No, this post is not about Kanamemo. Nishida Haruka Zono is the name of a kisaten (and probably tea master) in Kyoto. Sorry anime fans. ;)
I hope you’ll excuse the brief indulgence of my intense love of rural Japanese geography. This hobby was definitely sparked by accident during my last (and sadly so far only) trip to Japan. My Buddhist student group missed our train and needed to take a taxi ride from Nikko to Utsunomiya (about 40 minutes through rugged rural Northern Japan). I was lucky enough to sit in the front passenger seat for this trip. Suffice it to say, it was easily one of the most beautiful and exceptional experiences of my life.
Fast forward ten years… A close Japanese friend of mine was visiting Kyoto a few months ago and went out of his way to bring me back some authentic Uji loose leaf tea as an Omiyage. I was very touched by his gift (mind you i had dropped a hint or two as two what i might want xD) and I’ve done my utmost to review this special tea gift from him.
You will maybe recall that Uji is the tea-growing region that encompasses Kyoto, Mie, Shiga and Nara: home to Kyo Bancha, Gyokuro, Shincha, Kabusecha and Matcha.
Uji is also the second-largest city in Kyoto-to, established during the fourth century CE and the location where the final chapters of the Tale of Genji take place. The statue of Lady Murasaki Shikibu overlooking the Uji Bridge below welcomes visitors to this literally ancient yet thriving modern town.
I digress. Back in Kyoto proper, in Kanshuji Park, just a couple blocks north of Kajū-ji Temple and Miyaji Shrine in Yamashina Ward (visible from the Tokaido Shinkansen if you don’t blink ;), lies the small kisaten where today’s tea hails from, seen below Google Maps embed code-willing.
Although in this case my friend actually picked up my tin of Nishida Haruka Zono Gyokuro four~ish kilometers to the north east at the Kiyomizu-dera shops in Eastern Kyoto (founded a bit later during the Heian in 778 CE).
Nishida Haruka Zono Gyokuro has a strong chlorophyll aroma with a hint of lemongrass. In flavor, Nishida Haruka Zono Gyokuro is a thick, gooey grassy Gyokuro, somewhat less buttery than Westerners are used to, but I like it. In texture, a full ticklish mouthfeel lingers on the roof of the mouth. The liquor has a sharp yellow-tinged jade that matches the affix in its namesake, En/Zono 「園」 (garden estate) well. Nishida Haruka Zono Gyokuro is an uber rare Japanese Green not to be missed.
- Aroma – 94
- Taste – 93
- Texture – 94
- Spunk – 93
- Rarity – 100 (LOL! Yeah right. Good luck. ;)
- Availability – No clue. Despite my best efforts, I don’t live in Japan.
- Appearance – 93
Mean score – 94.5%
Nishida Haruka Zono Gyokuro would definitely score a Best in Class medal if i had any idea how easy it was to come by in Japan. Best guess? It isn’t. :)
To commemorate this tea properly I decided to haul out a lovely tonbo-themed tetsubin I’d found at Home Goods a while back and promptly forgot existed. ;) Nishida Haruka Zono Gyokuro drinks well with my Japanese Christmas breakfast: soba waffles with fried egg, kizumi shoga and mikan (not pictured). If you’re curious what the chazutsu says, my translation is: “shade grown Gyokuro: a tea from Uji; a Kyoto specialty”.