The world of green tea is much more complex than just matcha. Green teas are an art steeped in cultural history and tradition throughout Asia. No country is more renowned for its green tea than Japan. Japanese green tea is considered some of the highest quality in the world, cultivated and processed with care and respect.
Inside the world of green tea, there are some lesser-known varieties. These rare teas are beloved by tea connoisseurs around the world. Tamaryokucha is one of the rarest, comprising only 3% of all Japanese tea.
Tamaryokucha Tea: A History
Tamaryokucha tea is a Japanese green tea also known as guricha. Tamaryokucha means “coiled green tea” and refers to the shape of the curled tea leaves. This distinct curly shape of the tea leaves makes Tamaryokucha unique.
The cultivation of Tamaryokucha is primarily on a southwestern island of Japan called Kyushu. Most processing of Tamaryokucha is in the sectors of Saga, Nagasaki, and Kumamoto. Kyushu is a large tea producer, accounting for roughly 36% of Japan’s total tea production.
Kyushu is known for its beautiful landscape, with rich soil from active volcanoes, and its relaxed lifestyle. Many of the teas produced on this island are early harvest teas or “first flush” teas that are harvested in late April or early May.
Tamaryokucha was originally developed in the 1950s when it was grown as an export tea for Russia. This tea was developed to mimic the pan-fried Chinese green teas that were popular in the Soviet Union without going against the ban on pan-fired teas. The farmers managed to recreate the look and taste of the Chinese teas through a steam process.
The popularity of the tea spread through Russia and into the Middle East, eventually gaining a small but loyal following around the world.
What Does Tamaryokucha Tea Taste Like?
Like all green and black teas, Tamaryokucha is made from the plant, Camellia Sinensis. The growing, harvesting, and processing techniques allow each tea to have such unique and complex flavors.
Tamaryokucha has a mild grassy flavor with notes of almonds and fruits such as berries or citrus. The earthy flavor paired with delicate sweetness is a staple in high-quality green tea.
The early harvest gives green tea a rich umami flavor. The growing method pairs that richness with a light sweetness reminiscent of berry or citrus. The flavor is considered mellow, with a light astringency.
How Do You Brew Tamaryokucha Tea?
Tamaryokucha tea is brewed the same way Sencha is. High-quality green teas are delicate and require a lower temperature of water for brewing. Aim for 70-80 degrees Celsius or 160-175 degrees Fahrenheit
Add .5g of tea per ounce of water and brew for one minute. The tea can be reused for up to two more pots of tea, with different notes coming to the surface for each subsequent infusion. Reduce brewing time to 30 seconds and then 15 seconds on each infusion.
Tamaryokucha tea is cultivated in a similar method to sencha. The leaves are picked early steamed, rolled, and dried. Tamaryokucha utilizes a different steaming and rolling method which gives the leaves their signature curled shape rather than the needlepoint leaf shape expected from Sencha tea.
The Japanese process differs from similar Chinese teas by steaming the leaves instead of pan-frying them. Steaming helps preserve the vitamins and antioxidants and creates a more delicate flavor in comparison to the pan-frying method.
Japanese steaming can take between 30 seconds and 120 depending on the method. The lightest steam, asamushi, is only 30 seconds. The medium steam, chumushi, ranges from 30 to 60 seconds. The deep steam, fukamushi, can last between 60 and 120 seconds.
The longer steam time requires a longer processing and finer strainers due to the more powdery nature but creates a rich, deep flavor that many tea connoisseurs consider worth the extra effort.
Tamaryokucha has about the standard amount of caffeine found in green tea, about 20 to 30 mg. The lighter dose of caffeine combined with the high levels of anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants found in green tea make it a perfect drink for any time of day.
Green tea is renowned for its high nutrients. It boosts metabolism and provides a gentle energy boost to your day. Green tea in the afternoon can be the perfect pick-me-up without the added jitters than can be found with coffee.
Tea is also a zero-calorie drink. Without any added sugar, tea is considered zero calories although some calorie-tracking apps may log it as 2 or 3 calories and as a carbohydrate.
Why Choose High-Quality Green Teas?
What is the difference between high-quality green teas sourced from Asia and the standard green tea that can be found in the supermarket? Is it worth the extra money?
To begin with, high-quality green teas have much higher-quality flavors. Tea in tea bags is often made from the dregs of tea processing, small bits, and powders left over from producing whole-leaf teas. Whole-leaf teas offer more depth of flavor because it uses the entire leaf rather than just small, broken pieces.
Whole-leaf teas also require less tea for more infusions. A standard supermarket brand tea can only be infused once and comes in pre-prepared tea bags to control the amount per infusion. Whole loose-leaf tea only needs about half a gram per ounce and can be brewed up to three times, creating more bang for your buck.
High-quality green teas are also usually organic, creating a better product for your body and the environment. Many tea fans consider the extra price worth it for better-tasting teas that last longer and have a lower environmental footprint.
Tamaryokucha tea is a rare find among Japanese green teas that are well worth the search. Its careful cultivation on Kyushu island creates a mellow and earthy flavor tinged with fruit and almonds. Through its precise processing and brewing, you can make yourself a delicious cup of tea for any time of the day.
Featured image: By Fanny Schertzer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=611936