2018 Takachiho Kamairicha
This is a Kamairicha made from the Minekaori cultivar in Takachiho, in the Miyazaki prefecture in Southern Japan. 5.5g in a 100ml gaiwan with 80C water. I got this tea from the remarkable store Thés du Japon in Yanaka, Tokyo.
Kamairicha is not steamed but fried (at high temperature, this is most definitely a green tea) in iron pans after withering. The dry leaf has a dark green appearance, small twisted leaves or leaf fragments of about .5-1.5cm long. The aroma is similar to sencha but with a bit of cooked rice or popped corn. The roasted aroma is very gentle.
- Intense green but not grassy. Bitter green on arrival. Thick liquor. Sweet aftertaste and empty cup is reminiscent of Korean hwangcha light honey and floral. Not astringent. Mouthfeel extends down the throat and frisson begins after about 2 minutes. Mental clarity without jitters.
- A shorter steep gives much less bitterness, but still full flavour and more noticeable sweetness in aftertaste, and more astringency is now emerging. The toasty aspect is extremely subtle, I would definitely guess this was a sencha.
- The immediate attack is bitter-greens but very quickly it is extremely sweet, very much like white grapes, cotton-candy grapes. Leaving the cup half-full for a while leads to a quite bitter sip, perhaps due to the fine particulates?
- Still quite low in astringency, high in sweetness, good body, I would not describe this tea as umami. Strong effect of calm focus.
- By steep 5 it is lighter but still very pleasant, a long steep (120s) is not very bitter-greens, maintains sweetness, and has a touch of astringency. The white grapes are still there.
Kamairicha is sometimes described as being in between Sencha and Gyokuro, but I find this example to be less umami and less grassy than the Sencha I’ve tried and quite far from Gyokuro. It has a bitter-greens attack but quickly becomes cotton-candy-grape sweet, with a clean but long-lasting coating in the mouth and throat. Calm focus on the mind and not too aggressively green on the stomach. The leaves are definitely chopped and fragmented but there are many half-leaves and the spent leaves would make a very good salad.