So I was mistaken.... White tea from Japan does not at all resemble what the other parts of the world know as “white tea” from southern China. Excited to have run into it along the cyber conversation I was having with a small on line tea paraphernalia store owner, I asked her to send me a sample package. She is the sweetest woman on earth, and so sooo typical of Japanese, who is trusting. She made such a nice package with full of goodies that I did not even asked for, like tea pot. For heaven’s sake, she does not know me, and I am thousands of miles away from her, yet, she trusted me and wanted to entertain my enthusiasm for tea that she shares.... So the package arrived safely, and this is the contents..... remember I only asked for a set of sample tea.....
In any case, white tea from Japan is not the furry relatively large leaves that we know of from China, but it’s rather a kind of sencha made with young soft leaves that are almost yellow in color, steamed gently. I has strong astringency present, recommended to brew not with hot water but with cold water. I brewed first with warm water at 55C for 3minuets. The result was a pungent tea with long finish of umami at the end. Long long finish, but, it is an aquired taste rather, as it attacks you with this strong astringency at the beginning. I rolled in my mouth to search for sweetness and other complexity. There is a tremendous complexity, if if.... you pass this forbiden door of astringency..... But, brewed in cold water, the tea was much more accessible, however, not suited for cold, rainy winter day like today!!! This I can see will be a good starter drink, like aperitif for nice rich french dinner.
Another kind that I asked her to send this time was the kabuse cha , the tea made with leaves that are harvested very young, during the crutial growth, the leaves are covered with special materical to minimize the exposure to direct sunlight, so as to increase the components for sweetness and umami. Covering of plants at critical growth is done for Gyokuro. Gyokuro requires 4 weeks of growth under complete coverage whereas Kabuse requires 2 weeks before havest. These leaves are extremely delicate and very easy to break. Because this region, Makino hara, specializes in steaming the tea longer to bring out the best coler, the tea at first glance, looks uneven and powderly with fine long grain mixed in, brewed at 50C for 3min, it takes you to another planet!! It has long finish, starts with soft umami with a gentle touch of tannin in the backgrownd. It can not beat the Uji Gyokuro, but, this is very unique, it difinitely has strong characteristics of Makinohara steam (fuka mushi) tradition.
Kabuse and White tea seem very similar in a sense both requires very low temperature to brew, and strong presense of Umami, but, with punch of tanin. I just wrote to the tea vender to educate me on Japanese white tea, what the consept of this tea is... In any case, very unique tea once again!!