The fragrant aroma of the Benifuki cultivar has been expressed very strongly in this tea. The Benifuki cultivar is a species that is said to be very suitable for the manufacturing of lightly oxidized oolongs such as the Tieguanyin, the famous “Iron Goddess” tea of Chinese origin. The producer of this pan-fired kamairicha has allowed the freshly picked tea leaves to wither slightly so that their delicious fragrance is brought to the fore more. When we brew this tea to savor its flavor and aroma, we get the comforting experience of a freshly mild and floral green tea.
This tea was featured in the April 2021 Tea Club. As I had some extra amounts secured it was possible to also offer limited quantities to customers here.
・Origin: Yame, Fukuoka, Japan (single estate).
・Farmer: Masashi Harajima.
・Cultivar: Benifuki cultivar.
・Harvest: Spring, 2020.
・Type: Kamairicha green tea / loose leaf.
This “pan-fired” tea is a specialty of Kyushu in southern Japan. The leaves are cultivated in the same way as un-shaded sencha, with abundant opportunities for photosynthesis to create high levels of catechins. Harvest is commonly done by machine. The raw tealeaf is not steamed, but parched in a frying pan, imbuing the tea with a distinct “cauldron aura” (釜香; kamaka). This results in a flavor that is less astringent than most other Japanese tea. Another unique characteristic of this tea is that the leaves are not shaped during the processing like with sencha. Instead, they maintain a curly comma-like shape called magatama-jo after the magatama jewels featured in Japanese folklore and art.
Cultivar chart – Benifuki
・Breeder: Tea and vegetable Research institute in Mie Prefecture.
・History: Registered in 1993 as number #44. The mother of this variety is the Benihomare cultivar, which is a direct descendant of Assam’s native species, and was mated with the ‘Makura Cd86’ cultivar, a variety with Indian Darjeeling roots. It was chosen in favor its fermentation potential, producing a balanced black tea with aroma, color and flavor gathered together in a harmonious whole. When produced as an oolong it is said to have great potential for the production of the ‘Iron Goddess’ or Tieguanyin.
・Growth: Intermediary grower, 7~9 days prior to Benihikari. 1~2 days later than Yabukita.
・Specifications: Strong against most of the primary diseases common on tea bushes.
・Suitable land: Best suited for growth in areas with a mild climate, where winter colds are not too fierce.
About the Farmer
Several years ago, I spent two weeks traveling through Kyushu in search of unique organic tea. The village of Yame stood out for its high altitude (400 to 650 meters) and it was there that I met Masahi Harajima. He converted his fields to a strict organic process in 2015 based on the idea that farming without pesticides is easier at high altitudes due to the lack of bugs. The only additives he uses are natural fertilizers that comply with organic guidelines, and his prizewinning tea is proof that going organic is a viable and fulfilling option for Japanese tea farmers.
While this kamairicha contains helpful catechins, I suggest brewing this tea for taste and fragrance alone as opposed to medicinal use due to its exceptionally fresh flavor.
・Amount of tea ：3g
・Steep duration：20~40 sec.
Suggested no. of infusions: [3+]
Watch The Tea Club ed. April 2021 Preview video here: