Mikkou koucha or honey-scented black tea is one of the more unusual black teas from Japan. Honey-scented here doesn’t mean adding any fragrance or flavouring to the tea, but is a natural occurence after tea leaves are bitten by an insect known as unka or planthopper that usually appear during the summer.
A famous bug-bitten tea is the Taiwanese baihao oolong known as Oriental Beauty or Dongfang Meiren.
In Japan, it’s not very mainstream as many farms still employ conventional farming methods. This was one of the few bug-bitten Japanese teas I’ve bought last year. I’ve written about two others, one from a farm in Miyazaki prefecture and another from Nara prefecture.
This mikkou koucha is from Ureshino in Saga prefecture. It’s by Ota Shigeki Tea Factory, which has been cultivating tea without using chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers since 1978. I’ve also previously bought an osmanthus black tea from them.
They mainly produces Ureshino’s traditional steamed tamaryokucha (also known as guricha) but started to make black tea since 1988.
This is an unusual black tea from them because it’s made from the Saemidori cultivar, which is more commonly used to make sencha, tamaryokucha, kamairicha, and even gyokuro. In other words, it’s a common cultivar for green tea. So I found it interesting to be made into black tea.
According to Ota Shigeki Tea Factory, this tea was harvested during the second harvest of 2020 after the leaves were bitten by the planthoppers. They employed processing methods similar to Dongfang Meiren (even though it’s an oolong), which resulted in black tea with honey-like aroma.
Another interesting detail about this particular tea is that, it’s already past its best-before date in December 2021. This was a deliberate gamble on my part, since people often say, black tea can age well.
The package contained 40g of dark, curly leaves and some stems, with a slightly woody fragrance.
I used 3g of tea leaves, brewed with 100ml water of 90°C for 2 minutes.
The tea liquor was a rich shade of amber, with a sweet aroma. Taste-wise, it was rather heady with a robust malty note and strong honeyed sweetness.
I really like how it taste in the first steeping. Surprisingly, it tasted about the same for the second and third steepings, without losing that strong honeyed taste.
The leaves were good up to five steepings without losing flavours.
The used leaves looked like any regular black tea leaves, like those made of Yabukita or Benifuuki cultivars. I wouldn’t have been able to tell that this was a cultivar usually made into green tea. Then again, the processing as black tea had rendered them different than those processed as greens, so yeah, not much basis for comparison here.
This was a really very delicious black tea. Wondering if this is what aging does to a black tea?? If that’s the case, I have high hopes for some of the others that are approaching their best-before dates! LOL.