Shimada Sakura Smoked Wakocha (櫻燻製和紅茶) is a highly unusual Japanese wakocha (black tea) that has been smoked over sakura wood. This tea undergoes natural slow smoking process and has no additional flavouring added. The resulting flavour is is light yet complex, with tangy and fruity smoky notes. We source this tea from a small tea producer based in Shimada, Shizuoka Prefecture that specialises in producing smoked black teas. Made from Yabukita cultivar plants that are grown to traditional Chagusaba farming method. The current batch is from the second flush picked in late May 2020.
The grower and producer of this tea, Mr Matsumoto, was the first to pioneer the production of smoked black tea in Japan. Third generation tea farmer, he is in charge of a small family-run tea garden located at low altitude in the basin of the Ōi River (大井川, Ōi-gawa) near Shimada City. This area is recognised by the Food and Agriculture Organization, a specialised agency of the United Nations, as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. Specifically it is a type of tea farming that is recognised, something Mr Matsumoto practices in his tea garden. All of his teas are produced according to this heritage method of tea growing.
Location of the tea garden:
The Traditional Tea-grass Integrated System in Shizuoka represents a type of farming known as Chagusaba (茶草場), which is commonly translated as semi-natural grasslands and is known as a traditional tea-grass integrated system in English. Chagusaba represents a system of traditional agricultural techniques, where grasslands are maintained around tea fields to supply mulch that improves the quality of tea cultivation. Chagusaba is a rare example of codependence between agricultural production and biodiversity, each of which enhances the other’s value.
For more than 10,000 years, Chagusaba areas have been maintained through human activity. However, the area of the semi-natural grasslands has been reduced with the modernization of agriculture. This disuse has led to a serious and rapid decline in the biodiversity of Chagusaba.
This decline is the reason to recognise and promote Chagusaba as this natural style of farming encourages and preserves local biodiversity. From a tea drinker’s perspective Chagusaba teas generally contain minimal or no artificial fertilisers, thus offering a cleaner and naturally more flavoursome cup of tea. You can also find lots of photography detailing the Chagusaba method on the website for the Council for the Promotion of Chagusaba in Shizuoka.
This Shimada Sakura Smoked Wakocha black tea consists of a mixed dark leaf that has a pronounced smoky aroma. As with many other Japanese teas, the level of oxidation is slightly less and the mixture of larger and smaller leaves results in a balanced profile. This tea was gently smoked over wood from sakura cherry blossom trees, giving a complexity to this tea that is quite unique. All of the smokiness that this tea possesses comes off on the aroma and the vapours. The profile is smoky and fruity with tart flavours of sour cherries. There are light notes of leather and pipe tobacco. The mineral and tart aftertaste leaves a very warming and comforting impression. This is a complex tea that might be surprising at the first sip but has the tendency to become more and more addictive.
It is best brewed at 90°C for around 3 minutes, with multiple infusions.