Pan-fired, Withered Green Tea from Seed – Green Farm KAJIHARA-

Most of the Japanese green tea is steamed to stop its oxidation. But some areas, especially in Kyushu area, pan-firing method is used instead of steaming.

This called “MIYAMA” is one of the "kama-iri (lit; kama=pan, iri=firing)" tea produced by Mr Kajihara in Kumamoto prefecture, Kyusu area.

The tea plant used for "MIYAMA" was grown from seed in the wild mountains. We call this "zairai", or wild tea. Since the cutting, or ready-made plants are often seen recently, the production of wild tea. or grown from the seed are very small throughout the nation.

After the leaves are plucked, they are withered a bit. which can add a bit of extra aroma. Since most of Japanese green tea don’t require withering process, withered green tea is still rare in Japan.

- Pan-fired tea is special as Japanese green tea.
- Wild tea is not that common.
- Withered green tea is getting popular now, but still not that seen everywhere………but this tea has everything:-)

Worth trying!

*Green Farm KAJIHAR ; http://www.kajihara-chachacha.com/


Ichoka -Withered Japanese Green -

To process Japanese green tea, soon after the leaves are plucked, they are supposed to be steamed or pan-fired to stop its oxidation. Yes, as soon as possible after the leaves are plucked. Otherwise, the tea would be withered. 

The process of withering adds some aroma to the tea, and it is considered to make Japanese green tea quality worse since the distinguish trait of the tea is umami (savory), not withered aroma. In short, it is thought that withering could destroy the quality of Japanese green tea. This seems to be a rule made by the Japanese tea association during the mass-producing era when it was considered that the taste of the tea should be unified.

However, it’s becoming the thing in the past. Nowadays, Japanese green tea with a bit of withering are seen more and more.

The time has changed now and it is more “individual” era, not mass-producing era. "Unified" is not always needed. Recently, people, especially younger generation appreciate aroma. For tea geeks, it is exciting to find something different and special. So it is natural to see the tea with more aroma.

While a distinguish aroma of traditional shaded Japanese green is called “ooika (lit: ooi=shade/cover, ka=aroma)”,  the withering aroma is called “ichoka (lit: icho=withering, ka=aroma)”. As one of the tea geeks, the more choices, the more happier. 


Aroma of Bancha -banchu-

Have you heard of the word “Banshu”? Actually, even among tea lovers in Japan, this term is not that well-known. 

“Ban” is for Bancha, which is mainly produced from summer or autumn leaves. “Shu” means, in this case, aroma. So, “banshu” is the aroma of Bancha.

How do you describe this aroma, then? One of the experts said that it is like “the scent of futon aired out under the sun”. Sounds interesting, but I can feel it. 

Bancha is considered to be lower quality, not a special and connoisseur tea. If you look at it from a different angle, it’s an everyday tea, giving us the feeling of warm and secure. I can say it is like a "comfort tea".

The mornings and evenings is getting cooler these days. It is a good season to drink Bancha with warm and nice “banshu”.


Tokyo's Newest Sweets Treats

You may think Japanese are on a healthy diet. Japanese women desire to lose weight and eat less rice and meat…..BUT, many have a sweet tooth and cannot resist it!

This program has nothing to do with tea, but something to do with teatime. If you have a sweet tooth, check it out.

*Tokyo's Newest Sweets Treats by TOKYO EYE 2020, NHK world

(Available until Sep27, 2018)


Milk Tea Flavored WATER

Japan is a “bottled” country. Lots of bottled drink are seen everywhere. Flavored bottled water is one of them. I can say popular flavor are like lemon, orange, apple, peach for water. 

Now, “Suntory Natural Water -PREMIUM MORNING TEA LEMON-“ is on sale. (by SUNTORY HOLDINGS LIMITED). It’s clear, not tea color, because it’s water, not tea. But tastes lemon tea. Looks very curious. So I tried it. Actually it was not bad as a flavored water. It was really fresh and good for morning.

lemon tea flavored water by SUNTORY

To more surprise, the company will release “milk tea flavored water” called “PREMIUM MORNING TEA MILK” at the end of this month. Again, it's clear, not milk tea color. The company says this water has a lot of body and aroma of milk tea, and has a refreshing aftertaste. To me, it doesn’t sound right, but curious enough to try.

Milk tea flavored water by SUNTORY


Afternoon Tea with GYOKURO

More hotels and tea rooms serve Japanese style afternoon tea recently. The Hotel Granvia Kyoto is one of them. But unlike others, they serve it with gyokuro.

Usually, gyokuro is served by a small cup because rich umami (savory) flavor is condensed in it. Since the tea has very distinctive and strong taste, we often enjoy gyokuro as gyokuro, not with sweets (very little if any) . I mean gyokuro could overwhelm the food, or the tea could clash with tea food.

According to their website, jam for scones are not made from strawberry. It's made from veges grown in Kyoto instead. Sounds interesting too.

I haven't tried this afternoon tea yet, but I am curious how gyokuro is brewed, and how the tea food and the tea go well with. I should go to check it.

frm Hotel Granvia Kyoto

* Web: Hotel Granvia Kyoto http://www.granviakyoto.com/


Blend of Japanese Tea and Coffee - CHASHITSU -

At a tea shop called “CHASHITSU” in Osaka, I ordered this: “hojicha coffee jelly tea”. Is this hojicha? coffee??

According the shop, "this drink has coffee jelly, coffee essence and a slice of orange IN hojicha. You can enjoy the coffee as if you do tea." 
That made me more confused…..but I shouldn’t complain it until I try….so I did.

Surprisingly, it was not bad. I tasted coffee rather than hojicha, but like I said, it was not bad. Better than I expected. It was difficult to tell what it was, but  as a summer drink, it was good. A slice of orange gave it refreshing aroma too. Actually, an elder guy at the next table said “Wow, it’s more tasty than I expected.”

The shop has relatively ”conventional” drink too, but also soda of blending of hojicha and coffee with some grapefruit, coffee with thick Matcha cream on, coffee mixed with hojicha.... and so on.

I prefer tea as tea, but it's interesting to try something else once in a while. I should remember that tea can be anything. And I should be more flexible without being held back by fixed ideas.:-) 

* CHASHITSU   http://chashitsu.jp/


"Funmatsu" vs "Kona" Tea

There are two kinds of Japanese teas which mean very similar, but different. One is “kona-cha”, the other one is “funmatsu-cha”. Name-wise, both of kona and funmatsu mean powder in Japanese. Therefore, people get confused.

“Kona-cha” is dust tea. It is a by-product and the leaves are very very tiny, but cannot be dissolved completely into hot water. So kyusu teapot is required to make "kona-cha".
kona-cha by Wikipedia

“Funmatsu-cha” is powdered tea. Unlike matcha that shade-grown tea is ground by a stone mill, funmatsu-cha is usually powdered sencha, which is grown in the sun. Funmatsu-cha is dissolved into hot water like instant coffee. Sushi-go-round restaurants in Japan usually have this tea, so you may have had this tea if you've visited Japan.
I heard funmatsu-cha has sold well recently.  Maybe, it is because that some media have been talking that the powdered tea is good for you since you can consume all the nutrients in tea. Also they say that you don’t have to clean up a teapot afterwards. That sounds attractive for some consumers.

"Funmatsu-cha" is powdered tea, while "kona-cha" is dust tea----- 

Even Japanese people get confused which is which, and some even don't know they are different. Also both “funmatsu-cha” and “kona-cha” are often translated as powdered tea in English. People recognize the teas, but unfortunately can't remember their names.


The Pride of Shizuoka

In Shizuoka, there is a prefectural ordinance which bans on adding any additives like flavoring, coloring and so forth. For examples, if you want to add some dried flowers or fruits to produce flavored tea, you have to report it to the governor to get permission, whose procedure is said to be very complicated. 

Recently, some people had voiced concern over the future of their tea business, saying like "Amid growing the demand on flavored tea, this rule can disturb the business to expand." , “People’s demand have diversified. Shizuoka tea business will get left behind due to the rule.” "If “umami” additive is allowed to use for the second flush, even the tea can be sold at the higher cost, which can help the farmers continue their business in the long run." and the like. 

In response to those voices, Shizuoka government discussed if they should abolish this rule. Opinion seemed to be divided on it. Some say that abolishing this rule can help create more variety tea products, which should meet the demands and be good for the tea business to expand, while some say that it can lose customer’s trust in Shizuoka tea, and the quality of the tea can go down. 

After due consideration and discussion, the controversial issue is likely to be brought to a conclusion. The rule will not be abolished. Which means that, basically, they only rely on the taste of tea without adding any additives, although the procedure to get permission to use additives seems to be simplified to some extent as a compromise plan.

Delivering honest Shizuoka tea to customers------This is the pride of Shizuoka as one of the biggest tea producing areas.


Rediscovery of Japanese Tea

I joined a seminar titled “The Charm of Japanese tea” lectured by Mr Oscar Brekell, a Swedish certified "Japanese Tea Instructor" in Japan. Actually, this certificate itself is not easy even for Japanese to pass. In the first place, he must’ve had a really hard time to learn Japanese, not just a spoken Japanese. This exam is done only by Japanese and has so many lingoes written in Japanese including Kanji characters, which is sometime hard to read even for Japanese. 

Anyway, during the seminar, he explained what makes Japanese tea “Japanese tea” while introducing us three different kinds of varietal teas, which are the cultivars of “Shizu 7132”, “Zairai” and “Koshun”. To me as a tea-lover, their tastes are familiar, but they are not for most of participants who are not really into tea. Usually, people don’t know the Japanese tea has so many different kinds of cultivars. 

Cold-brewed “Shizu7132” and “Koshun”, both of which have a distinctive aroma, are served with wine glass, which made the people surprised.

"Shizu 7132" has Sakura-ish aroma. It reminds us of Japanese spring.

"Zairai" (wild tea ) with a sweets. Wild but the scent of the mountain.

"Koshun" has a herby and floral fragrant, and a long finish.

In Japan, the blended tea is mainstream, and the trend of “single estate, single cultivar” tea style is still new. But these single origin teas make the Japanese tea world more attractive. Mr Brekell said, “Now is the best and the most interesting time for consumers to try tea.” I agree.

Besides him, I’ve seen other non-Japanese tea people who works for the Japanese tea industry, and they have been working on spreading Japanese tea not only abroad but home. 

Unfortunately, green tea means bottled one for many Japanese now. Many of them are forgetting what is the tea for them. Thanks to the people who love the tea and came all the way from overseas to Japan for the tea,  Japanese are re-discovering the charm of the tea they used to cherish more.


Compost Used Tea Leaves

Recently, a tea friend of mine often gives me shiso leaves, or Japanese perilla (a kind of Japanese herb), he grows at home. The herbs are always big and have a very shiso-ish aroma, which is great. 

Since he brings relatively a lot for one time, I always wondered why they grow so quickly, and asked him. He said that his shiso in A pot especially grow very quickly. 

Sounds curious.... What’s the secret!? 

Over our chatting, he found out one possible key. During last winter, he often put used tea leaves, usually black, to soil in the pot after drinking morning tea. In other word, he composted used tea leaves. He said that that’s the only difference from other pots. There is no scientific grounds, but it is highly likely that the used tea leaves help shiso grow that well. I was surprised to hear that, but good to know even the plants like tea! :-) . 

I haven’t done that before, but why not? I always have a pile of used tea leaves. I will compost used tea leaves this winter to see how my plants will grow next spring.


New Twist to "Miso"

Looks like gelato, isn't it? But it’s not. This is “miso”, even not “miso” gelato.

Miso is one of the traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans. Since its health benefits are being more discovered, it has attracted more people in the world.

Miso is indispensable to "washoku" (Japanese traditional food) , and especially known as an ingredient for miso soup. Recently, I found out a new way of using the seasoning at a miso shop in Osaka. They serve miso sweets, which is unusual.

First, custard pudding.
It doesn't taste miso very much, but I can taste a little bit of flavor of miso, which is good.

A croissant with miso paste on the top.

Custard cream is in it. Sweetness of the cream and saltiness of miso are well balanced.

A Japanese traditional jelly-like sweets known as "warabimochi" with miso flavored sauce. 

Other than those, you can try some other sweets including a miso parfait, miso pound cake etc. 

Like Japanese tea green tea, the consumption of this traditional seasoning has been declining due to the diversification of our diet. In order to get a new lease of life, Miso seems to be evolving in line with the times.

*Shop info: DAIGEN-MISO   http://daigen-miso.com/english


Food at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

“Washoku”, Japanese cuisine, already attracts a lot of people in the world.

Toward 2020 Tokyo Olympic, this trend will grow stronger, and people both visitors and athletes will enjoy Japanese food at the world game. 

According to the organizers of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, the food items provided for the athletes’ village require a special certificate known as GAP (Good Agriculture Practice). 

However, only less than one percent of the Japanese farmers hold the certificate. Some of the reasons for such a low percentage are high cost and low awareness.

Farmers who want to obtain the certificate have to pay nearly about one million yen, plus about 100,000 to 400,000 yen per year for a screening and more. That’s a lot for Japanese farmers, which is mainly run by family or on a small scale. Also, the awareness about GAP is low among people in Japan. Customers would not accept a price rise for farmers to get this certificate, which could discourage farmers from trying to apply this certificate.

Japan has a lot of great farm produces including tea. At the game, people will be able to taste those food outside of the athletes’ villages, but not there. Athletes also want to try Japanese food with Japanese agricultural produces. and the Game will be a good chance to showcase our food and drink.

The Japanese government is going to take measures to encourage farmers to get this certificate including grant a subsidy to farmers since GAP seems to be a big key for Japan to export domestic farm produces to the world even after the Olympics.

We have three years to the Game. It seems that we have a lot on our plate.


"The Business of Japanese Green Tea" by NHK

Let me introduce a program called "The Business of Japanese Green Tea" broadcast by NHK World. It'll give you some idea of the latest Japanese green tea situation.

(It's available by July 21st. )



Tea From Capsule Toy Machine

Have you ever tried capsule toy vending machines? We usually call the vending machine “gacha-gacha”, which is onomatopoeia for the sound of capsul’s falling. Of course, I have done “gacha-gacha” when I was a kid.

I heard that the machines are now installed at  Narita International Airport, and they are very popular among tourists waiting for return flights to use up leftover coins. Some of you may have got a small toy from the machine when you came to Japan. 

"Gacha-gacha" is not only Narita airport anymore. You are able to try it at Shizuoka airport too. Your prize is not a toy though. You will get a tea bag and a tin badge instead That’s Shizuoka! If you have 200yen at hand before leaving Shizuoka, why don’t you try “gacha-gacha” to get a teabag?!

Photo by Shimada 


More Genderless !?

In my age in Japan, boys had boyish name, and girls had girly name. The color of boy’s school bag used to be black while that of girl’s bag used be red. The color that boys were supposed to choose was blue while that of girls were pink. As such, things were often divided by gender. But recently, it’s changing. Sometimes, we cannot tell the person is boy or girl only to see its name. Some boys prefer red to black. Some girls like blue. It’s getting more “genderless”.

When I went to the tea market the other day, I found the similar situation in tea too. (I know comparing people with tea is stupid, but I didJ) I mean when I tried Sencha, some smelled a bit more like Oolong to me. Other Sencha tasted like more Kabusecha (covered tea).

Of course, the process of Sencha and that of Oolong is different, but the reason I found Oolong aroma in Sencha is, I think, mainly because of “withering”. Sencha was not allowed to be withered according to the tea industry rule. If it’s withered, it was taken as a bad quality. But recently, some Sencha are slightly withered on purpose. The standard procedure might have been good to mass-produce the similar taste tea, but people are getting bored, and turning away from the tea. Due to withering, the aroma of Sencha varies.

As for Sencha with slightly covered is not really categorized as “Kabusecha”, but adding a bit of Umami (savory) helps vary the taste of Sencha.

I am not saying the conventional Sencha is not good, but I’ve found it interesting to see more “genderless” Sencha. 


Yoshidayama Tea Market

An annual two-day outdoor tea market known as “Yoshidayama Dai Chakai (Yoshidayama big tea party)” was held on the site of Yoshidayama shrine in Kyoto. 

It reminds me of “Kitano Dai Chakai” hosted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a preeminent daimyo in 16th century, in Kyoto. While it must have been extravagant for Hideyoshi to show off his power, the current version of tea party is more down to earth, which I prefer. Tea farmers and tea shops from various places including Kyoto, Nara. Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Kochi, Shikoku and Shizuoka in Japan gathered. 

We enjoyed more than 300 kinds of tea in total from about 40 stands. They are not only Japanese green tea, but Japanese black and Japanese oolong, Chinese tea, Korean tea and more  which made me excited. The site is not that convenient, and people need to go all the way to the site. Even so, the market seemed to be busier than last year. 

I went there as one of the customers, but I ended up working as a staff member for a tea farmer I know, ha, ha. It was just temporarily, but I was surprised to see his tea selling like "more than" hotcakes!

On that day, I took a German tea friend who just arrived in Japan the day before the event with us. Also I met some tourists from overseas who enjoyed Japanese tea there  other than non-Japanese living in Japan. I bet anyone both at home and abroad, and both tea-lovers and non-tea lovers are able to find a tea you like.

Unfortunately, I was too excited and busy to take enough photos....:-(


New Matcha Definition

While Matcha has gained its popularity in the world, I have seen and heard that the tea called “Matcha” are sold here and there. I mean the quality is poor. To me, some of them seem even far from Matcha that I know.

Japan Tea Central Public Interest Incorporated Association says that they are going to renew the definition of Matcha for the first time in 26 years.

The current definition only says that Matcha is the fine powdered tea which is ground with stone mill.

The new definition is to mention about its cultivation method and specify the process of, what is called Matcha. If the tea doesn’t follow the new definition, it will be called “Funmactsucha (lit; powdered tea) and clearly distinguished from Matcha.  This new rule doesn’t have any legal power, but the Japanese Association is planning to approach this idea to International Standards Organization.


Ninja and Mt Fuji Tea Bag

What do you associate Japan with??
Sushi, sukiyaki, ramen, manga….How about Mt Fuji, Ninja, and Japanese green tea?
If so, you may like those tea bags called “Fujichan” and “Nincha”.
"Fujichan", which is named after fujisan (Mt Fuji), is shaped like Mt Fuji, and " Nincha", which is named after ninja, is shaped like a throwing-star (shuriken in Japanese) which is a must for Ninja. 

According to the company, the tea inside is from Shizuoka and selected very carefully by a traditional tea wholesaler.
Personally I prefer tea leaves,but they can be one of the good souvenirs.


Hojicha is drawing power

As you know, Matcha is not only a drink anymore. It is also popular as one of the flavors of sweets and food.

Now it seems to be “Hojicha” turn.

Hojicha latte, hojicha ice-cream, and other hojicha flavored sweets are already common.
Recently, you can eat Hojicha ramen in Tokyo. It doesn’t mean the ramen soup is Hojicha. Hojicha is used as one of the seasonings, which helps take away the distinguish smell of meat and make the taste deeper.

Also, even the perfume giving impression of Hojicha has been on the market. The amount of an initial shipment was sold out within one week.

Hojicha itself has a toasty aroma and less caffeine. I like drinking hojicha as it is but it’s interesting to see how Hojicha is “developing”.

Hojicha scent (frm LUZ-store)


Zairai - cultivar or not? -

Recently, we've seen lots of varietal teas (both green and black) in Japan. How many tea cultivars are there in Japan now? Yabukita, saemidori, okumidori, sofu, koshun, fujikaori, shizu7132, benifuki, beniihkari, benihomare....to name but a few. Too many to count. 

Among those, there is one which always makes me wonder what to say. That is "zairai". It's a cultivar, but it is not really a cultivar.  

Zairai refers to "native" or "wild", and the tree grows in the wild for ages. Unlike other cultivars, clones aimed for desirable characteristics or to suit for the climate, zairai is a unidentified tea, which is not a cultivated variety.  For convenience, I sometimes introduce zairai as one of cultivars, though. Whatever it is....if you happen to find zairai tea, enjoy its taste with living a wild life.    

Photos by Green Farm Kajihara
*Green Farm Kajihara


Time for TEA!!

The magazines featuring tea with catchy titles have been published one after another recently, which wasn’t seen before.

Also more tea events have been held here and there. Soon, another tea event hosted by one of the giant department stores in Osaka is coming. The event has a title that says everything: “World Tea Festival”. 

Tea didn’t attract people. Tea was a just like “garnish” for sweets. but now people are fascinated by tea itself. Still, coffee is more popular here, but tea’s popularity has been rising sharply! Hope it will last….:-)


Nagata Agricultural Method

This is the black tea (fujikaori cultivar) from Ota Family’s farm in Ureshino city, Saga prefecture.

Since Ureshino is one of the biggest producing areas for “tama ryokucha (lit: ball green tea)”, they also process steamed “tama ryokucha”. In addition, they are also known for a special agricultural technique, which is called “Nagata agricultural method”.

To put it very simply, the Nagata method, started by Mr Terukichi NAGATA (1926-2006),  rejects any agricultural chemistry, pesticide and herbicide, and only supplements the nutrients in the soil with minimum amount of water and vegetable-quality compost. This helps bring out the nature and power of tea. (according to my research) 

I am not a farmer, but I can easily imagine that it must require immense time and labor to grow tea in such a special way. They grow several cultivars including zairai, sayamakaori, okumusashi, fujikaori and yabukita with this method. Unfortunately, I don't have their green tea in stock now, but luckily their black is on hand. :-)

* Tama ryokucha
Like regular Sencha, the leaves are either steamed or pan-fired after they are plucked. Unlike regular Sencha, which is rolled into needle shape at the final stage, there is no rolling process for tamaryokucha. That’s why the leaves are curly like a comma-shaped bead. Steamed tamaryokucha is  also called “mushi guri” or “guri cha”


"Bitter" for Tea and "Bitter" for Beer

George Orwell said “ Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to bitter” in his writing, A Nice Cup of Tea.

I like it, but my interest here is the word “bitter”. 

Unlike English language, Japanese has different words between bitter for beer and the one for tea. I mean “nigai” for beer, and “shibui” for tea. Also we say “nigai” chocolate for bitter chocolate, and "nigai" coffee for bitter coffee. We say “shibui” green tea for bitter green tea.

I know that English language has the word, astringency, for tea. But it is interesting to know  that “bitter” can be covered the taste both of beer and tea. 

Shibui” is astringency like tea while “nigai” is bitterness like beer, coffee, dark chocolate etc. If you are a tea person, it does no harm to know it.


All-Time High Price Tea !!

The first auction sale of the year in Shizuoka was held on April 24th

The price rose to a record high. Can you guess how much one kilogram tea is?? It’s 1,080,000 yen per kilogram!!!!! I know this is a season-opening festive market, but even so it’s ten times more than the best price before, which was 88,000 yen. 

In Japan, people celebrate the one who become 108 years old as “Chaju”, which literally means “tea celebration”. Taking the number 108 as a happy and lucky one, a buyer bid such a high price. What a generous buyer!!

This special hand-rolled tea is made from the cultivar of “Saemidori”. Roughly speaking, it would be more than 1000 yen per teacup. Would you like to try some? It can be a once-in- a lifetime experience^^) 

at the Shizuoka tea market (from Nikkei Online)

from  Nikkei Online