Tea tasting: Hand-rolled green tea

This is just a short post (and photo dump) for a delicious hand-rolled tea I received as a gift last week.

In Japan, there are farmers who produce hand-rolled tea, usually in small amounts and sold at premium pricing.

Also, as I have previously posted, some even offer the hands-on experience to visitors, at a fee.

However, in most tea regions there is a ‘cha temomi hozonkai’, or Tea Hand-rolling Preservation Society. This is usually a group of experienced tea masters who strive to preserve the traditional method of rolling tea, which is by hand instead of using machines.

On pricing, let me give you an example of what premium could be. In this year’s first new tea auction held in Shizuoka City last week, a kilo of hand-rolled green tea from Fujinomiya, made in collaboration with the Fujinomiya Tea Hand-rolling Preservation Society, fetched a whopping 1,968,000 yen.

That is how valuable hand-rolled tea could be in Japan.

Anyway, mine was a gift made in collaboration with a ‘cha temomi hozonkai’ in central Shizuoka.

I was told the tea leaves used were from last year’s shincha (harvested on the 88th night to be exact), preserved by keeping them frozen until last month when they were taken out for use.

I love how needle-thin and straight these hand-rolled tea leaves are. I couldn’t stop admiring the handwork.

Despite being nearly a year old (this year’s 88th night is May 2), the leaves retained the fresh leafy aroma of the first harvest. Opening the package was like opening new shincha.

I used a shiboridashi teapot with a capacity of 25ml to brew this tea. I love how the tea leaves seemed to shine in the shibo.

Brewed 3g at 70°C for one minute.

Mesmerising to see the leaves swimming in so little amount of water.

The tea was nice shade of yellow with a clear sweet scent. Taste-wise it was also very sweet with a bit of umami in the first brew. It really tasted like first harvest sencha. Who would have thought it was from last year?

I did another 3 steepings at a lower temperature of 60°C and steeping time of 30 seconds. The tea was really sweet throughout.

From the used leaves, I could see how there were tiny buds and bigger whole leaves, with very little stems in the mix.

Couldn’t resist arranging the leaves.

So beautiful.

I tried eating the used leaves with a bit of ponzu, but they were bland, without the vegetable-like taste one would get from actual shincha leaves (or high-end shaded tea / gyokuro).

This is such a great way to keep the excitement going for the coming new first harvest teas. I still have some of this gift left, so I plan to drink it each day until my shincha orders arrive. Ha!

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