Master Obayashi’s Hijiri Sencha
A handpicked sencha made by the Obayashi family who have been producing award-winning teas over 30 years. Grown on the mountain where the gods of the great Ise Jingu are believed to dwell, hijiri is the Japanese word for sacred. On their small farm of about 10 acres in Okumikawa, Aichi they have maintained many of their 100 year old Yabukita trees just like the locals in these mountains who often keep a row of old tea bushes or yamacha (‘mountain tea’) as they call them. These simple country teas are either produced by hand or taken after picking to a small factory like the Obayashi’s one which helps make many of the local people’s tea.
This sencha is made from a blend of old tree Yabukita and yamacha (a rare form of zairai shu, a term referring to seed-grown botanical varieties of indeterminate cultivars). The leaves are of mixed appearance with many long blades of handpicked, almost intact leaves with a small amount of stem blended in for sweetness. The tea is mild and finely balanced, without excess in any direction, with a nutty, earthy flavour and refreshing astringency. Although not as umami heavy as many other high-quality senchas, this is a tea with a huge amount of character and is easily amongst the best of our 2016 Japanese greens.
We recommend brewing this tea with water cooled to 75-80°C and 3-4g of leaf per 150ml of water.
Obayashi Family Tea Farm, Okumikawa, Aichi, Japan
SIZE OF FARM
PLANTS AND PROCESSING
Camellia Sinensis Sinensis, Blend of Yabukita cultivar/Yamacha (Zairai shu). Light steaming (~30 seconds). Ichibancha, Harvested Spring 2018.
75-80°C, 3-4g per cup. 3 infusions.
Master Obayashi is an amazing force of nature. He has been making delicious handpicked green, black and roasted teas without pesticides for almost 40 years since he was first asked to make tea for the Emperor of Japan. People from the surrounding villages, all about 700m above sea level, use Obayashi’s tiny factory to make local yamacha or mountain tea from the ancient tea bushes close of their houses or in their back gardens.
Master Obayashi’s teas have won numerous Ministry of Agriculture awards and his tea has been selected as a tea for the Japanese Emperor. The first time was around 35 years ago and prompted him to stop using any pesticides. All his teas are hand-picked.The image below shows Obayashi-san standing in front of his field. A local activist, he has been responsible for running and preserving an ancient festival held just after New Year called Hana Matsuri which we visited in 2008. This area’s sacred and spiritual connection especially with Ise Jingu, the most revered shrine in Japan, as well as the quality of the tea is the reason why Obayashi’s tea has often been selected as a tea for the Emperor of Japan. When he was first selected to make tea for the Imperial family over 30 years ago, he decided to stop using any pesticide on his ancient tea trees.