Kamikatsu, a small town located in the mountains of Tokushima, has been making headlines around the world with its lofty ambition of becoming zero-waste. While I was in Shikoku, I could not possibly pass up the opportunity to visit the Zero Waste Centre to have a look at how the residents separate their trash into 34 categories.
It was during the time when I was researching on Kamikatsu that I found out the town is also a production area for Awabancha, a type of dark tea that has undergone lactic acid fermentation. The rare tea has been drunk in this part of Japan since the Edo period.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Zero Waste Centre is Ikkyuu Chaya, which is both a farmers’ market and a rest stop with a cafe. This is where I bought what I’d call my sample pack of Kamikatsu Awabancha, as I could not find anything packaging that is smaller than 100g.
The sticker caption in the front says “Yama no jiiji to baaba no Kamikatsu tetsumi bancha” or Kamikatsu bancha handpicked by mountain grandpa and grandma. Haha. Literal translation.
There are five teabags in this pack. I really would have preferred the loose leaf tea. Definitely next time.
My first attempt was steeping the teabag for three minutes in a teapot with boiling water. The result was a fine yellow liquor, with very subtle aroma of pickled food.
I had no benchmark to compare if the taste is right, except for the Awabancha I had at Wadanoya, and it came as a surprise that what I brewed did not taste anything like what I had there.
It did have the slight hint of sour taste, as expected of the tea, but somehow it did not taste as good. It was not unpleasant, it was just different from what I had expected from my one and only experience with Awabancha.
Second and third steepings produced similar results, with the third steeping somewhat diluted.
I removed the leaves from the bag and found that they still had that pickled aroma despite three steepings.
I decided that the next attempt will be to steep the leaves directly without the teabag. Heather over at Hanamichi suggested boiling the tea leaves in a kettle. We shall see about that.
On a side note, Awabancha is supposedly good for the digestive system because of the way it is fermented.