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Posted on August 21 2020

What Makes Kiwami, Kiwami?

Okumidori tea leaves at Shizuoka farm

What sets one matcha apart from another? Like fruits and vegetables, how, where, and when a tea plant is harvested will affect its flavor, color, and potency. In quality and taste, there’s another significant, but often forgotten, factor at play—the tea cultivar.

What is a Cultivar?

A cultivar is a cultivated variety, meaning it was selected and cultivated by humans. Throughout Japan, many different tea cultivars are grown to produce matcha, but only leaves of the highest quality will be selected for use. Because of this, most matcha is a blend of cultivars crafted by tea masters for a specific taste profile and quality. While this may lead to a more palatable experience, it often creates a final product with untraceable origins.

We weren’t satisfied with not knowing where our matcha actually came from—this search was the beginning of our single-origin line.

Single Cultivar Matcha

As the name suggests, single cultivar matcha is made using only one tea cultivar. Harvesting enough high-quality leaves from a single cultivar to produce matcha is a challenge. This makes single cultivar matcha limited in production and rarer to find.

Matchaful Single-Origin Matcha

Matchaful works in direct-trade with a sustainable, multi-generational tea farm in Shizuoka, Japan to source pesticide-free tea leaves of impeccable quality. Our Kiwami and Hikari varietals are grown on this farm. We’re big fans of both, but today we’re highlighting the origin of Kiwami—the best matcha we’ve ever tasted.

Kiwami Single-Origin Matcha

Kiwami, meaning "ultimate" or "extreme," is our most premium matcha and derives from the renowned Okumidori tea cultivar. Grown and produced at our partner farm in Shizuoka, Japan, tea leaves are hand-picked in small batches to create our Kiwami Single-Origin Matcha.

History of the Okumidori Cultivar

The name “Okumidori” is a nod to this particular plant’s growth cycle. New leaves of the Okumidori cultivar both sprout and are harvested later than other varieties. As a result, it’s considered “okute,” late harvest, and the word “midori” translates to green—the tea plant’s beautifully rich color.

Matchaful Shizuoka Tea Farm

Developed at a Shizuoka tea business research center in 1974, Okumidori is considered a rare cultivar. It comprises about 3% of total tea production in Japan today. Cultivated as a hybrid of a native Shizuoka variety and the popular Yabukita cultivar, Okumidori is not genetically modified but crossbred. After processing, Okumidori leaves are dark green, skinny, and twisted in shape with a fresh fragrance. The richness of its green profile is a result of higher levels of chlorophyll than other cultivars.

In comparison, the Yabukita cultivar, a parent of Okumidori, covers about 75% of Japanese tea fields. Uniquely resilient, it can be cultivated in different kinds of soil and climate.[1] Whereas, the Okumidori cultivar grows best in Shizuoka, though it’s also cultivated in Kagoshima and Kyoto. As its birthplace, our farmer likes to say Okumidori is “in the soil” in Shizuoka.

Okumidori is a late budding cultivar, taking about a week longer than Yabukita before it can be harvested. As a result, Okumidori is able to resist early spring frost. It also contains less catechin than Yabukita, which equates to less bitterness and astringency in taste. The Okumidori cultivar has a high amino acid level and is suitable for matcha and gyokuro.

From farm-to-whisk, Okumidori leaves cultivated in Shizuoka become our Single-Origin Kiwami Matcha. Kiwami has a balanced umami flavor, with tasting notes of floral, honey, and cream.

 

Matchaful founder Hannah Habes at Shizuoka tea farm

 

Shop our Kiwami Single-Origin Matcha and learn more:


[1]https://www.myjapanesegreentea.com/yabukita

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