Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

The Black and White of Benifuki

Benifuki is an interesting Japanese tea tree cultivar. For one, it’s a cross between a cultivar heralding from the assamica variety, and another cultivar of the sinensis variety. A cross-breeding of this sort was to create a high-yielding cultivar designed for black tea and oolong production. Back in the 1960s, and even further back, Japan hoped to make black tea to compete with nearest rival, Sri Lanka. But those “plans” were waylaid. That probably also contributed to why the cultivar wasn’t officially registered until the early 1990s.

For more information on the cultivar, I suggest checking out My Japanese Green Tea’s article on the subject. Quite insightful.

Since then, the cultivar has been utilized to make, not only Japanese black tea (wakocha), but also different forms of sencha. It’s a pretty resilient li’l clonal. And somehow . . .

I may have had a hand in convincing a vendor to convince a farmer to make a white tea from it.

A couple of years back, tea vendor friend Jeffrey Cleary of UNYTea was on the hunt for a reputable Japanese farmer. I came into the conversation all like:

The following year, he was off to the races, carrying this particular farmer’s weird assortment of senchas and black teas. Some of which, I hadn’t even tried before. Somehow, someway, during the harvesting period, this Japanese farmer updated his personal social media about his processes. Both Jeff and I bugged him about making a white tea of some sort.

I left it at that, mild tea trolling. Well, I theorize that Jeff took it a step further and slid into his DMs. I can’t prove that, however. And he might deny it.

The point is, somehow, someway, either by the power of Jeff—or the power of two GJEOFFs—said farmer made a one-off white tea. And good ol’ UNYTea Guy, Jeffrey Freakin’ Cleary, got a hold of it. And better still, it was made from the above-mentioned Benifuki cultivar.

This guy made black teas from Benifuki that were . . . to die for. I could only imagine what a white version would taste like. When Jeffrey got it, I bit the proverbial bullet and bought some. He was kind enough to also include some Benifuki black for comparisons sake.

And a few weeks ago, I finally filmed that comparison. Yeah, you heard right. I recorded the taster notes . . . in YouTube form. Full disclosure: I filmed this after already doing one other tasting session. So, I was mildly tea drunk during this second session. Er, okay, more than mildly.

There you have it. Both teas had similar nuances to them, but the palatial delivery was slightly different due to the processing. Citrus was there, along with a cedar-like bend, but the white tea possessed a more subtle delivery of both.

The only thing I have left to wonder is . . . could we convince him to make a white tea from another cultivar?

The year is still young.

To buy what’s left of UNYTea’s supply of Benifuki White, go HERE.

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1 Comment

  1. You know a guy in the tea world? Only one? 😛

    Great job.

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