Makinohara Benifūki Oolong (牧之原烏龍茶) is an unusual oolong tea from Japan. Grown at low altitude around Makinohara in Shizuoka Prefecture, it is made from the Benifūki (べにふうき) cultivar. It is grown and processed to organic standards without use of any pesticides. This particular batch is a summer flush tea, harvested in May 2022. Like all of our Makinohara Japanese teas, we source it directly from the grower in Shizuoka.
Japan is particularly known for green tea, with most farmers focusing on producing traditional Japanese teas to meet local and international demand for them. This makes speciality teas like this Benifūki Oolong rather rare and unusual.
The Benifūki cultivar (also often written as Benifuuki in English) is the result of cross-breeding two cultivars in Japan in the 1960’s. The selected cultivars were MakuraCd86, a Camellia sinensis that originated from descendants of Darjeeling plants, and Benihomare that originated from descendants of Camellia assamica plants found in India and Sri Lanka. The actual Benifūki cultivar was registered in Japan only in 1993 but has become rather popular for production of Japanese oolong and Benifuki Wakocha black teas.
This oolong is a lighter style of oolong and it immediately draws comparison to similar light oolong teas from Taiwan and China. These kind of light yet flavoursome ‘green’ oolong teas are gaining popularity in Japan, in some part due to the global popularity of bubble tea. This tea style is still a rarity in Japan but perhaps we will be seeing more Japanese growers adopting these lighter style oolongs as the local demand for them increases.
The leaves of this Makinohara Benifūki Oolong are of rather mixed size that includes larger and smaller leaf as well as stalks. The liquor produced has a gold-green colour and a lovely floral and vegetal aroma. The taste is bold, with a herbaceous profile. The floral and vegetal character has creamy and peppery notes with a lasting, slightly astringent flavour. There is an orange zest aspect on the aftertaste that makes this tea even more intriguing. This oolong definitely leaves you with a more comforting rather than refreshing sensation.
We find this tea can be a little tricky to brew, with the smaller leaf contributing to a bolder and sometimes more astringent flavour. We suggest brewing at 80°C for 1 minute with multiple infusions. If you are finding the flavours too strong you can decrease the temperature to 70°C or increase the water to leaf ratio.