Tamaryoku-cha

This term officially includes two types of Japanese green tea, kama-iri sei tamaryoku-cha 釜 炒 り 製 玉 緑茶 (commonly called kama-iri cha) and mushi-sei tamaryoku-cha 蒸 し 製 玉 緑茶, but when speaks of tamaryoku-cha’ we refer to the second, the mushi-sei’, ie one whose oxidation of the leaves after harvest is stopped by steaming, like almost all Japanese green teas (except precisely kama-iri cha).The tamaryoku-cha or guri-cha, was born in Japan in the 1930′ for export to Muslim countries. Japan needed to find new markets to export tea after the West began to stop consuming sencha. But in the Muslim world, if green tea is consumed, this is Chinese green tea whichi is very different from the steamed Japanese sencha, both in form and flavor. Infrastructure (factories, ) making it impossible to produce kama-iri cha, closer to Chinese tea, in an industrial  way , that’s why it was necessary to create a steamed green tea which looks like kama-iri’ style green tea. For this, the last phase of rolling/kneading whichi is called seiju and which gives to sencha its characteristic needle-like shape leaves is skipped, and an additional drying phase is process. Thus we get steamed Japanese green tea which flavors and shape approaching the kama-iri cha, that traders could blend with Chinese green teas.
This type of tea is produced in quantity until the 50s and the collapse of the export of Japanese tea.
Today, the tamaryoku-cha, steamed type and kama-iri type combined, accounts for only about 3% of Japanese tea production, the steamed tamaryoku-cha is largely dominating this part.
The production is mainly concentrated in Kyushu and Saga Prefecture in particular (Ureshino tea), but the region of Izu in Shizuoka, is also known for its guri-cha. (In Shizuoka this type of tea is sometimes calledyonkon”; the origin of the word is uncertain, but it could be a distorted reading of the Chinese word 洋行 which have designated a tea produce in order to go to the West’).
Today, however, the characteristics of tamaryoku-cha are not always easy to understand as most them, apart from the shape of the leaves, has flavors and taste that are not very different from sencha.
Market trends today are focusing on umami’ mellowness and very green and cloudy liquor teas. For this reason most of tamaryoku-cha is grown shaded, then long steamed in the ‘fukamushi’ way. Thus, we approach the fukamushi sencha found for example in Yame or Kagoshima, far from authentic tamaryoku-cha approaching the kama-iri cha.
P1230165

An “authentic” old style tamaryokucha (from Ureshino)

蒸し製玉緑茶

A “modern” tamaryokucha approaching the competition standard

P1100357(2)

A typical “modern” tamaryokucha “fukamushi” style

Manufacturing
Steaming sojû rolling/kneading seiju rolling/kneading- chûjû rolling/kneading (roughly speaking, no major difference with the line of sencha)
shiagesaikan 仕 上 再乾 drying: a rotary drum wherein hot air is sent.
The leaves are in friction with each other and exert pressure on each other, which allows to give them their shape.
(* Until the 60 70s  a rotary-drum machine but running direct heating of the surface, called shimeiriki 締 め 炒 り 機, still used for kama-iri cha, were used.  But the shift to shiage-saikan-ki may have caused a loss of the fragrances that were reminding the kama-iri cha and make tamaryoku-cha aromas resemble to sencha.)
Drying
A very crucial and delicate phase as because of its shape, tamaryoku-cha leaves tend to be only surface dried retaining moisture in their heart. (This is also the case of the kama-iri cha). This is a problem that would cause bad tea, one have to pay a lot of attention to drying.

It is often said that the tamaryoku-cha gives no astringent liquor even brewed with very hot water. I think this is far from always being the case, but it is true that the well manufactured tamaryoku-cha leaf releases its flavors more slowly than sencha.
In general, therefore, this type of Japanese green tea can be prepared on the same basis as a sencha.

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Categories: Types of tea

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  1. Tamaryokucha from Ureshino | Japanese Tea Sommelier

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