May 2021 harvest
The leaf is clearly thin and delicate and when dry, has a soft, high scent of butterfat with an even softer ‘dark’ undertone. The cut is small and uniform, about the size of sea salt flakes, which allows for quick infusion. Despite this, there is very little astringency and no bitterness. It is best prepared as a one-steep tea with long infusion time. Probably well suited for a European-style large teapot brew.
A doughy aroma gently stimulates the senses. I think of it less like yeast, which gmathis aptly noted, and maybe more like a fresh, doughy and warm soft pretzel.
As far as the taste, this tea is all about the tones and lacks distinct flavor notes. Low tones of well worn soft leather, old dark wood, dark bread and forest soil earthiness with some red currant brightness are so soft and rounded. Tinges of astringency and acidity. When prepared with higher leaf:water ratio, I do notice some of the vanilla sugar Thés du Japon suggests.
This profile is a bit of a mystery to me. If I am to categorize its character, it’s maybe like an African black tea with a leathery Assam but without the typical assamica punch of either. The velvety and full body is more like a high-quality Chinese Qimen and does not match what the leaf visual brings to mind.
Interesting tea and worth a try for the curious. Read more here: https://japaneseteasommelier.wordpress.com/2017/12/24/karabeni-cultivar-black-tea/
Flavors: Bread, Bread Dough, Cream, Dark Wood, Earthy, Leather, Red Currant, Round, Soft, Sugar, Vanilla