In this article, we’re going to introduce “Yutakamidori”, the second largest cultivar in Japan.
Yutakamidori, Japan’s second most widely produced early-harvesting cultivar
As of 2019, Yutakamidori accounts for 6.5% of the share of green tea produced in Japan and is the second most-produced variety after Yabukita.
Yutakamidori has a unique aroma that can be likened to grains or herbs and has a strong astringent and delicious flavor. Let’s take a closer look at what kind of cultivar it is.
Characteristics of “Yutakamidori”
Mainly produced in Kagoshima Prefecture, disease-resistant but susceptible to cold
Although Yutakamidori accounts for only 6.5% of the total production in Japan, it is a prevalent cultivar, accounting for nearly 30% of the total production in Kagoshima Prefecture. In addition, it is often grown in tropical regions, and outside of Kagoshima Prefecture, it is also commonly grown in Miyazaki Prefecture.
Yutakamidori is resistant to disease, such as the fungus disease “anthracnose,” but it is susceptible to frost and cold, so it is grown mainly in the warmer regions of Kyushu.
Because of its high fertility and high yield, it is an easy-to-earn cultivar for growers in warmer, frost-prone areas.
Suitable for covered cultivation and deep steaming
Yutakamidori was registered in 1966 as a Kagoshima Prefecture’s official cultivar.
Yutakamidori has a strong flavor, but at the same time it has a strong astringent taste, and it was the perfect cultivar for creating a mild, full-bodied flavor by adding umami flavor (amino acids) while suppressing the production of catechins (astringent component) through covered cultivation and by “deep steaming” to suppress astringency.
Although today Kagoshima tea has a reputation for being delicious, there was a time when Kagoshima tea had a bad reputation for being cheap and bad. Yutakamidori is said to have overturned this image and made Kagoshima a famous tea production area.
Early harvest time
Yutakamidori is an early ripening cultivar with an early harvest time and picked more than 5 days earlier than Yabukita.
Yabukita is picked on Hachiju-Hachiya (the 88th day from the first day of spring), counting from Risshun (the first day of spring). But Yutakamidori is harvested at Shichiju-Nanaya (the 77th day from the first day of spring); it can be distributed nationwide one day earlier than other regions and cultivar.
In general, the earlier the tea is distributed, the higher the price in the tea market during the new tea season.
Kagoshima Prefecture is blessed with a mild climate and long hours of sunlight at the southern tip of Japan, and the price of new tea is determined by its earliness. For this reason, the cultivation of “Yutakamidori”, “Saemidori”, “Asatsuyu”, and other early cultivars is widespread in Kagoshima Prefecture.
Especially the new teas, which are the earliest to market each year called Hashiri-Shincha (Early-First picked tea.)
Taste of “Yutakamidori”
As mentioned above, Yutakamidori has a strong flavor and astringent taste, and a distinctive aroma that can be compared to that of herbs and grains. Most Yutakamidori is produced by deep steaming with a covering method.
In Kagoshima Prefecture and other southern regions where Yutakamidori is grown, the long hours of sunlight tend to make the grapes more bitter and astringent. To prevent this, Yutakamidori is grown with a cover cultivar to suppress bitterness while enhancing flavor.
The covered cultivation process also adds a “covering aroma,” which masks the unique aroma of Yutakamidori and creates a fresh scent.
The long steaming time and deep steaming process of sencha also reduce the astringency, resulting in a rich, mellow flavor.
This cultivar is attractive for its well-balanced astringency and sweetness, full and deep flavor, and beautiful light-blue watercolor.