Shizuoka Prefecture, located on the main island of Honshu, contains the largest tea growing region in Japan. The quality of tea produced here can be excellent, but the more innovative work involving unique cultivars, organic farming, and general experimentation tends to be done further south near Kagoshima where warmer weather allows for larger, earlier harvests. The advantage to tea grown in Shizuoka is a cool climate, located in a part of Japan known for its natural beauty, which allows the tea plant to grow slowly, and develop lots of savory flavor that is desirable in early spring harvested green tea.
Shincha Yamakai is our first 2019 tea offering from Shizuoka. Like all shincha it was harvested in the beginning of the first harvest where tea plants coming off their dormant season produce delicate flavors and the amino acids that give shincha its characteristic umami flavor and sweetness. Yamakai, its namesake, is a relatively new cultivar that was propagated from Yabukita cultivar seed. It was grown using organic farming techniques, making it the first time I have come across an organic farm in Shizuoka.
Shincha Yamakai is a style sometimes referred to as yamacha, or “mountain tea,” due to its relatively high growing elevation. The plant genetics produce a lively green flavor similar to a yabukita cultivar tea, but with a delicate, lingering floral finish. Despite being a lightly-steamed shincha it has a rounded umami sweetness, and a pleasing mouthfeel, with the only a slightly brisk bitter-sweetness.
Due to the leaf size and cultivar, Shincha Yamakai can handle slightly hotter water than most shincha. In a 400 ml teapot or kyusu, steep 12-14 grams of tea in 175°F water for 1 minute. Steep a second infusion for 30-45 seconds.
Yamakai is good served mizudashi or “cold steeped.” To steep this way, use 15-20 grams of tea per liter and steep in cold water refrigerated for 16-24 hours. Once it has finished steeping, strain into a container, serve cold, and keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.