Hon Yama: Shincha from Japan’s ‘Shizuoka Alps’

The Hon Yama tea growing region is located along the streams and valleys of the Abe and Warashina Rivers at the base of Shizuoka’s Southern Alps. It is a renowned terroir for sencha aficionados with natural micro-climates that are exclusive to the remote inner reaches of the Shizuoka Prefecture. Hon Yama is one of the original tea production areas here with nearly 800 years of tea farming history. The Zen monk Shoichi Kokushi introduced tea seeds in 1244 AD and the premium sencha created here was favored and lauded by the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616 AD), emperors and elites throughout Japanese history. 
This spectacular tea origin is the highest elevation tea growing region for Japanese sencha and is surrounded by dense mountain forests, clear air, pure river streams and abundant nature. It is a perfect environment for making tea with its rich soil and riverbed waters flowing from the Southern Shizuoka Alps. Fog formed from the large temperature swings from day to night combine with the river mists to create a natural shading for the tea bushes. The Hon Yama region’s winter lasts about two months longer than the rest of Shizuoka and its cool climate results in a tea harvesting season that starts about a month later than other tea producing areas. 

This extended growing period means tea bushes of the Hon Yama region have more dormancy time to accumulate energy and nutrition before the spring flush. The gradual growth of the tea gardens provides a richer, complex and more aromatic cup of sencha that is favored by tea connoisseurs. The micro-climates of this region create the deep taste and mountain fresh aroma we can find in well-made Hon Yama sencha. The aroma associated with Hon Yama sencha is a natural phenomenon referred to in the language of tea tasters as “Yamano Kaori” or “Yama Ka,” which means “the mountain aroma” or “the mountain fragrance”.
Due to the aging population and a lack of successor generations of tea farmers in the Hon Yama region, the production quantity of Hon Yama sencha is decreasing each year. The teas are becoming very scarce and valuable. Several of our friends in Japan have recently taken up abandoned tea farms in Hon Yama and refurbished artisan factories to keep Hon Yama sencha alive for the future. As tea lovers, we want to share these teas and expand the awareness for them amongst our tea community in hopes to do our part to keep the Hon Yama tea tradition alive. Only through the Garden Direct sharing of these precious teas each year can we encourage farming families to keep going for the future generations of tea lovers. 
This year we sourced several exclusive batches of shincha from the Hon Yama region to highlight the special character and terroir of Shizuoka’s original mountainous region of sencha. Within Hon Yama there are various micro-climates and unique producing villages. We selected a few to showcase the differences and special aroma ranges from this season. The light-steamed shincha has length of aftertaste and aroma. Hon Yama sencha is much more complex than the ubiquitous umami and vivid green tea. Sakura, alpine evergreen, multi-florals, brisk bittersweetness, challenge and elegance of tannin structure are some key features of Hon Yama sencha but not the extent of what we can find in these precious tea gardens.  The special aromatic complexity and layered flavors of the Hon Yama tea region stand out from all other types of sencha.

Garden Direct Teas from Hon Yama, Shizuoka, Japan

Hon Yama Okawa Shincha

This Hon Yama shincha is from a micro-lot made with the Sayamakaori cultivar. The tea leaf of Sayamakaori is thicker than other cultivars and contains more total tannin, which results in a brisk and dense flavor with a deep aroma.

Hon Yama Tamakawa Shincha

Tamakawa is one of the top-quality areas of the Hon Yama tea production region of Shizuoka (high mountain region of Shizuoka tea)The soft sweetness and umami are balanced with an elegant astringency and complex aroma that is like high mountain oolong tea from central Taiwan.

Hon Yama Okouchi Sencha 

The infusion of this Okouchi shincha is lustrous with a lemony-lime vibrancy and glow, while the flavor and aroma are balanced and luxurious. This Hon Yama sencha mountain tea is one of the best shincha lots we procured this year.

Our Travel Journal

Rishi Tea and Botanical's practice of direct trade is defined by personal relationships with tea and herb growers around the world.  Follow along as our team of buyers travels extensively each year to follow the peak harvests and selects the very best micro-lots just days after production.

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