Before the advent of tea-making machineries, sencha was hand-rolled. This manual method known as temomi was invented in 1738 by Nagatani Souen.
The method resulted in high quality and refined green tea with leaves that are bright and needle-like in shape.
Today, temomi is no longer widely practised in Japan, but are preserved as a cultural technique through associations and competitions. Hand-rolled sencha and gyokuro are often award-winning teas available only in very small quantities.
In Shizuoka, there are a number of tea producers who still make temomi-cha. Visitors to Kogochi Village in Shimizu Ward could sign up for a traditional temomi experience at Nukumori-en Yururi, a traditional farm house that offers various Japanese tea related activities. The farm produces tea and vegetables organically.
Its proprietress Kyoko-san is known as the grand tea master of tea hand-rolling as well as a practitioner of the Omote-senke school of tea ceremony.
In the temomi-cha production, the arduous work begins right after harvesting, when the tea leaves are steamed immediately to stop the oxidation process. I will briefly describe each step, but bear in mind, it is much more work involved than what we know in theory. These are summarised from Nihoncha Instructor course materials.
The steamed leaves are placed on the hoiro, a wooden drying table with a type of washi paper on top known as jotan, where the tea leaves will be rolled. The surface is heated, traditionally by charcoal but in modern days, by gas or electricity.
Next is the process known as haburui, which is lightly throwing and dropping the leaves on to the jotan repeatedly from a height of about 40cm. This step lasts about 30 to 50 minutes. The purpose is to decrease the moisture content in the leaves so that they are more pliable for rolling.
The following step is kaitenmomi, a rolling step to reduce the moisture content inside the leaf. Leaves are rolled gently at first before applying more pressure and strength on them. This step also takes up to 50 minutes.
In the tamadoki step, leaves are rolled sideways to unravel the clumps. This takes about five minutes. After that, the leaves are removed from the heated top to let cool. During this process, the leaves lose about 50 per cent of weight. This part takes about 10 minutes. At the same time, the jotan is wiped clean and dried for the next step.
The momikiri step is similar to haburui as leaves are again thrown and dropped on to the jotan. However, care is needed to ensure the leaves maintain their long straight appearance. Leaves are rolled in a twisted movement between the hands, somewhat like a hand-washing motion. Pressure is applied with the little finger and index finger to while tea leaves fall back on to the jotan through the palms.
By the dengurimomi step, leaves are pressed against each other on the hoiro to form the needle-like shape. Here their colour start to appear more lustrous green, and their aroma begin to come forth. Both momikiri and dengurimomi take about 30 to 40 minutes.
Approaching the end is the shiagemomi step, which is like the finishing step. The kokuri method is often employed. It must be ensured that the leaves point in the same direction as piles of needle-like leaves are pressed, divided and further pressed. The leaves become glossy and straight in this step that takes 20 to 40 minutes.
The last step is drying. The leaves are spread thinly on the jotan with a temperature of 70°C. To ensure heat is dissipated without damaging the leaves, a circular gap is usually made in between the leaves. Time required is 30 to 40 minutes.
All in all, the hand-rolling process takes up to six hours from morning until evening, but for those who are just seeking the experience of it, Nukumori-en Yururi offers a two-hour truncated session. The tea made can be brought home as a souvenir.
While at the farm for this experience, an-hour lunch break is also provided by Kyoko-san.
Enjoy delicious tea, seasonal food and homemade dishes at the engawa (open veranda) of the traditional farmhouse!
The best thing, Nukumori-en Yururi is also a farmstay experience. Tea lovers would sure love it here, indulging in tea-related activities and enjoying the peaceful countryside. I know I would!
Isn’t it great to wake up to such views?
So many places to go and so many things to do in Japan, but this virus is still not gone! 💆🏻♀️