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Nara Black




An outstanding black tea from Tsukigase in Nara prefecture made by one of Japan’s natural farming pioneers. Mr Iwata is the 17th generation of his family to farm at Tsukigase, and has used no artificial fertilisers or pesticides since 1984 when his father made the switch to natural farming. In 2011, after experimenting with how various fertilisers affect taste, Mr Iwata stopped the use of animal waste and now collects fallen leaves and grasses from the nearby forest and decomposes it to make his own fertiliser in harmony with the seasons and the farm’s surroundings.

Although the majority of the tea he makes is processed as sencha, Mr Iwata is acclaimed within Japan for the quality and distinctiveness of his black teas. We have chosen to offer the first tea that we ever tried from him back in 2011, which we visited him off the strength of soon after. The tea is a first picking of the Benihikari cultivar, a strain developed in the 1950s by crossbreeding the Assamica descended Benikaori with a Chinese varietal. Its sappy floral fragrance and partially oxidised leaves make Darjeeling Second Flush teas as the obvious reference point, but it has more complexity and power than the best teas we have tasted from that region. Its combination of acidity and fruit sweetness evoke notes of fig leaf, tomato and olive, with a slight menthol effect on the nose.

We have found this brews better with water that has been slightly cooled to around 90-95°C to keep a balance between sweetness and astringency, and around 3-4g per cup. Many infusions are possible.

Mr Iwata, Tsukigase, Nara, Japan

7 acres

Hybrid of Camellia Sinensis Sinensis and Camellia Sinensis Assamica, Benihikari cultivar. Ichibancha, harvested Spring 2018.

90-95°C, 3-4g per cup. 4 infusions.

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