Kirishima Sencha (霧島煎茶) is a classic Japanese green tea that is grown in Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture. Made from Yabukita (やぶきた) cultivar plants, it produces a grassy liquor with smooth vegetal flavours and slight savoury edge. This tea is grown at an organic plantation that has full organic certification by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. We source this tea directly from the owner of the plantation. He is the owner of a small family-run business based in Shizuoka and Tokyo with over 150 years of history. They own small plantations in Kagoshima, Aichi and Kyoto Prefectures where they produce organic and traditional Japanese green teas. This particular tea comes from their small organic plantation in Kirishima and it was picked and processed in May 2022.
The organic plantation that this tea comes from is located in the foothills of Mount Kirishima in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyūshū. It is grown at an altitude of around 400m above sea level. As Kyūshū is the most southwesterly island of the Japanese four main islands, it enjoys a rather mild climate. But it can still get cold in the highlands, which are covered in snow in the winter months. The seasonality of the region requires frost hardy cultivars to be used, which tend to grow leaves slower, resulting in more flavoursome teas.
This Kirishima Sencha is made from the leaves of Yabukita 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 by a tea breeder from Shizuoka in the early 1900’s called Hikosaburo Sugiyama, but it was officially registered only in 1956. The well-performing Yabukita plants quickly proved popular due to their hardiness, ease of cultivation and tea flavours; with time becoming 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 teas.
When brewed, Kirishima Sencha produces a bright emerald green liquor with a light grassy and slightly nutty aroma. The overall grassy profile has a smooth vegetal flavour with sweet buttery notes. The overall level of astringency is low but there is a hint of nori seaweed and a mild umami flavour, which leads into a long aftertaste with a savoury edge. The overall smooth flavour leaves a lasting, yet refreshing impression.
It is best brewed at 80°C for 1-2 minutes and can be brewed 2+ times depending on your taste preferences. Kirishima Sencha is quite a versatile tea and the flavour can be easily adapted to suit the drinker’s preferences by changing the water temperature. Lower water temperatures will result in a more mellow and sweet tasting liquor. If you prefer a stronger flavour, you can experiment with slowly increasing the water temperature used to brew it.
Location of the organic tea garden in Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan: