天空ノ山茶, literally “heavenly mountain tea”, is really heavenly.
It is produced in the deep mountains of western Tokushima, specifically Yamashiro village near Oboke. I bought it at the Oboke Roadside Station, popular for its great view of the mighty Yoshino River and the Oboke Gorge.
The tea is grown on steep slopes that are well-drained, with a foggy environment almost year round.
From what I read on the Internet, Tenkuu no Yamacha is the brand of tea cultivated by three tea farming families in this part of Tokushima. The one I bought is by the Kawauchi family, whose Yamashiro plantation lies high above the river.
The tea is carefully handpicked in early May and only the ichiban-cha (first-plucked tea) is harvested. There are no niban-cha harvest, and whatever that is picked will be sold until the stock finishes. I guess this makes Tenkuu no Yamacha a limited edition.
The dry leaves have a slight flowery fragrance.
With the first steeping for one minute at 70°C, the light-yellow tea was sweet with no astringency. I thought I tasted a note of mint and maybe, jasmine?
Second steeping at 80°C resulted in a sweetness with a very light umami taste, while the third steeping continued to be sweet and refreshing but there was no further hint of umami.
There was a lingering aftertaste of minty sweetness in the mouth for the first two times. It didn’t go away even after I had a piece of holiday fruit cake.
The used leaves still retained the flowery fragrance, which I couldn’t quite decide whether it was jasmine or something else.
Last but not least, you know it’s good quality sencha when the used leaves are good enough to be eaten like vegetables! They were perfect eaten with ponzu. Delicious!