Tasting Sessions – Tsujki: Heritage Grade Uji Hikari Matcha

Recently I was given the chance to try an incredible matcha by the team over at Yunomi and I knew from the instant I took my first sip that I was going to end up writing a long form post about my experiences with this tea. The matcha in questions is a Modern Heritage Grade Uji Hikari Single Cultivar Matcha by Master Kyoto Tea Farmer Tsuji Kiyoharu.

Before a get into my tasting notes and overall experiences with this matcha here’s all the information you need to know about it:

  • Cultivar: Uji Hikari
  • Cultivation: Cultivated using centuries-old traditional methods with the exception of plastic canopy shading instead of traditional reeds and straw. Tsuji-san also conducts soil analysis monthly and analysis of amino acid content in the leaf (which forms the umami flavour) annually to craft the best leaf year after year. Field used for competition grade tencha as well.
  • Harvest: May (see variant info for year…in general leaves are aged for about 5 months before grinding is allowed so the newest harvest is released in Oct-Nov). Handpicked for maximum quality.
  • Processing: Steamed and dried in a traditional tencha oven. Carefully refined removing stems, veins before grinding.

And of course I couldn’t let this post happen without talking about the amazing tea farmer behind this phenomenal matcha. Tsuji-sensei, a fifth generation tea farmer and is one of Japan’s top cultivators and producers of tencha. The field this matcha comes from is also used for competition grade tencha as well. In fact his Asahi cultivar tea field (Asahi Matcha can be found here on the Yunomi Website) has helped him win dozens awards over the years at the regional and national level. The accumulation of accolades have led to the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for agriculture in 2017.

 His tea plants are unpruned, hand-harvested, and some of his plants are grown using a traditional form of shade-growing (the Honzu technique) in the region’s nutritious red clay soil. Though the matcha featured in this post was shaded using plastic canopy shading instead of traditional reeds and straw – hence the modern heritage grading given by Yunomi.

When the first flush arrives in shincha season (the first crop of the year), the tencha tea leaves are stone-milled to create a super fine powder. Tsuji san’s matcha has the highest concentrations of L-theanine and amino acids ever recorded of any matcha in the world.

So far I have tried this particular matcha prepared as Usucha (Thin Tea) & Koicha (Thick Tea). When it came to the koicha it was so light and airy like a matcha moose but the flavour was rich and had so much depth to it. Preparing matcha as koicha is a fantastic way to learn a lot about it both good and bad because it uses more matcha and less water so you are able to pick out all the aspects of it’s flavour profile even the subtlest ones due to the strength. The usucha was just as flavourful but the overall body was lighter.

Both were enjoyable in their own ways but I don’t tend to make koicha as regularly as usucha so the fact it was just as enjoyable as usucha as it was koicha made me very happy. Something tells me that this matcha would be the perfect matcha to create a matcha affogato with because the koicha was so light and airy. I feel like it would pair with a clotted cream ice cream perfectly as it’s not too sweet and I feel like it would balance the whole dish out.

Upon opening the foil packet the powder was a fresh spring time mid shade green in colour and instantly released into the air was an aroma of milk chocolate; sweet roasted buckwheat, sweetened cream cheese and baked cheesecake with a crumbly buttery biscuty base. Hints of Cacao butter were also present but very light. It was such a pleasantly sweet and indulgent aroma and as someone with an insane sweet tooth, I was so intrigued to see how the matchas aroma would change with the addition of some water and much to my surprise the aroma changed completely.

It became more more nutty (a mix of cashews and pistachios roasted), earthy, vegetal and savoury. With notes of salted tortilla chips, buttered noodles, soy sauce and toasted sesame seeds. I really didn’t know what to expect from this matcha taste wise after getting two completely different aromas from it to start off this session. In term of how it changed visually it became a much darker toned green but that’s only to be expected as most matchas do the same once you add in water.

The initial stand out flavours for me when it came to this matcha were flavours reminiscent of creamy almond butter on freshly baked brioche bread with a sprinkling of sea salt, slightly sweetened cream cheese and incredibly subtle hints of subtle hits of milk chocolate as if I had been eating milk chocolate not long before drinking this matcha. It carries a deeply satisfying umami that is a mixture of freshly cut but not cooked green beans, spinach and freshly cut grass on a cold spring morning. It is however balanced by a nice light sweetness, subtle lingering elements of roasted nuts and an toasted sesame seeds. The flavours are rich satisfying but at just the right intensity. cream cheese and subtle hits of milk chocolate, a slight pinch of sea salt.

There is zero astringency to this matcha even when prepared as koicha. It has a rich mouthfeel and creamy body that hits all sides of your tongue. It’s incredibly flavourful but not too heavy at all. It’s transformative from the beginning to the end of the session I was questioning every move this matcha was going to make and It’s been a while since I’ve had a matcha do that. The overall finish is mellow, smooth and the vegetal notes do linger for a good amount of time. Each and every session I have had with this tea has left me feeling uplifted, energised, motivated.

Whenever I have this matcha I pair it with some sakura mochi chocolates that I also got from Yunomi and it brought them to life! The addition of the sweet sakura note and the milk chocolate from that paired with the flavours of this matcha excellently combining together to create the the ultimate indulgent spring time experience in a cup.

As you can probably tell by my tasting notes I loved this matcha, it was so unique compared to all other matchas I’ve tired and I’m so thankful I was given the opportunity to try it out. I would definitely say that this is a top 5 matcha for me. It was simply a cut above the rest and if you’re obsessed with matcha like I am and you’re always on the look out for new high quality unique matchas to try, I can’t recommend this highly enough. This is a matcha enthusiasts dream and a great way to experience just one aspect of the region of Uji, upon trying this matcha you’ll quickly understand why so many people within the tea world say that the best matchas come from Uji.

You can purchase this matcha over on the Yunomi Website. If you have any questions at all about this tea or any kind of tea in general head over to my Instagram @kimberleyskyusu as that’s where I’m usually most active.

Until next time, Happy Steeping – Kimberley

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