A Deeper Look Into Japan's Tea Cultivars

Posted by Path of Cha on

We already know that all teas come from the same plant — Camellia Sinensis. However, even within this plant, there are many varieties or cultivars.

 

What Is A Tea Cultivar? 


Tea cultivars are bred explicitly by tea farmers to fit the growing conditions of their area best and to develop specific taste characteristics. This is one reason why even though for example all green tea comes from Camellia Sinensis, it can still taste drastically different.

And although you can make any kind of tea from any cultivar, some cultivars are reserved explicitly for certain teas. This is especially so in the case of matcha.



Every cultivar is unique because it posses its own color, flavor profile, and aroma. Some cultivars are specially cultivated to resist certain plant illnesses and pests that predominate certain areas more than others.

 

To develop a cultivar, the tea farms are propagated by cuttings instead of seeds. As a result, most tea farms in Japan are filled with plants of the same DNA. While this method produces a somewhat stable taste result, Japanese farmers have to take extra care of their farms to make sure that unwanted disease and pests don’t spread.

At Path Of Cha, our Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha is produced from the Kanayamidori, Asanoka, Samidori and Yabukita cultivars that are grown on a family farm in Shizuoka, Japan.


Our Organic Matcha is produced from Kanayamidori, Okumidori and Asanoka cultivars, on a family farm in Kakegawa region of southwestern Shizuoka, Japan.



What Are Some Of Japan’s Green Tea Cultivars?



Yabukita


With over 200 different cultivars in Japan, Yabukita is the country’s most popular cultivar, taking up almost 80% of all Japanese tea.

 

Yabukita can grow almost anywhere and has a remarkable strong flavor. However, it requires extra care to protect it from pests and such. It was first developed in 1908 by a Japanese tea farmer and became on of the first registered tea cultivars in the 1950s. While Yabukita is more common for sencha production, it also produces a matcha powder that is loved by many both in Japan and abroad.

Both our Fukamushi and Chumushi Sencha are of the Yabukita cultivar. 


Yabukita is light in color, slightly tart.

Samidori

Samidori is known as an early sprouting cultivar and is especially resistant to harsh weather conditions. Matcha made from this variety is exceptionally smooth, mellow, and has a velvety mouthfeel. This cultivar takes up 3% of all Japanese varieties and is usually explicitly cultivated for matcha.

Vibrant green with a complex and pronounced flavor.


Okumidori

Okumidori is a very vibrant dark green and sweet matcha cultivar. It takes up less than 1% of all Japanese varieties.

Okumidori is dark green, has a strong taste and aroma. 

Kanayamidori

Kanayamidori is named after the town of Kanaya, in Shizuoka, which is now a part of Shimada city.

This cultivar produces a sweet milky aroma and is mostly used for making sencha, however, it also produces exquisite matcha.

 

Smooth, with a milky aroma. 

 



Does A Darker, More Vibrant Green Signify A Better Matcha?



In general, people consider that the darker and greener the matcha powder is, the better the matcha. In most cases this is true, however, there are some exceptions.



While your matcha should be a pronounced green and not a swampy grayish-green color, darker matcha isn’t always better. The color often differs by cultivar, and some varieties that are lighter (for example the Yabukita) actually poses qualities that are more favored than certain cultivars that would produce more vibrant matcha.

Have you done taste-tests of different Japanese tea cultivars to spot the differences? Is there a cultivar that you prefer?


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