Kawane Yabukita Asamushi Sencha (川根町浅蒸し煎茶) is a high grade sencha from the famous Kawane Honcho mountainous terroir of Shizuoka Prefecture in Japan, located in the upper reaches of the Ōi River. Made from the popular Yabukita (やぶきた) cultivar, it undergoes careful processing and a shorter asamushi steaming process, resulting in a fine neat leaf that is more intact. It produces a sweet and savoury grassy liquor that has complex notes, yet is smooth and easy to drink. This tea was harvested on 30 April 2021. We source it with the help of a specialist small wholesaler in Shizuoka who works with the farmer directly.
Kawane is a famous mountainous tea producing region, stretching up the steep mountainsides around the Ōi River in Shizuoka. The teas from this area are also known as Kawane-cha in Japan. Kawane is located between the other two famous tea regions of Shizuoka – Tenryu to the West and Honyama to the East. This larger region presents a rugged mountainous terrain that is cut through by numerous rivers and sees abundant rainfall. The conditions mean that the tea fields are often shrouded in fog and mist, especially in the spring months. This results in less exposure to the sun and acts as a natural way to slow down the growth of the tea plants, leading to a richer and more fully flavoured tea. Additionally, being an earlier spring tea, it benefits from the cooler spring climate and slower leaf growth. This again contributes to the complexity of flavour.
While there is no specific reference point to the origin of Kawane tea, there are official records from the Edo period referencing the production of tea in Kawane. Additionally older village records show that the villages of Kawane paid their annual tribute with tea. As payment of tribute in tea required an established production system, it is though that history of Kawane tea dates to at least the Muromachi period (1336 to 1573). Certainly nearby Honyama has a tea history going back 800 years, so it is likely that at some point tea production spread from Honyama to Kawane and that the process occurred before the Edo period.
This Kawane Asamushi Sencha, like most of Japanese green teas, is steamed rather than pan roasted. However it is a little more special as it undergoes a shorter steaming processes, referred to as light steaming. In Japanese, asamushi (浅蒸し) means light steamed as the tea undergoes steaming for less than 30 seconds as opposed to the usual futsuumushi (普通蒸し) steaming, which is 30 seconds to 1 minute. There is also a deep steamed version called fukamushi (深蒸し), our Ariake Fukamushi Sencha being a prime example. The length of steaming has a direct correlation to the size of the leaf in the finished tea. The longer the steaming process, the fine and smaller the resulting dry leaf is. Hence fukamushi teas tend to have a very fine, small leaf. Conversely asamushi teas will retain a larger, more intact leaf.
As expected from an asamushi sencha, it has very fine, long slender leaves that have a polished appearance with a vibrant dark green colour. It produces a bright and clear yellow-green liquor with a sweet and a little savoury grassy aroma. While the aromas are definitely more on the grassy side, the flavour tends to be more vegetal. The first things that strikes you about the taste is the mouth-coating sweetness and an overall smooth, easy to drink impression. The overall grassy profile has sweet vegetal and savoury umami notes that are reminiscent of pumpkin and sweet potato. The tasting starts more on the sweet side, then progressing to a more savoury edge, leading to a lasting finish. Still there is no astringency or tannins on the aftertaste. Further infusions bring out less sweetness and more vegetal flavours that lean towards fresher notes of celery and green peppers.
We suggest brewing at 70°C for 1-2 minutes according to your taste. It can be brewed around 2+ times depending on your taste preferences. This tea will perform at its best if brewed using a good traditional side-handled kyūsu (急須) tea pot specifically designed for brewing sencha tea. In such case, adjust the amount of leaves to 3g per 120ml of 60-70°C water, brewing 60-90 seconds per infusion, slowly increasing brewing time until there is no flavour left.