Today’s review will focus on the Hime Fuki Organic Makurazaki Black Tea, purchased from Yuuki-Cha. You may view this product at the Yuuki-Cha Shop by clicking here.
First, I would like to say a few words about Yuuki-Cha. Ever since my interest in Japanese tea began while attending a Japanese Tea Ceremony, I have become a rather frequent visitor of the Yuuki-Cha website. At first, I went there to see all of the beautiful kyusu and other earthenware teapots, cups, and other authentic Japanese tea utensils. I have since purchased two kyusus from Yuuki-Cha, and if I did not have at least the minimal self control that I do, then I would have purchased dozens of the earthenware pots and cups. They are simply beautiful, and the prices are quite reasonable compared to some other shops I have visited. The shipping from Japan to the U.S. is inexpensive and surprisingly quick, and the products always arrive nicely packed and secured.
With regard to the Japanese teas offered by Yuuki-Cha, every single one of them is organically certified by the JAS, or Japanese Agricultural Standard. The prices of the teas can seem a bit high, as evidenced by the fact that this is the first tea I have reviewed from Yuuki-Cha, but if you are looking for what I believe are some of the best Japanese teas offered outside of the country, then the prices are reasonable and the quality is outstanding. Although I am reviewing this Hime Fuki Organic Makurazaki Black Tea first, I did have a taste of the Organic Uji Gyokuro Gokou Green Tea last evening, and it seriously and honestly took me to another level of existence. More on that experience will come when I review that product. I have been on a Japanese and Korean tea craze recently, and my first stop was Yuuki-Cha.
Now, about the Hime Fuki Organic Makurazaki Black Tea, this is a hand-picked (Tezumi) spring tea organically grown and manufactured in Makurazaki, Kagoshima Prefecture, in the deep south of Japan (see Google map below). Harvested in May (Ichibancha), the leaves are only plucked from tea bushes of the Benifuki cultivar. This particular black tea has been awarded multiple times, and appears to have a rather solid reputation among Japanese black tea producers and connoisseurs. As mentioned above, the Benifuki tea leaves are harvested by hand, not by machine, unlike the vast majority of Japanese teas. This fact, and the organic cultivation, results in comparably low annual production of this tea, thus the higher price tag.
The sample packet has been opened, and a rich, woody and sweet scent is escaping the packet. Let the journey begin…
The dry leaves have a uniform dark brown to black color, with a few small golden tips. The leaves and buds are all small to medium sized fragments, and are machine rolled. There appears to be no bare stems in the mix. The pluck cannot be determined by the dry leaves. The leaves have a very dry, hard, rigid texture. The smell has scents of malt, fresh baked bread, toasted grains, dry pine wood, and a touch of dry kelp.
Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Spring water was heated to 205°F (96°C). The leaves were infused for 4:00 minutes.
My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 205°F (96°C). Steep the leaves for 3:00 minutes. Expect two worthy infusions out of the same serving of leaves. Increase steep time on the second infusion by 45 seconds to 1:00 minute.
The first infusion produced a liquor with a very deep, dark ruby red color which is translucent, but dark enough to not be transparent. The aroma has rich scents of roses, pine wood, fresh baked bread, grapefruit, malt, and toasted grains. The body is full, with a velvety, smooth texture, and a calming yet energizing spirit. The taste has strong notes of roses, pine wood, and grapefruit, with less dominant notes of malt, fresh baked bread, toasted grains, and sea mist. The piney, rosey, grapefruit notes carry through the persistent aftertaste, and slowly evolves into a citrusy, floral essence.
The infused leaves have a uniform copper brown color. The leaves and small buds are all small to medium sized fragments. There are a few bare stems in the mix. The pluck cannot be determined by the infused leaves. The leaves have a thin, soft, somewhat paper-like texture. The smell has scents of roses, grapefruit, and light pine wood.
The Hime Fuki Organic Makurazaki Black Tea from Yuuki-Cha is an incredibly interesting, unique, and beautiful black tea. Although not so interesting to observe the dry and infused leaves, all of the interest comes in the liquor. With a deep, dark ruby red color, full body, and somehow calming, uplifting energy, this black tea could be compared to a high quality Keemun black tea with a Japanese twist. The dominant aromas and tastes of roses and pine wood are very reminiscent of Keemun, but there is certainly a touch of sea mist in the Hime Fuki that you will never find in a Keemun. The Hime Fuki Organic Makurazaki Black Tea is an aromatic, flavorful, and delectable tea that you need to experience. With this type of high quality black tea coming out of Japan, it is somewhat of a wonder to me that more people are not familiar with it. Without a doubt, this is the best Japanese black tea that I have experienced.
Thank you to the team at Yuuki-Cha for procuring and offering such interesting, high quality, and organic Japanese tea products! Cheers!