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.