So very long overdue for a post. A lingering seasonal cold and throat surgery has had my normal acute senses in disarray and even though I have been drinking endless cups of tea, I have been skirting my collection, avoiding the rare gifts that have been sent to me for evaluation and exploration…my last sojourn with a full range of taste buds was some rare pu erhs (sheng and shou) and I will be giving them just due and I also owe a number of reviews to kind vendors (many of which you my kind fellow steepsters have also already illuminated and I wish I could have added my light as well). So with a goal of resuming my frolicking and regular posts I felt it was only appropriate to share my first full cupping in a while with a splendid offering from Washington soil.
I stumbled upon the Sakuma Bros. website and immediately became curious. With a farm with so many gifts, fruit and vegetables, to find that it also produces tea and has for over 10 years fired the imagination. I know the area quite well (having been a wanderer of the NW after nearly 17 years of being a commercial fisherman in Alaska) and with the localvore food movement growing in Ohio, I thought was an amazing chance to connect this farm with tea drinkers in my state.
The details on this site are as follows:
• The Sakuma Brothers have been growing tea for over 10 years.
• We are one of the only two commercial tea growers in the entire United States.
• More than 5 acres of the fertile Skagit valley have been planted with Camellia sinensis tea plants.
• When the tea leaves are ready for harvest, we hand pinch off each leaf at the stem.
• Only 2 leaves and bud at the end of each branch are used for Sakuma tea.
• The leaves are heated, rolled and dried.
• The brittle flakes of tea leafs are steeped in water and served as tea.
• A refreshing unique tea grown in the rich alluvial soil of Washington State’s Skagit Valley. Our high latitude location give Camilla Sinensis a distinctive taste.
• Sakuma Tea is a unique type of WhiteTea.
I will take a picture and update this as review as well, as the leaves are an amazing sight to behold.
My cupping notes are as follows:
White Tea #1 Sakuma Bros. Spring harvest.
Dry aroma: Intense fruity/muscatel, spicy aroma with an undertone of yellow mustard greens and dried brown mustard seed.
Wet aroma: Fresh, bright muscatel, tart almost citrus undertones with hints of stewed fruit and spicy aromas similar to wild fields.
Appearance: Large, whole and mostly intact leaves with long stems – 3g being nearly 4 tablespoons in volume. Brown, dark umber to fresh green olive colors speak of almost autumnal or verdant spring vegitation, displaying a crisp visual cue of bruising and oxidation, rapid drying, and careful handling. Few, short buds, resembling dark, velvet antlers and elk horn tips. The leaves are nearly 2-4" in length as are some of the stems, breaking the resemblance to bai mudan from the sheer unbroken character.
Cup: Golden, bright yellow extraction. Intense, crisp flavors with clean body and flavorful, back cuspid-grabbing fruity, floral tartness. Buckwheat honey, mulberry flavors, fades to a spicy walnut, almost Vietnamese cinnamon finish that escapes in a nearly ethereal way from the palate.
2nd and 3rd extractions were equally strong with cinnamon and almost toasted almond notes rising inside the clean, fresh floral flavors, eluding the palates desire to simply define it as ‘spicy’.
As I have had teas from S. Charleston, the Sakuma bros. truly exhibit a craft that is distinct and defining, showing that the US can grow tea and produce a quality that is not only consistent with its origins, but is a gift of its new terrain. I look forward to sharing and cupping further samples.