Tea Production Steps for Less Well-known Teas.
This is our second section on production steps for particular teas. Here, we focus on less well-known Japanese teas and some teas that are getting a revival in Japan.
After each tea is a table showing the various processes.
- Green indicates that the type of tea goes through this step.
- Yellow means it may go through that process depending on the desired result of the producer.
- Red indicates that this tea does not go through the processing step.
We hope you enjoyed our journey through tea production - happy sipping!
Most Japanese tea is green tea.
Japan has experimented with black tea from time to time, but green tea is by far the most popular both within Japan and for export.
There is a fresh interest in developing Japanese black tea, which is called Wakocha.
For Wakocha, the tea is picked and then allowed to wither; the withering results in the tea becoming oxidized and so taking on a dark color; it also allows the membrane of the leaves to soften and water content drops. After withering, the tea rolled and dried; the rolling is easier because of the withering. The tea may be pan-fired to give it a roasted taste, depending on the taste the producer wishes to impart.
The quality of Wakocha varies; we have had some outstanding Wakocha and hope to have some for sale in coming seasons, as mentioned the quantities are small at this time, but as the experience of the farmers increases, we expect to see larger quantities and higher quality teas – we look forward to bringing them to you to try.
Similar in production quantity terms to Wakocha teas, Oolongcha is an out-of-the-norm Japanese tea. Oolong tea is very common in China, and Tawain, it is a semi-oxidized tea; the tea is withered but not to the point of being fully oxidized.
Some Japanese growers are now experimenting with oolong tea or oolongcha as it is known in Japan. It is not widely available but has become a labor of love for some producers we know.
Oolong tea offers a wide range of flavors, which depend on factors such as the tea plant cultivar, growing region, oxidation level, and processing techniques. Oolongs can have floral, fruity, nutty, toasty, or even cream flavors,
Th steaming (or roasting) process is very brief and the rolling process does not produce, for example, the pine needle-like form of sencha; rather, the process can produce many variations in shape and tends to be a sign of the preference of the tea artisan in its final appearance.
When tea is sorted, the premium leaves are used to make teas like sencha and Gyokuro. What remains are broken leaves and stems. The primary ingredient of Kukicha is these stems. Kukicha is known as a stem tea; it is in a class of teas known as Demono, which indicates tea made from ‘by-products’ of the production of other teas.
Kukicha teas can be very high quality. The stems used in the production add their own flavor profile to the tea. The mixture of stems and leaves has a different appearance from the mainly leafy teas like Gyokuro.
Do not let the Demona nature of this tea scare you off; Kukicha and other Demono teas can be exceptionally good.
Depending on the taste profile required by the producer, the tea can be pan-fired.
Tea Fannings are the small parts of the tea plants typically leftover after the production process. The leaves, buds and stem are used at the start of the production process. During the various manipulations of the tea, some of these constituent parts break or are discarded from use in high-quality teas. These fannings are used to make Konacha; Konacha is available as loose-leaf tea but is most commonly found in tea bags.
Konacha tea, because it is made of smaller particles, tends to brew very quickly, which makes it ideal for teabags. Konahca tea can have a very robust flavor. It can be considered at the other end of the tea-making process, the opposite of aracha tea.
Tencha tea is rarely available for sale outside of Japan. Even in Japan it is rare.
This is because Tencna is almost exclusively used as the input ingredient of Matcha tea.
Matcha is the prized ground, shaded tea from Japan.
After the shaded tea is harvested it is steamed and dried. No rolling takes place, the dried leaves maintain their wide shape. The leaves are then separated from the stems and buds. At this stage, the tea is known as Tencha.
Recently we have seen some Tencha being sold to be used with Matcha making machines. These machines from companies like Cuzen Matcha and Sharp, will take Tencha and grind it immediately prior to brewing matcha. It will be interesting to see how the popularity of these machines progresses.
Aracha tea is sometimes referred to as rough tea or farmer's tea.
As we have discussed in this series there are many steps in the production of teas like Sencha, Gyokuro and all the other teas we have discussed..
Aracha is the stage in tea processing where the tea has been harvested, steamed, cooled and rolled. The process stops there for aracha tea - the tea is unsorted so it contains the leaves, stems and buds.
As one might expect aracha has a robust flavor and varies extensively based on the cultivar, the region the tea is grown and the amount of steaming and rolling the tea goes through.
We occasionally have aracha tea for sale at Chado Tea House.
Thats a wrap!
We hope you enjoyed our 'Tea Story' - how the tea is researched, planted, grown, harvested and finished.
It's a fascinating subject and is 'steeped' in history; we tried to bring you some of the intricacies of these delicious delicacies that we like call Japanese Tea.