We made an interesting green tea with Tsukigase’s spring tea. It is sencha, and we conducted long withering process to enhance its flavour. As a result, it gives a gentle floral scent that reminds us of Taiwan's lightly fermented oolong tea. After producing tea in spring, in order to further enhance its flavour, we kept tea without oxygen for more than half a year. Now it is the right time to introduce it.
What is withering process?
The purpose of withering is to dehydrate the water of fresh tea leaves. Dehydration stress initiates an enzyme that causes moderate oxidation of polyphenols.
There are two ways to carry out the withering process:
1. Mechanically ventilate the leaves with a withering bath. This method is commonly used to make black tea.
2. Spread the tea on the tray and place it in a well-ventilated environment.
If a withered bath is used, it will cause intense fermentation on the tea leaves. Tea will have a strong fruity flavor and the edges of the tea will turn yellow or orange. Because I plan to produce green tea that gives both floral and sencha characteristics, I chose to use the tray based on method. I place the fresh tea leaves on the tray to form a very thin layer and place it in the forest for a day.
Not making oolong but sencha with floral flavour
Although we use withering process, I was not interested to make oolong tea. There are many high-quality oolong teas in Taiwan and China, which are affordable and reasonably priced. I can't find any reason to produce oolong tea in Japan. Instead, I was keen to use light-fermentation techniques to enhance the flavor of sencha.
Exclusively selected garden for HOJO
We collected fresh tea from a specific tea garden that did not use any pesticides and did not use nitrogen fertilizer either. In Japan, we call it the natural agriculture style. We have a long-term relationship with this tea manufacturer. Every year they reserve the same tea garden for our own consumption.
At Tsukigase, the garden is very small and spreads everywhere. Therefore, when the tea manufacturer sells to other customers, they will blend the tea leaves from multiple gardens. Since our tea comes from a single garden, tea has very distinctive characteristics.
Soil that used to be at the bottom of Lake Biwa
6 millions years ago, the entire area of Tsukigase and other Uji tea growing areas was once the bottom of Lake Biwa. These places are very rich in iron and alkaline minerals. However, these minerals only exist in the upper part of the mountain. Garden soil at lower elevations contains more sand. This area is formed by the erosion of the river. For this reason, we only have tea gardens located near the top of the mountain.
Tsukigase's tea garden.
You may notice that the hills behind it form a straight line. This used to be the bottom of Lake Biwa, millions of years ago.
Difference between Bred cultivar and seeded tea
We chose Tsukigase tea from a tea tree called Zairai. In Japanese, Zairai means pure Japanese variety. However, tea is originally not from Japan but from China. To some extent, the word Zairai is an inappropriate name when used in tea.
In Japan, if tea is called Zairai, it means that tea is reproduced from seeds. On the other hand, cultivated tea such as Yabukita is propagated by cutting. Tea leaves grown from seeds produce single root that fall directly into the ground, while tea leaves grown from cutting produce multiple shallow, wide roots. Due to the depth of the roots, the seeded tea tree can effectively absorb minerals, while cultivated tea from cutting is very effective in absorbing fertilizer because the roots are located in the shallow ground. Because I cherish the aftertaste and the long-lasting taste, I strictly choose the seeded tea (the so-called Zairai tea).
The liquor of Tsukigase Withered Sencha is bright yellowish green and transparent.
Floral flavour that is bouncing back after drinking
Tsukigase Withered Sencha offers refreshing floral notes like orchids. Its taste has a hint of Taiwan's Wen Shan Bao Zhong Oolong's flavor, and you will also enjoy the sencha flavour at the same time. I personally like to enjoy the reflux of floral fragrance on palate after drinking.
In Japan, tea manufacturers always remove stems because they think the appearance of tea leaves looks unsightly with the presence of tea stems. In fact, the stem is very important to the taste. This is because calcium is present in the stem and is less in the leaves. Calcium contributes a lot to the body. In fact, various other teas, such as oolong tea, black tea, white tea and Pu-erh tea, have stems. So we deliberately keep the tea stems and never try to remove them.
Ideal brewing method
Japanese tea is often brewed at lower temperatures (eg 70-80 ° C). It is to avoid the extraction of bitterness. The bitterness is due to the caffein that is rarely extracted at 80 degree and below.
However, please use boiling water to brew this sencha because the tea is originally less bitter. In addition, it is rich in polyphenols and slightly fermented due to long-term wilting. The taste and flavor is richer and stronger if it is brewed at boiling water. Please heat the teapot with boiling water for 10 seconds and brew the tea with boiling water. When using high temperature water, the brewing time should be about 30 seconds. However, for large teapots or if you prefer very strong tea, brew longer or use more tea. For the second brew, I brewed in less than a few seconds.