> Tamaryokucha History and Origins

Tamaryokucha History and Origins:

The word ‘Tamaryokucha’ is derived from the Japanese word tama meaning jade. Its leaves are coiled in shape, which makes them extremely distinctive from other Japanese green teas.

Tamaryokucha, also known as Guricha may be dated as far back as early 1190s. Originated in Kyushu Island of Southern Japan, most notably Nagasaki, Saga and Kumamoto. Today, Tamaryokucha is grown all over Japan, and each area has its own passionate followers, but Tamaryokucha from Kyushu has become one of the most recognized in Japan. Guricha was first introduced in Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka around 1930, mainly farmed for export to Russia. Guricha received a very good reception in Russia and it eventually expanded its export to various countries in Central Asia and North Africa. The word ‘Guri’ means roundness in Izu dialect referring to Tamaryokucha tea leaves’ rolled-in shape.

Tamaryokucha is processed mostly the same way as other Japanese teas, until they reach the rolling stage. This rolling stage gives Tamaryokucha a special characteristic that holds in its deep well-balanced flavor. With its lustrous deep green color, Tamaryokucha tea leaves are exquisite. They do not fail to impress us even before they are brewed. The aroma and taste of Tamaryokucha is robust yet delicate and completely devoid of bitterness. Once brewed, its flavor will linger inside a teapot for a very long time. The finished brew is a pure pleasure. Like other Japanese green teas, Tamaryokucha also contains high levels of catechin.

There are three basic tea processing types to make Tamaryokucha. In Japan, these methods are called sassei. During the process of sassei, the raw tea leaves are promptly steamed to halt its oxidation process at most appetizing level. Tamaryokucha we consume today is primarily processed using the standard steaming method called futsumushi which is typically steamed for 30 to 40 seconds. The other is a longer steaming method called fukamushi that calls for a steaming duration of 60 to 120 seconds. Because of its long steaming process, fukamushi method yields tea that is very robust in flavor and dense in nutrients. The downside of this method is that causes leaves to crumble, thus, making them appear more fragmented and powdery. The lesser known processing type is called kamairi method. Of the total green tea production in Japan today, kamairi method is comprised of only 5%. When using kamairi method, the tea leaves are pan-cooked or roasted, usually by hand. Undoubtedly, this makes it time-consuming and adds exorbitant tea production costs. Kamairi method was temporarily banned in 1893 by the Meiji Government to force tea farmers to adopt more efficient way to produce green teas, and it never regained its footing to this day. On the plus side, kamairi method is proven to retain the most amount of catechin content at 14.10% to 18.16%. Whereas futsumushi method retains slightly lower at 13.56% to 14.14% according to Ryokucha No Jiten* (Encyclopedia of Green Tea.)

Tamaryokucha output accounts roughly only 4% of the total Japanese green tea production, so it is arguably a rare tea. Because of its relative rarity and straightforward flavors, Tamaryokucha has become a prized tea and is appreciated in other parts of Japan as well as the rest of the world.

*Published in October 2005 from Tokyo publisher Shibata Shoten by Japan Tea Central Public Interest Incorporated Association.
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