Tea tasting: Organic black tea (Nukumori-en Yururi)

This tea was one of several Shizuoka black tea gifts that I received recently.

Nukumori-en Yururi is a traditional farm in Ogouchi village, Shimizu Ward, central Shizuoka, operated by the Nishiyama family. The closest train station would be Okitsu Station on the Tokaido line, but you’d need a car to reach the place.

The Nishiyamas began using the land that was originally a mikan or mandarin orange plantation to plant tea in 2001, and they are also growing crops with a focus on protecting the natural environment.

Since 2015, it is also a farmhouse inn, with accommodation and meals provided.

Nukumori-en Yururi offers various Japanese tea related activities, while producing organic tea and vegetables. I have previously written about it and the traditional hand-rolling tea experience that it offers.

Like many family-run farms, it produces mostly green tea, but black tea is also available.

This black tea is actually past its best-before date in.. 2020.

However, most, if not all, black teas age pretty well when stored in the right conditions, so I wasn’t too concerned about it. In fact, I had a fairly good expectation of this tea, so I didn’t open it in too much of a hurry. I let it continue to sit, unopened, in my tea cabinet until now.

True enough, when I opened the package I could still smell the faint sweetness of the dry leaves. The leaves were big and there were lots of big stems too, so I’m guessing this was from the second or even autumn harvest. Well, most black teas come from those harvests, but nowadays there are farms that exclusively produce black tea using the fresh new leaves of spring.

I used 3g of leaves, in 200ml boiled water. Steeped for one minute.

The resulting tea liquor was light amber. It had a very strong sweet aroma typical of good quality black tea. Never mind this tea could have been made in 2019 or even earlier?

The taste was strong, and even though the tea is not bug-bitten, there was a distinct honey-like sweetness to it. Is this what happens when you age black tea?

It had a smooth mouthfeel, and it was almost velvety despite its pale colour. The sweet aftertaste stayed long in the mouth.

For the second steeping I tried a lower temperature of 80C and a longer steep time of 2 minutes.

This time the colour of the tea liquor became a darker shade of amber. It retained the honey sweetness and there was no bitterness or astringency even though steeped for a longer time.

For the subsequent 3 steepings, I used 90C water and steeping time of one minute.

The tea was very consistent in its taste for up to five steepings. Tried a sixth steeping but everything had mellowed down.

Yet from the look of the used leaves, there seems to be some leaves that did not unfurl fully.

Nowadays I’m really into Japanese black tea. There is so much in terms of variety, thanks to the individual farms that produce them. It’s no longer just a seasonal by-product or an afterthought in the annual tea production cycle, as more Japanese farmers, and more importantly Japanese tea drinkers, realise its potential.

I have a few more black teas from Shizuoka to try, and I’ve also bought some of my own from different parts of Japan. Will drink them slowly.

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