If not, then we can tell you that it basically reads, “This years Saemidori (referring to his Saemidori) is really delicious, so please savor it”. After tasting it today we can only agree!

For your information, this wonderful grower has been cultivating Japanese tea in Makurazaki since he was a young man, he is now past retirement age! He is therefore a very long established respected tea grower who you could say knows quite a bit about Kagoshima tea cultivation and processing!

For many years now he has been tending to Saemidori tea bushes, and has raised them organically from seedlings in the famous tea region of Makurazaki in Kagoshima. Incidentally, he tells us he farms his tea bushes organically because it’s his wish to provide his customers with the most authentic Kagoshima Saemidori taste, aroma, and liquor color out there! He knows through his many years of experience that it’s only organic cultivation which can ensure that level of authenticity.

For your pleasure, here are a few shots of this years Organic Kagoshima Shincha Saemidori:

The Leaf...

The Leaf…

The First Infusion...

The First Infusion…

The Authentic Green Second Infusion Color Of Deep Steamed Kagoshima Saemidori!

The Authentic Green Second Infusion Color Of Deep Steamed Kagoshima Saemidori!

If you are a regular customer of this tea, we are quite sure you’ll be happy with this years shincha offering, but as the grower wrote, please savor it! It will only be around for a short period of time this spring!

Japanese Oolong Tea 2011

This summer we have been involved in a number of interesting tastings at the Yuuki-Cha HQ, none more interesting or diverse than a sampling of a selection of Japanese oolong teas received just this week. This year our creative minded grower in Miyazaki has made quite a fine selection of whole leaf oolongs including 5 new “Oolong-Blacks”.

Pictured below is one of the “Oolong-Blacks” in action. This particular one is made from fairly coarse summer harvest leaves and is more towards black. Produces a first steep with a sweetness that reminds us of sweet potato!? Later infusions are light and refreshing with some subtle fruity notes. Enjoyable through multiple steeps, especially when steeping it in a small Gyokko kyusu:

"Oolong-Black" brewing in a Gyokko Masterpiece.

"Oolong-Black" brewing in a Gyokko Masterpiece.

First infusion liquor color and steeped leaves.

First infusion liquor color and steeped leaves.

Steeped leaves in small-sized Gyokko Kyusu showing off the trademark Gyokko Yohen-style technique.

Steeped leaves in small-sized Gyokko Kyusu showing off the trademark Gyokko Yohen-style technique.

We hope to add a couple of these 2011 Oolongs to our Japanese Oolong Tea category fairly soon!

Rare Koicha Meets Gifted Chawan!

This week a sample of a super rare handpicked organic Uji koicha matcha made from the precious Asahi varietal touched down at the Yuuki-Cha HQ!

Only around 400g of this precious matcha is up for grabs from the grower, so it might not see the light of day at Yuuki-Cha this year, but we’ll have to wait and see about that…

When a precious matcha like this comes to hand it’s time to pick out a super-duper chawan! The lucky chawan that was chosen for this special occasion was gifted to us some months ago by a wonderful chap named Don Goddard who is a potter based in Quebec, Canada.

A beautiful chawan!

A beautiful Don Goddard chawan.

The kodai/koudai (the foot)!

The kodai/koudai (the foot).

The inside of the chawan.

The inside of the chawan.

The bright Asahi matcha powder ready for action!

4 scoops (yes 4!) of the Asahi matcha powder ready for action!

Matcha prepared thick (koicha) with no froth!

Matcha prepared thick (koicha) with no froth!

Asahi is often referred to as “The Queen of Tencha” and that is certainly a worthy title! The taste is so pure, clean, and elegant. On the other hand, Gokou, another varietal (available HERE) is known as “The King of  Tencha” and tastes thick, rich, and creamy. An enlightening contrast!

Uji Report 2011 Part 3

This is the final part of our 3 part series of reports from our grower’s organic tencha plantation in Uji!

For this report we have put together a film strip of the six most important weeks of growth of Gokou and Samidori (AKA Tenkei Hana & Tenkei Tori). The same branch for both breeds was monitored for the six weeks!

First up, we have the filmstrip of the precious Gokou growth. In Uji Report 2011 Part 2 we told you that this year’s harvest of Gokou might be slightly less than normal. However, it turned out that the yield was actually slightly more than usual and the taste of Gokou is expected to be excellent! The filmstrip of Gokou growth 2011:

The Gokou filmstrip of growth 2011

The Gokou filmstrip of growth 2011

Next, the Samidori filmstrip of growth! From week five (14th May 2011) you can see that the main branch wilted while the new growth was determined to remain upright. This wilting was caused by a number of days of excessive rainfall during that week. Tea bushes growing in well-drained soil can recover from this fairly rapidly, so by week six (20th May 2011) you can see that the branch is back in its upright position and has revitalized itself once again! This year’s Samidori will surely be revitalizing to say the least! The filmstrip of Samidori growth 2011:

The Samidori filmstrip of growth 2011

The Samidori filmstrip of growth 2011

By week six the tea gardens are under full shade of 95-97% and are just about ready for handpicking. The following two images are very good representations of what a genuine oishita-chaen (covered tea garden) looks like under full shade.

Here is the Gokou tea garden:

Organic Gokou Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Organic Gokou Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Here is the Samidori tea garden:

Organic Samidori Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Organic Samidori Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

If you have read all three of our Uji blog reports from 2011 you would have probably realized by now that genuine high quality matcha is shade cultivated in stages over a prolonged period of time (e.g. 6+ weeks, not just 2-3 weeks at 90% shade). It’s cultivated under what is known as Tana (almost always black sheeting these days, very rarely straw etc.). Tana is coverage suspended above the tea bushes (not coverage directly on top of the tea bushes). Lastly, genuine high quality matcha is always handpicked (not machine harvested or scissor cut).

If it’s genuine high quality matcha you desire that conforms to all of the above outlined high standards and you want to know, and actually care about, where and how your matcha was cultivated, and most importantly want to support a genuine product, Tenkei Hana & Tenkei Tori are as genuine and as honest as they come!