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River & Stone Tea

Old Bush Zairai Rare Ceremonial Matcha

Old Bush Zairai Rare Ceremonial Matcha

Regular price $60.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $60.00 USD
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This is perhaps the most interesting matcha we offer - a true taste of history for matcha lovers.


Only 10 Kilograms are produced each year, and we reserved the whole harvest. Once again, it does not disappoint. This year's harvest has a pronounced lemon-poppyseed aroma, as well as an almost bubbly, lively mouthfeel.


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About Old Bush Zairai

Zairai is actually not the name of a cultivar, but a catch-all term for tea plants grown from seed. The vast majority of matcha comes from cultivars - that is, fields full of cloned cuttings, each plant genetically identical to all others. This enables a greater degree of predictability in terms of flavor, yield, frost resistance, pest resistance, and so on. Growing from seed means that each tea plant is genetically distinct.

Before the use of cultivars became commonplace in the mid 20th century, a far greater proportion of the tea planted in Japan was made from Zairai bushes. Now, Zairai bushes are so uncommon as to be a relic of a bygone era. The bushes that supply this Tencha are at least 60 years old, though our farmer thinks they may even predate World War II.

Why Does Bush Age Matter?

It is generally accepted within the world of loose leaf tea, in particular within the traditions of Chinese Oolong and Pu'er teas, that the older the bush/tree, the better the tea. Typically, this is seen as due to the deeper roots of older plants, which draw up more minerals and organics from the soil, and thus more flavor into the leaves. Older plants also have smaller yields, so the nutrients within the plant are distributed to a smaller number of leaves, creating a greater concentration of flavor. Finally, there is often the notion that the Qi, or energy, associated with older tea plants is more profound.

The age of the tea bushes is little discussed in the world of matcha, however. This is because, given the way people are farming these days, bushes don't tend to live very long in the first place. With excessive use of fertilizer and pesticides, the health of the soil and tea plants decline rapidly, and farmers are keen to uproot and replace older tea bushes the moment their yield starts to decrease. Thankfully, there are still some growers that disagree with this practice, and carefully tend their old tea bushes so that we might enjoy them.

Origin

The tencha for our Old Bush Zairai matcha comes from a small natural farmer in Wazuka, the epicenter of tea growing in Japan. This farmer manages just one hectare of land, and a small portion of that hectare has been kept as the Zairai bushes. We love this Tencha so much that we reserved the entirety of his harvest - just 10 kilograms total!

Milled-To-Order: A True Taste of History

As with all of our matcha, our Old Bush Zairai is milled-to-order by us in Minneapolis. Local milling combined with this particular Tencha allow us to get close to experiencing what matcha was like in pre-industrial Japan.

The result is by far the most engaging matcha we've tried, with bright, aromatic tropical and floral notes, robust umami, and a dynamic, almost sparkling mouth feel, leading to a lingering sensation of sweetness. The best part is that every year, these same bushes give us a totally new experience.

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