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JAPANESE TEA

Some of the most exacting producers we have ever witnessed.
Controlling all of the elements to continually produce high-quality tea
despite nature's variables.

Japanese Green tea is quite rightly revered worldwide as some of the best tea on Earth. They are very different from Chinese Greens and has reflections in the differences in the two cultures.

Artisan Chinese tea is all about individual craftsmanship and a hundred different ways to make a tea whereas in Japan they have raised the overall quality level through standardisation and exacting control over every process.

The use of technology and a production line approach to maintain efficiency and reduce unwanted variability is something which the Japanese are famous for and it certainly produces tea which is crafted to fit an exacting flavour profile - rich with natural theanine and fresh minerality. The Japanese farmers are some of the most exacting producers we have ever witnessed and it is admirable how they control all of the elements to continually produce high-quality tea despite nature's variables.

Sencha is picked in the first three harvests of the year. If it is picked in the fourth harvest of the year, during autumn then it is called Bancha. In terms of your timetable for harvesting the first picking is usually April un till mid-May. The second picking is in June, the third picking in July and finally your fourth picking in October.

A variety of Sencha is “Kabusecha”. This tea is picked rather early during the first harvest period and is a shaded green tea. These bushes are covered with a black mesh for approximately 10 days before harvesting in order to block out the sun and stop the chemical process of the plant’s L-theanine from breaking down making it rich in theanine and also increasing the chlorophyll content in the tea.

KAKEGAWA, A SPECIAL PLACE FOR TEA

Kakegawa, in Shizouka Prefecture, is one of the renowned areas for Sencha, Genmaicha and Hojicha. The tea plants have an altitude of approximately 250 meters above sea level and are situated on a plateau, which means that the leaves are exposed to sunlight for a longer period of the day. This is compared to plants grown alongside mountainous regions that only get sunlight during a shorter period of the day. This results in leaves that are less tender and slightly larger leaves which could lead to bitterness.

Therefore, to counteract the bitterness, Kakegawa farmers have a different way of steaming their leaves called “Fukamushi” which is a deeper and longer steaming process. The “Fukamushi-style” steaming process is approximately 60 seconds long, whilst the more common style of steaming tea, “Asamushi” is approximately 20-30 seconds long. The longer the leaves are steamed the less bitterness will develop in the resulting brew. But this also means that the leaves are going to break down more and the visual appearance of the dried leaf is going to be less desirable and the brew in the cup will appear cloudier and with more particulates. This style is particularly suited to this area due to being situated and grown on a plateau.

GYOKURO

Gyokuro is one of the most exclusive styles of tea created in Japan. This tea is also a shaded tea but covered for approximately 20 days abstracting up to 95% of the direct sunlight which makes it a very high-grade tea that is rich in umami and its theanine savoury sweetness. Gyokuro is more than often hand-picked to ensure the highest quality of leaf and is only picked once every year during the first harvest period. This means that all the nutrients from the rich soil are built up during the plant’s dormant period and are pumped into the leaf making for an even more rich and more flavorful tea.

PRECISE & METICULOUS ACCURACY

Traditionally farmers would only pick the bud and the first two leaves. These days the leaves further down can be picked, however, this is depending on the tenderness of the leaf. The fresh leaves are weighed and loaded onto a conveyer belt blowing cold, moist air to make sure that the leaves do not oxidize and stay fresh. From there the leaves are loaded onto a second conveyer belt to start the steaming process deactivating the enzymes in the leaf. The leaf is then sent into airing machines which mechanically move the leaves around whilst pumping hot air to release the moisture in the leaf. After that, the leaves are then sent down to the rolling machines which crush and bring out all the juices in the leaf and all of the flavour is brought out to the surface so that when you brew your tea you will be able to extract its nice strong flavour. Subsequently, the leaves are again sent through the airing machines in order to furthermore reduce the moisture in the leaves. The leaves then go into the shaping phase where the leaves are mechanically kneaded which evens out the leaves and creates a very fine needle shape which is classical for the Japanese green tea style. Finally, the leaves are sent through a sorting machine that sifts through the leaves making sure that there are no clumps and sent off to the packing machines.