If there’s one thing we all know well enough by now it’s that Japan does green teas perfectly. They have their methods and productions perfected and they have every right to be well know because of their many incredible varieties of green tea. But as we have discussed previously, they also have a long history with black tea that is often overlooked and there is much more tea experimentation happening within the Japanese tea industry, and there are so many teas that have been produced because of that experimentation.
This Hinokuni Kumamoto Tea Farm: Aged Japanese Oolong is one of those teas. It’s a strongly oxidized oolong tea from Fujisako-san’s May 2007 harvest, that has been aged in long-term cold storage. It’s from Sagara Village, in the Kuma District, Kumamoto, and the cultivar is Zairai Yamacha. Now I have tried Japanese oolong before, but this was my first experience with an aged Japanese oolong, and as someone who can’t have Pu’erh I was really interested to see what this tea had to offer and experiment over various session with it.
Upon opening the bag of loose leaves for the first time an aroma emerged that contained notes of slightly sweet woody honey, dark woods – wet autumn forest floors – a hit of marmite, dark chocolate, moss, autumn air, and fermented lemon. A unique aroma for sure but considering it’s been aged since 2007 I did expect some funkier notes from it, I tried three Pu’erhs before I found out they can be bad for my allergies but this gave me those Pu’erh vibes just without the intense Pu’erh funkiness. It’s a little like a Pu’erh and Taiwanese oolong combined. From this moment onwards in my first session I was so intrigued to see what notes transferred from aroma today and whether or not I was going to enjoy the overall experience.
The dry leaves range in shade from light brown to mid dark brown, the leaves are quite broken and as a result they do range in size from small – medium, but the size of the leaves don’t for me dictate quality as when I say small I’m not talking about the tea dust you get in a tea bag.
Just like the aroma from the dry leaves, the wet leaves have just as much to offer, only this tea truly came alive once the leaves were wet. It gave off notes of dark wood, moss on a fallen tree in the middle of a woods that has been turned into a penny tree over many years with each passer by putting a penny into its bark and making a wish leaving slight notes of oxidized copper hint to the cup.
One of my favorite aspects of this tea was the notes of old first edition books with the sun shining onto the pages, the overall aroma took me straight back to my visit the John Rylands library in Manchester that was filled with rare first edition books from centuries past that John Rylands wife filled and dedicated to him after he passed, its architecture is stunning with carved ornate stonework.
When I visited last it was summer and the sun shining through the windows made the room smell incredible, a mix of warm stone and old books so so rare you are only allowed to touch them with permission from the staff and you have to wear white gloves before you even touch them. I haven’t visited in a while but the smell of these wet leaves took me straight back there and I love when a tea can give me a experience like that.
The liquor of this tea throughout all of my session was a beautifully deep golden brown with rich earthy tones. Very deep and reminiscent of something you would see from a black tea or a puerh.
When it comes to how this rltea tastes its top notes are very earthy, theres pronounced minerality to it, with notes of wood, dried apricots, hay, smokiness, crunchy autumn leaves, fermented lemon, melted dark chocolate, fruit malt loaf, browned butter. You can definitely taste the ageing on this oolong and compared to other Japanese oolongs I’ve tried, out of all of them I have tried in the past I would say that this one provides a completely different experience and I honestly believe this aged Japanese oolong might be the best Japanese oolong I’ve tried.
After a few sessions with this this tea and experimenting with the amount of leaf used and the steeping temps and times, I noticed when I used more leaf and steeped it for a little bit longer, the woodsy autumn notes became much more pronounced, which I really enjoyed, as I noticed that it was amplified but didn’t seem to overpower the other notes within the flavour profile at all and if anything provided a little more depth to this oolong than it had previously.
The overall mouthfeel throughout all steeps was smooth with a woodsy dryness. Leaving quite an earthy aftertaste with a ever so slight tinge of fermented lemon to it. As the steeps went on it did get a little dryer but of dry enough to be able to effect my overall enjoyment of the tea. The overall finish was slightly cooling, smooth but rather short, and gave me the vibes of a wet autumn forest with a brisk cold air blowing through it,
The empty cups from my sessions gave off an aroma of woodsy honey, moss, crisp fallen autumn leaves, pencil sharpening’s made using an electric pencil sharpner resulting in them being slightly warm and a hint of what I can only describe as the way the air smells in winter just after it’s been raining and there’s a strong cold wind. Every aspect of this tea through the whole session stayed incredibly consistent right up until the end of the session.
Building layer upon later through the session but sticking to the same overall theme, which seemingly fit my environment right now perfectly with the wet, dark and cold days we’ve been having here in the UK. I honestly couldn’t think of a better tea for throughout the holiday season, because it left me feeling cozy, relaxed, warm, and sleepy, again matching the taste to the body sensation and just making the overall immersion of the tea session even stronger.
Overall as you can probably tell from my notes on this tea I thoroughly enjoyed being able to experience an aged oolong for the first time, especially one that was harvested the year I started high school. Luckily I still have lot of this tea let and know that makes me so happy because I enjoyed my first few sessions with it so much, and it’s not often these days I get to have too many completely new to me teas so that made my experiences with this tea so far even more special.
It’s such a unique tea and has definitely sparkle a fire within me that will keep me on the hunt for more aged Japanese oolongs as we venture into 2022. Keep an eye on my social media as I document teas I drink daily on Instagram and it’s a great way to get a sneak peak at things that may feature in future blog posts.
Should you want to try out this tea for yourself, which I highly recommend you do, you can purchase it over on the Yunomi website here. As always if you have any questions at all, either stick them in the comments or send them to me on Instagram @kimberleyskyusu
Until next time, Happy Steeping – Kimberley