You can enjoy tea at any time of the year. However, do you know that there is a difference in the tea harvest time depending upon the tea cultivar and the growing area?
In this article, I’m going to introduce the tea harvest time.
When is the tea harvest time?
Tea harvest time is from late March to early October.
However, the time of picking tea leaves differs little by little depending upon the cultivar of tea, latitude, altitude, and hours of sunlight.
If all tea leaves are picked at the same time, farmers will not be able to keep up with their work, and there is a risk that the tea leaves will grow too much and lose their flavor, or the leaves will harden and become unmarketable.
By shifting the time of picking, the burden of farm work is dispersed, and tea leaves can be picked in the best condition for drinking.
Therefore, it is very important that the harvest time is dispersed.
What are “early ripening tea” and “late ripening tea”?
There are more than 100 tea cultivars, and the harvest time varies depending upon the cultivar.
Among them, there are “early ripening tea” and “late ripening tea ”.
Early ripening tea is a cultivar that picking time is early, and tea cultivars classified in this category are called early ripening cultivar.
Late ripening tea, on the other hand, is a cultivar that the harvest time is relatively late. Cultivars classified in this category are called late ripening cultivar.
Farmers can extend the harvest time by around 10 days by cultivating a combination of early ripening, medium ripening (a cultivar that is used as a standard for picking such as Yabukita) and late ripening cultivars.
That makes it possible to pick all the tea leaves at the best time.
Are there many “ early ripening tea” in Kagoshima?
Taking advantage of the mild climate, tea is picked at the end of March in Kagoshima. It is well known as “Hashiri-Shincha (Early-First picked tea)”, the fastest tea on the market.
In Kagoshima, it is customary to produce cultivars of early ripening tea and send them to the market as soon as possible. This is why many of the early ripening “Yutakamidori” are grown.
Representative cultivars of early ripening tea
There are many cultivars of early ripening tea, such as Sayamakaori, Tsuyuhikari, and Kuritawase, but the representative cultivars are Midoriyutaka and Saemidori.
It ripens 0-2 days earlier than Yabukita. Characterized by its rich aroma, it is grown mainly in Shizuoka, Saitama and Mie Prefectures. Contains a lot of catechin, so it has a relatively bitter taste.
It ripens 2 days earlier than Yabukita. The tea leaves are bright green and beautiful. It is grown especially in Shizuoka. It features a refreshing taste that brings out the flavor and sweetness in the astringency.
This is a cultivar called “very early ripening” and, its picking season is particularly early among the cultivars of early ripening tea. It is grown in warm regions such as Tanegashima (an island of Kagoshima). It has sharp bitter and fresh sweet tastes.
Yutakamidori is fertile and has a high yield. It is the second largest cultivar in Japan. It is especially grown in Kagoshima because it is sensitive to cold. The unique cultivation and processing method produces a rich and sweet taste with less bitterness.
This is a premium cultivar that combines “Yabukita” which is easy to grow and has a well-balanced flavor, and “Asatsuyu” which is also called natural Gyokuro and has a strong sweetness and flavor. It has elegant taste with well-balanced taste of “Yabukita” and sweetness and umami of “Asatsuyu”.
Representative cultivars of late ripening tea
Cultivars of late tea ripening include Kanayamidori, Harumidori, and Okuhikari, but the representative cultivars are Okumidori and Benifuki.
It ripens 4 days later than Yabukita and is mainly grown in Kagoshima and Shizuoka. It has a characteristic milky aroma.
A cultivar born from Kanayamidori that ripens six days later than Yabukita. It is a high-class tea with extremely high quality as Sencha (steeped green tea).
This is a rare cultivar that can be grown in cold regions such as mountainous regions. Its scent is strong and the taste is clear.
It has the third largest cropping area in Japan, mainly in Kagoshima, Mie, Kyoto and Shizuoka. Okudmiori has a natural sweet and mild taste. Its aftertaste is refreshing.
It also has a good fragrance, so it is recommended for people who want to enjoy the aroma of tea.
It is the cultivar registered in 1993, which is short in history compared to other cultivars, but it is famous not only for green tea but also for Japanese black tea. It contains a lot of methylated catechin, so it has become a hot topic as a green tea with an anti-allergic effect.
In this article, I’m going to introduce “Saemidori”, a cross cultivar of “Yabukita” and “Asatsuyu”.
Characteristics of “Saemidori”
The characteristic of Saemidori is its excellent quality.
Cross cultivar of “Yabukita” and “Asatsuyu”
Yabukita is easy to grow, excellent in both yield and quality. Asatsuyu is called “natural Gyokuro” because it is sweet and has a good flavor although the yield is small.
Saemidori is a cross cultivar of these two excellent cultivars.
It is the highest quality cultivar and is sometimes used for Gyokuro. In addition, Saemidori can be said a masterpiece because it has as much yield as Yabukita.
Although the cultivation area is the third largest in Japan, it still accounts for about 2% of the total. Saemidori is a cultivar that has great expectations for the future.
Resistant to cold but vulnerable to frost
Saemidori is strong against cold but weak against frost damages, and it is not so strong against diseases.
Saemidori prefers warm regions, so it was grown mainly in Kagoshima and southern Kyushu at the time when it appeared, but recently it is also grown in Shizuoka and some other region.
Early ripening cultivar
The plucking time of Saemidori is about 5 days earlier than Yabukita, and Shincha (First picked tea) is often picked from late April to early May.
However, Saemidori which is grown in warm southern areas such as Kagoshima, is sometimes picked in late March. If you want to buy its Shincha(first picked tea), you should start checking tea shops from the end of March.
Taste of Saemidori
Saemidori is well inherited the good balance of taste of Yabukita and the taste of Asatsuyu with strong sweetness and umami.
Its fragrance and taste are relatively refreshing. Its taste is less astringent and strong with sweetness and umami. The elegant taste of Saemidori can be a real luxury for those who drink it.
In addition, Saemidori is a beautiful green with a bluish tinge, so it is also recommended to serve important guests.
Tea is divided into “unoxidized tea,” “semi-oxidized tea,” “oxidized tea,” and “fermented tea” according to the degree of oxidation/fermentation.
Green tea, which Japanese people drink, is “unoxidized tea.” It can be produced by “the steaming method,” which uses steam, or by “the roasting method,” which uses a pan. Today’s mainstream is the steaming method.
Kamairicha, a tea produced by the pan-roasting method, has very little production volume in Japan. The rare tea is called “illusory tea.”
What is Kamairicha?
Kamairicha is a tea that is produced, as its name literally suggests in Japanese, by roasting in the pan. While over 95% of Japanese tea is produced by the steaming method, Kamairicha, which requires long time and high technique, accounts for less than 1%. It is indeed illusory tea.
It is said that Kamairicha originated in the mid-15th century and came down from China to Kyushu. Tea of that time required great care before drinking; steaming, hardening, and powdering to drink or simmering, drying, and boiling to drink.
However, the tea produced by roasting leading to today’s pan-roasted tea just required pouring hot water to drink. The easy-to-prepare tea quickly spread and established its popularity. Kamairicha is rare in Japan, but most of the tea produced in China is this kind.
Features of Kamairicha
While steamed tea leaves are slender, pan-roasted ones become round and are called “Tamaryokucha (round green tea)”. Kamairicha is featured by an aroma called “kamaka (literally pan aroma in Japanese).” A pleasant aroma that arises from pan-roasting stays on the leaf. A green tea’s distinctive light flavor is less bitter and astringent.
Features of Kamairicha ingredients
Unoxidized tea has not undergone the oxidation process, so its ingredients and nutrients remain almost untouched. The tea leaf keeps a great deal of original nutrients almost as they are.
In addition to vitamin C and amino acids, the leaf contains full of nutrientive ingredients such as tannin for antioxidant effect, beta-carotene for immune enhancement and cancer prevention, etc.
Features of Kamairicha manufacturing process
Kamairicha undergoes “roasting” instead of “steaming” unlike usual green tea. Fresh tea leaves are roasted in the pan for deactivation. Pan-roasting is done by an expert because it requires considerable experience and high skills.
Production areas of Kamairicha
Kamairicha is produced mostly in Kyushu. Even famous tea-growing areas such as Shizuoka and Kyoto rarely produce it. As present, Saga Prefecture, Kumamoto Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture, and Miyazaki Prefecture produce it in mountain areas with abundant nature. Why does Kyushu produce a lot of it? They say it is because Kamairicha first arrived in Kyushu when it came from China.
How to drink Kamairicha
You can drink it as you drink green tea or Sencha (steeped green tea). Brew it in hot water of about 80 degrees C. Otherwise, cold brew Kamairicha also tastes good.
Matcha is used for a drink and also for a snack. It is so popular not only in Japan but also abroad. This article guides you through the wide use of Matcha, from tea ceremony to dessert, and its material Tencha.
What are Matcha and Tencha?
Even if you know Matcha, you may not know about Tencha. Tencha is a tea to make Matcha and not usually sold in the market. As with Gyokuro, Tencha undergoes cover culture for about 20 days, which lends a green-laver-like distinctive aroma and a mild, rich flavor to the tea. It is often confused with another Tencha of Chinese tea, but they are completely different teas.
Matcha is a finely ground Tencha. It is also used for tea ceremony. It is in 1783 when Sencha (steeped green tea), which is commonly consumed by Japanese people, was invented. Before then, tea exclusively referred to Matcha. In addition to the original use of drinking, there is an increased demand for other uses such as making snacks nowadays. Tencha does not need to be covered to make the Matcha for food processing.
Features of Matcha and Tencha
Matcha is the finely ground particles of Tencha and so susceptible to humidity, temperature, and light that it needs to be treated gently. Its drinking manners are different from other green teas. There are very few opportunities to see Tencha because it seldom comes on the market, but it looks very much like green laver. Its original cultivation method requires cover culture as a rule, but the covering process can be skipped to make the material of snacks.
Features of Matcha ingredients and Tencha ingredients
The ingredients of Matcha are mostly similar to Gyokuro. However, by swallowing the whole leaves that are finely ground, you can consume even the ingredients that usually remain in the leaves and are hard to take in when you brew the leaves of normal tea such as Sencha. It is called “Superfood” both domestically and internationally nowadays because you can take in a great deal of fat-soluble vitamins, catechins, and other ingredients that are good for health and beauty.
Features of Matcha process and Tencha process
Tencha is produced through cover culture as a rule. The tea farm is covered to avoid sunlight before about 20 days prior to plucking so that the leaves grow gradually. In this way, with less bitter and astringent flavors, the tea gains a lot of sweetness and umami. The manufacturing method does not have the process of rolling (i.e. kneading leaves). It just dries the leaves. Sencha’s cultivation process can be applied to Tencha if it is to be processed into snacks.
Productions areas of Matcha and Tencha
Matcha and Tencha are produced across the country. Let us focus on famous areas here.
Kyoto boasts the largest production volume of Tencha. Above all, Hamacha from Kozuya, Joyo City won the first prize of the Tencha section at the National Fair of Tea, 2017. Its landscape of tea farms is declared as a Japanese Heritage site. It is said that the cultivation method of Tencha, “cover culture,” was developed in Kyoto.
Especially Nishio City in Ehime Prefecture has a suitable environment for Tencha cultivation with a rich soil mixed with sand, good humidity, etc. They have been growing Tencha for a long time. In Nishio City, many farmers take time and effort to hand-pluck fresh buds. Tea farms of approximately 150 hectares are growing high-quality Tencha.
How to drink Matcha and Tencha
To drink Matcha, the tea is made with a tea whisk. A freshly-made tea is the best. Drink it up while it is warm.
Even if you don’t know much about tea, “Gyokuro” perhaps sounds like a high-class tea. Let us get to know more about Gyokuro, such a high-end tea also called “the king of tea.”
What is Gyokuro?
Gyokuro is a top-quality Sencha (steeped green tea). Its manufacturing process is the same as Sencha, but they differ in cultivation methods. Gyokuro is featured by the process in which the growing leaves are kept away from sunlight for about 20 days before plucking. In this way, Gyokuro gains full of umami. While the annual tea leaf production volume in Japan amounts to 86,300 tons, the production volume of Gyokuro is only 240 tons, or one four-hundredth of the nation’s output. Some of the highest-grade ones are plucked only once in a year and appreciated as an extremely rare tea.
History of Gyokuro
Gyokuro is a tea invented originally to develop a “high-grade Sencha” based on research. In 1835, the 6th head of the famous tea merchant “Yamamotoyama” applied the cover culture method to Sencha. There are several views on the story afterward, but it is said that the tea was named “Gyokuro (jewel dew in Japanese)” because its young buds were appraised for “a flavor like Kanro (dew from heaven in Japanese).”
Features of Gyokuro
Produced through time and effort, Gyokuro’s flavor and price are far above the others. A high-end Gyokuro, if it is hand-pluck Ichibancha (first picked tea), can be priced 20 times more than Sencha. The tea leaves produced through the special cultivation method called cover culture make a beautiful, deep-green liquid color. They yield rich sweetness and umami and tasty, mild flavor, and also entertain you with a distinctive aroma called “ooika (covered aroma in Japanese).”
Features of Gyokuro ingredients
Besides vitamins, caffeine, and catechin contained in Sencha, Gyokuro has a great deal of theanine, a kind of amino acids. Theanine serves as umami and also acts on nerve functions and psychology to provide various effects such as relaxation, sleep improvement, and even dementia prevention.
Features of Gyokuro process
The manufacturing process of Gyokuro is the same as Sencha, but they differ in cultivation methods. Gyokuro undergoes a 20-day cover culture to avoid sunlight three weeks prior to plucking. The purpose is to keep the leaves from gaining astringency with sunlight and let them store full of umami. Plucking is often done by hand. The cultivation of Gyokuro takes more time and effort than the other teas.
Production areas of Gyokuro
Gyokuro is produced across the country. Uji in Kyoto and Yame in Fukuoka are well-known producers.
Uji in Kyoto Prefecture
Kyoto has the largest production volume of Gyokuro and also of Tencha, the material of Matcha. Especially Uji, as a famous tea-growing area, has many domestic and international visitors seeking tea. It is said that Gyokuro’s unique cultivation method “cover culture” was developed in Uji. Many brands of Gyokuro are there. “Uji Gyokuro” is a synonym for high-grade tea. The time-and-effort-taking Gyokuro from hand-pluck ichibancha (first picked tea) is recognized as the top-quality tea across the world.
Yame in Fukuoka Prefecture
Fukuoka Prefecture has the second largest Gyokuro production. Fukuoka Prefecture started making Gyokuro in 1879. Fog arises easily in Yame, moderately shielding the growing tea leaves from sunlight so that they can contain a greater deal of amino acids. For this reason, Gyokuro in Yame has been appreciated as “Natural Gyokuro.” Its quality is one of the highest in Japan. Yame Gyokuro won the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Prize for 10 years in a row and has swept the first 26 places in the Gyokuro section at the National Fair of Tea. It has been receiving a high reputation.
How to drink Gyokuro
The best temperature to brew Sencha is about 80 degrees C, but Gyokuro should be brewed at around 60 degrees C. As with Sencha, you can enjoy only the umami of Gyokuro by brewing at low temperature. In the case of high-grade Gyokuro, you can take a sip in the mouth and slowly enjoy, or savor its flavor and aroma.
Sencha is the most common tea consumed in Japan and accounts for 80% of Japanese tea production. All Japanese people should be drinking Sencha and Fukamushi-sencha even unconsciously. How much do you know about them?
What are Sencha and Fukamushi-sencha?
Sencha originally referred to “a tea to drink by infusing.” However, today, it refers to a tea produced by blocking the oxidation of the fresh leaves with heat, kneading the leaves to dry, and giving them a needle-shape. In general, Sencha is steamed for 30–40 seconds. If it is steamed double, for 60–80 seconds, the tea is called “Fukamushi-sencha.”
Sencha was born more than 300 years ago during the Edo Period. Tea culture spread among ordinary people then. They started infusing tea leaves to drink tea. At that time, any tea to drink by infusing was collectively called Sencha. Its color was blackish and its flavor was not good.
In 1738, Soen Nagatani, who was later called the originator of Japanese green tea, invented “the steaming method” as a new manufacturing way, making use of existing tea manufacturing methods. It changed the liquid color from brown to green and improved the flavor. Tea produced in this method became popular across the country and led to today’s Sencha.
Features of Sencha and Fukamushi-sencha
Fully-sunbathed tea leaves are used for Sencha so that the astringent ingredient catechin and the bitter ingredient caffeine increase to provide astringent and bitter flavors. However, the tea contains full of umami of the ingredient theanine, you can enjoy balanced flavors of astringency, bitterness, and umami. The liquid color is deep green. An invigorating, refreshing sent arises due to the use of fresh buds
Fukamushi-sencha has a weak aroma due to the prolonged steaming process, which gives less astringency than a normal Sencha. As a result, the tea provides a mild flavor with more sweetness and richness. The liquid color is deep green. In addition, Fukamushi-sencha’s fine leaves are suited for cold-brew tea, and also easy to brew, leaving fewer ingredients in the leaf.
Features of Sencha ingredients and Fukamushi-sencha ingredients
Unoxidized tea skips the oxidation process so that its ingredients and nutrients change little. The leaf keeps a great deal of the original nutrients almost as they are. It is full of vitamin C, amino acids, tannin for antioxidant effect, beta-carotene for immune enhancement and cancer prevention, and many other nutrient components.
Features of Sencha process and Fukamushi-sencha process
The plucked leaves are steamed, and repeatedly kneaded in various ways, and dried. The leaves should be steamed first to block the activity of oxidative enzymes so that they do not get oxidized. This process is called “deactivation.” Then, the leaves are fired (or roasted) and sorted alternatively. Lastly, they undergo blending to equalize the quality to become a product.
Production area of Sencha
Sencha, the most produced tea in Japan, has its production areas across the country, especially in Shizuoka Prefecture, Saitama Prefecture, Mie Prefecture, Kyoto Prefecture, Fukuoka Prefecture, and Kagoshima Prefectures.
How to drink Sencha
Sencha is sold with tea bags and easily prepared. However, the tea brewed from the leaves tastes especially good.
Approximately 6 g of tea leaf serves 2 people. Hot water can be used, but bitterness and astringency are also extracted at high temperature. For high-quality Sencha, it is recommended to use water of about 70 degrees C to extract only umami in the leaves for a nice flavor. For Fukamushi-sencha, please drink to the last drop because even the leaves remaining at the bottom of a cup contain full of umami and nutrients.
Tea can be classified into “unoxidized tea,” “semi-oxidized tea,” “oxidized tea,” and “fermented tea” according to the fermentation/oxidation degree. This article guides you through “semi-oxidized tea,” which is least-talked-about among them.
What is semi-oxidized tea?
Semi-oxidized tea is a tea that has been oxidized halfway. “Oolong tea” is representative of it. You can consider it is just in the middle between black tea (oxidized tea) and green tea (unoxidized tea). Oolong tea used to be the only semi-oxidized tea in Japan. However, an unusual semi-oxidized Hōjicha (roasted green tea) produced by some farms is becoming a hot topic these days. In China, the home of tea, semi-oxidized tea is further classified into three types according to the oxidation degree.
Features of semi-oxidized tea’s flavor, aroma, color
Just think about oolong tea, and you will easily understand that semi-oxidized tea has a pleasant scent that is more aromatic than green tea. It is slightly bitter, but has a deep, savory flavor. The refreshing tea is often preferred after a greasy meal with a strong taste, such as meat and Chinese food.
Features of semi-oxidized tea’s ingredients
Tea leaves contain various ingredients. The process of oxidation yields aromatic components to make aromas and pigment components to make colors. Catechin is a component that influences the color of tea. As oxidation turns the liquid color (the color of brewed tea) redder, black tea, an oxidized tea, has a red liquid color. In the case of semi-oxidized tea (oolong tea), which is oxidized only half, the liquid color stays brownish, halfway from green to red.
Features of semi-oxidized tea process
Semi-oxidized tea’s fresh leaves are sun-dried and then spread and roasted in the room for some time. The roasted tea leaves are put in a cloth bag for a while. After kneading and drying, the tea is ready. While oxidized tea is placed in a humid room to be fully oxidized, semi-oxidized tea undergoes roasting to halt oxidization.
Types of semi-oxidized tea
It is uncommon in Japan, but in China the name of semi-oxidized tea varies by oxidation degree.
White tea (bai cha)
White tea is the least oxidized semi-oxidized tea and also called “weakly oxidized tea.” Its manufacturing process does not include “kneading.”
Blue tea (qing cha/oolong tea)
What we know as oolong tea is a member of blue tea. Its oxidation degree varies a lot by type, but blue tea is the most common semi-fermented tea.
Yello tea (huang cha)
Yellow tea has undergone a special heating treatment. After ripening the half-oxidized leaves, the liquid color becomes yellow, as its name suggests.
The black tea you usually drink is “oxidized tea.” This article is all about the most commonly consumed tea: oxidized tea (black tea).
What is oxidized tea (black tea)?
Oxidized tea is a tea whose leaves have been fully oxidized. “Black tea” is oxidized tea.
There are many cultivars and types of tea, but there are basically only two kinds: Chinese and Assam. Most types of oxidized tea are made from Assam tea trees, whose leaves are easier to oxidize.
Features of oxidized tea’s (black tea’s) flavor, aroma, color
Oxidized tea (black tea) is featured by a beautiful red color and aromatic, glamorous, gentle scent and flavor. Of course, oxidized tea (black tea) varies a lot in flavor and aroma by the production area’s climate and natural features. In particular, the world’s three major black teas; namely, Darjeeling tea from India, Uva tea from Sri Lanka, and Keemun tea from China have distinctive flavors and aromas, which are totally different from our usual black tea from a plastic bottle or a tea bag. The wide variety features oxidized tea (black tea) and attracts us.
Features of oxidized tea ingredients
Besides the leaf’s original ingredients, oxidized tea (black tea) contains ingredients produced by the oxidation of tea leaves. Theaflavins and thearubigins are representative of the ingredients that produce an aromatic scent and make a beautiful red color of the tea.
Features of oxidized tea process
As its name suggests, oxidized tea is a tea that has undergone oxidation. Black tea goes through the process called rolling to activate oxidative enzymes that are important to produce the tea’s aroma, flavor, richness, and liquid color. Then it undergoes the processes including oxidation, drying, and sorting (grading) to hit the shelves of stores.
Oxidized tea (Black tea)
Lastly, let us see oxidized tea’s production areas and origin.
Major production areas of oxidized tea
In Japan, the mainstream is green tea. In fact, black tea is produced in over 20 countries and accounts for 70% of the world’s tea production. In particular, the following areas are well-known.
India is famous for black tea. Its production volume of black tea is by far the largest in the world and amounts to 1 million tons per year. Darjeeling tea from India is chosen as one of the world’s three major black teas. Its pleasant aroma is praised as “the champagne of black teas.” It is also consumed a lot in Japan. For your information, Assam tea, which is as famous as Darjeeling tea, is also from India.
Black tea from Sri Lanka is called “Ceylon tea” and beloved all over the world. Sri Lanka is the producer of Uva tea, one of the world’s three major black teas. Sri Lanka is growing tea mainly around a chain of mountains. Tea in Sri Lanka is graded according to the altitude. The production volume of black tea is the second largest in the world and amounts to 320 thousand tons.
Most Japanese people think of Kenya as a coffee producer. However, it actually produces the third largest amount of black tea in the world, or 300 thousand tons, closely behind Sri Lanka. They export it mainly to Europe. Surprisingly, their history of tea is long. They started making tea plantations during the First World War.
China produces “Keemun tea,” one of the world’s three major black teas, while we only think about its Chinese tea such as oolong tea. In fact, China is the birthplace of black tea. The annual production volume is 50 thousand tons. Although the number is comparatively less than the other black tea producing countries, the volume is rapidly increasing with the recent focus on black tea production.
Japanese black tea
It is less known but Japanese black tea has been produced since the Meiji Period. The high-quality Japanese black tea won a gold prize at an international food competition. It would suit everybody’s tastes with easy-to-drink, mild flavor and aroma.
Indonesia’s black tea production is currently only the 4th in the world. However, the country had as much black tea as India until the Second World War burned off their tea plantations. Their tea has similar features to Ceylon tea. Its characteristic mild, easy-to-drink flavor somewhat lacks richness so it is mainly used for blending. The annual volume is 130 thousand tons.
The origin of black tea
The history of tea originated in China. It dates back to a period before Christ. However, the history of black tea is comparatively new; it started after 1720. Black tea has several possible origins, but it is likely that “Wuhan tea,” a semi-oxidized tea, which was collected in Fujian Province, became the mainstream of tea in Western Europe, and developed into today’s common black tea after trials and errors including the increased degree of oxidation. Later on, Assam cultivars suited for black tea were found in India, which promoted tea cultivation in India and other surrounding countries like Sri Lanka. Then, black tea spread all over the world.
You may not be familiar with the term “unoxidized tea”.
In this article, I’m going to explain about unoxidized tea.
What is unoxidized tea?
Unoxidized tea is a tea variety made from tea leaves with little oxidation, and the most of Japanese tea (green tea) is unoxidized tea.
By the way, the well-oxidized tea leaves are black tea, and the half-oxidized tea leaves are oolong tea.
It is an interesting point of tea leaves that even tea leaves picked from the same tea tree can be made into tea with completely different taste and aroma depending upon the oxidation condition.
Characteristics of taste, aroma and color
It depends upon the variety and the cultivar of tea, but basically unoxidized tea has a delicate taste and aroma, and it becomes very beautiful green when brewed.
As there are many varieties and cultivars of Japanese tea, it is difficult to generalize, but when you imagine "Taste, aroma and color of Japanese tea" you might realize those of unoxidized tea.
Characteristics of ingredients
Unoxidized tea does not have an oxidation process, so the ingredients and nutrients do not change easily, and it contains the rich nutrients that tea leaves originally have as they are.
It is packed with a lot of nutrients such as vitamin C, amino acids, tannins that are expected to have an antioxidant effect, beta carotene that is said to be effective for immune enhancement and cancer prevention.
Characteristics of the unoxidized tea production process
It takes time and effort to produce unoxidized tea.
First, as a preliminary preparation, picked raw tea leaves are steamed, then rubbed repeatedly in various ways and dried.
After that, the process of heating (something like roasting) and sorting is repeated, and finally blending is done to make the quality uniform.
By the way, by steaming first, the function of the oxidase is stopped and oxidation is prevented. This is called “inactivation”.
Varieties of unoxidized tea
There are many varieties of unoxidized tea. You can find some of them below.
Sencha (Steeped green tea)
About 70% of tea consumed in Japan is Sencha. It is steamed and rubbed right after picking Shincha (First picked tea).
Fukamushi-Sencha (Deep steamed steeped green tea)
Fukamushi-Sencha is made by steaming it 2 ~ 3 times longer than Sencha. The longer the steaming time, the less fragrant, but the taste is sweeter.
Matcha and Tencha
Matcha is made from “Tencha”. Tencha is the only tea made without rubbing.
Kamairicha is made by roasting in an iron pot instead of steaming with a method introduced from China. By roasting it, you can smell the aroma that other teas don't have.
Hojicha (Roasted green tea)
Hojicha(roasted green tea) is made by roasting Bancha or Stem tea over high heat until it becomes brown. It is characterized by its savory flavor and aroma.
Kabusecha is a tea produced through “covered cultivation,” by which growing fresh shoots are covered to avoid sunlight. Its Japanese name can be literally translated into “covered/crowned tea.”
The flavor and aroma of tea vary by types, cultivation methods, manufacturing processes, etc. This article introduces “Kabusecha,” which is often confused with Gyokuro.
What is Kabusecha?
Kabusecha is a tea produced through “cover culture,” by which growing fresh shoots are covered to avoid sunlight. Its Japanese name can be literally translated into “covered/crowned tea.” Kabusecha tends to be mistaken for Gyokuro, which is also produced through cover culture, but Kabusecha is not Gyokuro.
A big difference between Gyokuro and Kabusecha is how long they are covered. While Gyokuro is covered for about 20 days, Kabusecha is covered for a week or so. Kabusecha is often considered “in the middle between Sencha (steeped green tea) and Gyokuro.”
Features of Kabusecha
Kabusecha is a tea that has both Sencha’s advantages and Gyokuro’s advantages. It cannot beat Gyokuro in umami and richness. However, with its slight bitterness, Kabusecha’s sweetness and umami are felt better than Sencha. It provides a mild flavor and rich aroma. Its liquid color is brighter than Sencha. Thanks to its lower price compared with Gyokuro, Kabusecha allows you to enjoy a flavor of high-graded tea casually.
In addition, the flavor of Kabusecha changes according to the temperature of water and the way of steaming. When it is brewed thoroughly at low temperature, the tea provides a strong sweetness and umami like Gyokuro. When it is brewed quickly in hot water, the flavor becomes refreshing like Sencha. Thus, you can enjoy adjusting the tea flavor according to your mood on the day.
Definition of Kabusecha
Kabusecha is a tea that has undergone cover culture, in which the leaves are covered with straw, mushiro (Japanese straw mats), cheesecloth, or others to block sunlight before picking.Compared with Gyokuro, Kabusecha’s cover culture is simple. It takes one week or so and blocks only about 50% of the sunlight.
Features of Kabusecha ingredients
In addition to vitamins, catechins, caffeine, potassium, and other ingredients contained in normal tea, Kabusecha is rich in amino acids, which become umami, although the amount of them is less than Gyokuro.
Features of Kabusecha process
The manufacturing process of Kabusecha is basically the same as Sencha. What differs is its cultivation process. As mentioned above, Kabusecha is grown in the cultivation method called cover culture.
Production areas of Kabusecha
Kabusecha is produced in many tea-growing areas across Japan including Fukuoka Prefecture, Kagoshima Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, Kyoto Prefecture, and Shizuoka Prefecture. Especially Mie Prefecture’s production volume accounts for more than one third of the nation’s entire output.
The tea from Mie Prefecture is called Ise Tea. The Kabusecha completed in Yokkaichi City and Kameyama City is particularly high-graded because they stop picking at the second picked tea season.
How to prepare Kabusecha
While the best temperature to brew Sencha is about 80 degrees C, about 60 degrees C is the best for Gyokuro. Please change brewing temperature according to your preferred drinking way. Low brewing temperature distinguishes the flavors of sweetness and umami. High brewing temperature balances out bitter and astringent flavors.
Hojicha makes a brown liquid color and aromatic flavor when it is brewed, which may make you think Hojicha is a different type of tea from green tea, but it is a type of green tea. These days it is popular among the younger generation, being often used for snacks and other drinks such as Hojicha latte, Hojicha chocolate, Hojicha ice cream, etc. This article introduces it in detail.
What is Hojicha?
Hojicha is common to us and frequently drunk. However, it tends to be recognized vaguely, oftentimes misunderstood as a different type of tea from green tea, or even as Bancha (a tea picked in late seasons). Hojicha is a type of green tea. It is produced by roasting Sencha (steeped green tea) or Bancha. In general, the fresh shoots of first picked tea are rarely used. It is the leaves and stem parts of third picked tea or even later one that are preferred. As a result, Hojicha is comparatively cheap and familiar to us.
Many parts of the history of Hojicha are unclear without official documents. Some say people started roasting the unsold tea in an attempt to preserve it under a great depression in the early Showa Period, when tea was not selling well. Others say Hojicha existed already in the Meiji Period.
Features of Hojicha
Hojicha is featured by its brown liquid color and the aromatic fragrance and flavor that arises when roasting leaves. The easy-to-drink tea provides a fresh flavor with no bitterness and astringency.
Features of Hojicha ingredients
Hojicha contains various ingredients including vitamins with beauty effects and tannins with antioxidant effects. It is also drunk as a diet beverage. Among them, “pyrazine,” the ingredient formed by heating amino acids, is the one that makes the Hojicha’s distinctive pleasant aroma.
Features of Hojicha process
Hojicha is produced from fresh tea leaves, which undergo steaming, kneading and drying, and roasting. Actually, you can make Hojicha easily at home. You just have to roast your tea leaves in the frying pan. It takes 15 minutes or so to complete. Making delicious Hojicha also fills your room with a pleasant tea aroma.
How to prepare Hojicha
The key is to brew the leaves at high temperature to bring out an aromatic fragrance. You can control the strength of flavor by adjusting brewing time.
There are several types of tea that are fermented or oxidized. In particular, “fermented tea” is less-known. This article guides you through “fermented tea,” which is a little strange.
What is fermented tea?
One of the well-known fermented teas is Pu’ er tea. Fermented tea is the only tea that has been fermented by microbes such as lactic acid bacteria not by the leaf enzymes. While fermented tea is rather rare by global standards, Japan is producing 4 types of fermented tea: “Goishicha,” “Awabancha,” “Batabatacha,” and “Ishizuchikurocha.”
Features of fermented tea’s flavor, aroma, color
Fermented tea has a sour flavor, which is unusual for tea. Of course, its taste, aroma, and color vary by tea. For example, Pu’ er tea’s flavor is similar to oolong tea’s flavor but more aromatic, and its color is brown. Goishicha has sourness and bitterness. Awabancha’s sourness gently spreads, and its color is yellow.
Features of fermented tea process
Broadly speaking, fermented tea has three manufacturing methods: “fermentation only by mold,” “fermentation only by lactic acid bacteria,” and “fermentation by mold and lactic acid bacteria.” Furthermore, the manufacturing process gradually varies by tea type. Here, let us see the manufacturing process of Pu’ er tea as an example, since it is the most common fermented tea. At first, the plucked leaves are heated to block oxidization. The leaves are kneaded, loosened, and dried. Then, the leaves are steamed and dried, followed by microbial fermentation. The leaves are dried again to conclude the process. Fermented tea is featured by its multiple tasks.
Types of fermented tea
Let us see famous fermented teas and domestic fermented teas.
Pu’ er tea
Pu’ er tea is a tea produced with kōji-mold and originated in Yunnan province, China. The history of Pu’ er tea is long and dates back to more than 2,000 years ago. It is said to be first documented in a history book in the Tang Dynasty. The color of Pu’ er tea is close to oolong tea. Its gentle earthy aroma and bitterness, which are unpalatable to some people, typically makes most of you addicted once you have tried it. It is supposed to be healthy and often served at esthetic salons and hot stone spas.
Miang is a traditional tea from northern Thailand. It is fermented by lactic acid bacteria. It is called “eating tea.” As its name suggests, it is to eat not to drink. Tea leaves plucked from Miang trees are heated and then fermented in a pot during a long period; for three months or even for one year. It has strong sour and bitter flavors. You can enjoy chewing the fermented leaves alone, but you can also eat them with spices such as ginger. A decreasing number of city people eat miang nowadays even in the north area. Many of them even do not know what miang is.
Goishicha is a tea produced in Ōtoyo-chō, Kōchi Prefecture. It has over 400 years of history. It used to be produced as a local specialty. The luxury product was bartered for salt, which was precious at that time. Goishicha is a tea whose plucked tea leaves have undergone deactivation of enzymes and fermentation by mold, followed by further fermentation by lactic acid bacteria. It contains a lot of lactic acid bacteria and is expected to eliminate constipation. It is especially attracting health-oriented people. It has less acid than other fermented teas and a similar flavor to wine.
Naka-gun and Katsuura-gun in Tokushima Prefecture are producing Awabancha. The history of Awabancha is long. It started when Kūkai, a Japanese Buddhist monk who studied in China , brought back and introduced tea culture to Japan. Ichibancha (first picked tea) is not plucked to let the leaves grow until summer, since soft tea leaves can melt in the manufacturing process. Deliberately hardened leaves characterize Awabancha. While fermentation by lactic acid bacteria provides sourness, the tea has no bitterness due to less catechin and caffeine and gives a refreshing flavor.
Batabatacha is a tea that has undergone fermentation by mold and is produced exclusively in Asahi-machi, Shimoniikawa-gun, Toyama Prefecture. Its feature is to drink brewed tea after foaming it. The Japanese onomatopoeia “batabata” is said to represent the stirring manner of constantly banging a tea whisk to foam the tea. It has a distinctive flavor similar to Dokudamicha (houttuynia cordata tea), but foaming makes a milder flavor. They say drinking with little salt is the real gourmet way.
Shizuchikurocha is a tea that has undergone fermentation by mold and fermentation by lactic acid bacteria and is produced in Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture. Once the number of manufactures sank to one and the technique was almost dying without inheritance. It came back from there and even became one of the nation’s intangible folklore cultural assets. Now Ishizukikurocha is called “illusory tea” or “tea of miracle.” It is slightly sour but not so strange. It is easy to drink with a fresh aroma. Ishizuchikurocha contains rich nutritive ingredients. It is becoming a popular healthy food.