Ashikita Yabukita Kamairicha (芦北町やぶきた釜炒り茶) is a satisfying vegetal Japanese green tea crafted from Yabukita cultivar plants. It is grown on Kajihara Tea Farm located in Ashikita District of Kumamoto Prefecture that is run to organic standards. Unlike most Japanese green teas, this tea is pan-fried rather than steamed, resulting in a more balanced and smoother character. We source this tea direct from the grower, Mr Toshihiro Kajihara. The current batch is from spring 2019 harvest and we also offer a black version of this tea, our Ashikita Yabukita Wakocha.
While Kajihara tea garden mostly focuses on heritage native ‘zairai’ plants, they also have a number of various Japanese cultivars planted on their farm to further differentiate and extend their range of teas. This Ashikita Yabukita Kamairicha is made from the leaves of Yabukita (やぶきた) cultivar plants. This cultivar is the most popular and widespread tea plant in Japan and Yabukita plants cover about 75% of Japanese tea fields. It was developed in the early 1900’s by Hikosaburo Sugiyama, a tea breeder from Shizuoka; but it was officially registered only in 1956. Yabukita plants quickly proved popular due to their hardiness, ease of cultivation and tea flavour produced. With time it became the mainstay of Japanese green tea production. One of the main factors for the popularity of the Yabukita cultivar has been the flavours that they are known for. These plants produce teas with typical savoury and umami grassy flavours and strong aromas that are particularly sought after in Japanese green tea.
Ashikita Yabukita Kamairicha is a pan-fried tea; kamairicha (釜炒り茶) literally translates as ‘pan-fried tea’. Pan-frying or steaming fresh tea leaves is the process that stops oxidation of the leaves, producing green tea. The process of pan-frying of tea leaves first arrived to Japan from China in the Edo period, around 17th century. However, this method fell out of favour and nowadays most Japanese green teas are steamed, which results in a distinctive taste that tends to be heavier on grassy, savoury and astringent flavours. By contrast, kamairicha undergoes pan-frying that results in a flavour profile that is more balanced with sweeter and lighter green notes. Less than 5% of current Japan’s tea output is within the pan-fried category. Pan-frying is still largely performed by hand and requires great skill by the tea master to achieve the perfect results. Hence the general rarity and higher costs for such green tea. We also offer an award-winning native tea plant Ashikita Zairai Kamairicha from Kajihara Tea Farm that makes an interesting comparison.
This Ashikita Yabukita Kamairicha green tea has neat, dark curled leaf that has evidently been pan-fried rather than steamed. The processing results in the leaf remaining largely intact when compared to steamed green teas. This Kamairicha has quite large leaf with a nice savoury and vegetal aroma on the dry leaf. The opaque liquor produced has a light yellow-green colour and a light vegetal scent. The flavours are very satisfying, with a balanced vegetal and savoury profile. There are pronounced mineral, umami and grassy notes that are a little reminiscent of a light gyokuro tea. The overall impression is that of verdant and herbaceous smoothness and a distinct thickness of the flavour. There is a little dryness at the end of the taste, yet no astringency or bitterness. The pleasant aftertaste continues to deliver similar flavours with a touch of sweetness. This is a great Japanese green tea that is perfect for savouring paired with light Japanese sweets.
It is best brewed at 80°C for around 2 minutes, with multiple infusions.
Ashikita Yabukita Kamairicha green tea was first featured in our January 2020 Curious Tea Subscription Boxes.