Some of the trees in my neighborhood are looking downright skeletal now as the fall winds blow in chillier temps and winter creeps closer. All Hallow’s Eve marks a threshold into a darker time of year, a time when we focus inward and reach for warmth.
In this last installment of my Japanese tea series, I am reaching for warmth this morning in a cup of Japanese green tea called Sencha Tokujyo Ohashiri, a competition grade Sencha.
Japanese teas are recognizable by their grassy, needle-like shape. The shape is attained by sending the leaf through a series of rolling machines. Paddles move the tea back and forth over metal ridges while heat is applied so the leaf is slowly formed into its needle shape.
Most Japanese green tea is processed to a half finished state called aracha. Aracha is kept stable in refrigerated, vacuum sealed bags until it is ready to be purchased by tea masters who will refine it and finish its processing.
I found this particular sencha leaf to be incredibly fine and it clogged the slits in my glass infuser basket. It’s probably best to steep the leaves directly in water and then strain as well as you can. The fine dust from the tea leaves settles to the bottom of my teamug.
The most well known Japanese green tea is Sencha which is harvested after Shincha, the first tea of the spring. With each subsequent harvest, the tea becomes stronger and darker with leaves of lesser quality and price.
The spring green liquor of this tea has a strong vegetal aroma which carries on into its flavor. A refreshing pungency cleanses my mouth with each sip.
The basic steps to creating aracha, or crude tea are: plucking, steaming plus 4 steps of rolling/drying/shaping. At the end of this processing, the moisture content of the leaf is approximately 13 percent.
Refining of the leaf brings it into the final stages of sorting, separating and drying which transforms the leaf and brings out the flavor, color and glossy finish. Now the finished leaf is called shiagecha. It is common practice for tea artisans to purchase aracha to refine it in their workshops.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my series on Japanese tea. I know that I really enjoyed exploring a type of tea in more depth and learning more about the country and history of the tea. I look forward to doing this again with another type of tea.
“A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man awoke in the night.” ~J.M. Barrie