Broadly speaking, unoxidized tea is processed in “the steaming method” or “the pan-roasting method” according to the way of deactivation. “The steaming method” is more common for Japanese green tea, while Chinese green tea is mostly processed in “the pan-roasting method.” The tea produced in “the pan-roasting method” is called “Kamairicha.” This article guides you through the features and process of “Kamairicha.”
Features of Kamairicha process
Kamairicha is a kind of unoxidized tea. It has undergone the deactivation of oxidative enzymes in the leaf immediately after plucking. It is featured by the process of “Kamairi (pan-roasting)” for deactivation.
From picking fresh leaves to shipment
Upon picking, the fresh leaves are processed up to the “Aracha (crude tea)” phase at a nearby site and transported to a finishing factory to undergo the “finishing” process. “Aracha” becomes a product through “finishing” to be shipped across the country.
How to make Aracha
Let us take a closer look at the process to make “Aracha”
The plucked tea leaves are thoroughly roasted in a hot iron pan of 300 degrees C. The heating and finishing processes rely on the experience and intuition of an expert.
The leaves are vigorously kneaded and dried with hot wind under an appropriate pressure. This process softens the leaves and reduces their moisture.
Rough rolling does not knead the leaves enough. Now the leaves are kneaded only with pressure, with no heat. This process equalizes the leaf moisture and breaks up the leaf cells so that the ingredients come out easily.
Rolling/twisting leaves the leaves shrunk and unshaped. By further kneading in hot wind, the leaves become easy to shape at the fine rolling process.
The leaves are dried and at the same time kneaded in one direction. This process gives green tea’s characteristic slender shape.
The leaves are dried in the sun to bring out their umami. They can be dried also with agitation in the pan. Now “Aracha” is ready.
In the phase of Aracha, the leaves are still irregularly-shaped and moist. It is difficult to maintain the quality. Here comes the need of the finishing process. In this process, “pre-firing, sorting/shaping, firing, and blending” take place in this order. Shipment follows measuring, checking, and packaging. Finishing enables longer storage and enhances the tea flavor.
Prior to sorting/shaping, the entire Aracha leaves undergo firing (roasting, etc.).
Aracha is sieved to remove fine stems and sort the leaves by the size. And the following processes such as cutting shape the leaves.
Drying once again with fire improves the shelf life of the leaves and brings out the tea aroma.
As the final adjustment, blending can equalize the composition and quality of the tea. Blending makes a well-balanced tea.
Kamairicha’s production areas and features
Kamairicha came from China to Japan around the 15th century. Most Japanese teas of that time were Kamairicha until the manufacturing process of Sencha (steeped green tea) was established. While “the pan-roasting method” is still the mainstream in China, Kamairicha accounts for less than 1 % of Japanese tea production. Main production areas in Japan are concentrated in Kyushu District, especially in Saga Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture, and Miyazaki Prefecture.
“Kamairicha” is featured by a pleasant aroma, called “Kamaka (pan aroma),” resulting from pan-roasting. It has a refreshing flavor with less astringency and attracts you by a light, transparent golden liquid color.