Did you know that green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and other teas we usually drink, which differ in taste, aroma, and color, are all made from the same tea leaves?
These teas have different tastes and aromas due to the differences in their production methods.
In this article, we will explain how "green tea (sencha)" and "deep steamed sencha" are made and what the differences are between green tea and deep steamed sencha.
Characteristics of manufacturing process of unoxidized tea (green tea)
Unoxidized tea is made without fermentation by inactivating (stopping the action of enzymes) the fermentation (oxidation) of the enzymes in the tea leaves by heating. The characteristic of unoxidized tea is deactivation, which is not the case with other fermented teas.
Unoxidized tea is most commonly known as green tea (sencha). Originally, Japanese tea was yellow or brown, not green. However, with the invention of the "blue sencha manufacturing method," the beautiful green watercolor, elegant sweetness, and fragrant living green tea as we know it today were born.
From plucking fresh leaves to shipment
Plucked fresh leaves are processed near the production area to “Aracha (crude tea)”, which have undergone kneading and drying. After that, they are further "finished" and shipped as products to various regions.
How to make Aracha
Aracha plays a role of “groundwork” to make delicious green tea. The tea leaves undergo the steps of plucking (picking fresh leaves), steaming, rough rolling, rolling/twisting, medium rolling, fine rolling, and drying in this order to be Aracha.
Fresh leaves are steamed to inactivate oxidative enzymes.
Steaming the tea leaves evenly without applying pressure keeps them green and removes any foul smell. This process is essential for green tea, and the length of steaming time determines the color, aroma, and taste. The longer the steeping time, the darker the color and the less astringent and fragrant the tea will be.
2. Rough rolling
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.
4. Medium rolling
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.
5. Fine rolling
The tea leaves are rubbed only in a specific direction while promoting drying. This process produces the unique needle-like elongated shape of green tea.
After the tea leaves have been fine rolling, they still contain 10-13% moisture, so they are carefully dried with hot air to reduce the moisture content to about 5%. Finally, Aracha is ready.
In the phase of Aracha, the leaves are still irregularly-shaped and moist. It isn't easy to maintain the quality. Here comes the need for the finishing process. In this process, “pre-firing, sorting/shaping, firing, and blending” occur in this order. The 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.).
After pre-firing, aracha is sifted to remove fine stems, etc., and then sorted by leaf size. The tea is then cut and shaped.
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.
What is Fukamushi-cha?
Fukamushicha (deep steamed green tea) refers to sencha made by steeping (steaming) for two to three times longer than regular sencha.
The rest of the process is almost the same as for regular sencha.
The longer steaming time makes the tea leaves softer and more fragile, and the tea leaves are finer in shape than those of regular sencha.
The finer tea leaves have a larger surface area in contact with hot water, allowing the ingredients to be extracted more quickly, so the brewing time is shorter than for regular sencha.
Why deep steam?
Ordinary "sencha" tea has a harmony of astringency and sweetness, and its water color is light green. However, depending on the cultivar and region of production, some teas had a strong astringency, making them unpalatable to the consumer's palate.
Therefore, tea leaves are steamed deeply to reduce the astringency and bring out the sweetness of the tea. The deeper steaming process makes the tea leaves finer and the color of the water darker green. The brightness of the watercolor was also well received, and "deep steamed tea" quickly became popular.