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Our second Japanese tea is a top quality Sencha from Uji

Sencha Midori No Kaori Japanese tea

by on August 9th, 2013

Canton Tea Club Week 45: Sencha Midori No Kaori

This week we have one of the most special teas from our Japanese range, Sencha Midori No Kaori. An extremely high quality Sencha from the Sugimoto Family.

The Japanese tea industry is totally geared towards the domestic green tea market (other types of tea make up only a tiny proportion of the industry). Sencha is arguably the most important tea for the Japanese industry, making up 80% of production. There is huge variation in quality of Sencha available, from the very cheap to the very, very expensive.

Sencha appeared on the market in the seventeenth century, around about the same time that Shohokuen, from where this Sencha originates, started producing tea. It is now so popular that the Chinese have even started making it. Since the seventeenth century, production has advanced and now Japan has one of the most modernised tea industries in the world. Due to the high labour costs in Japan, the tea world quickly developed technologies that made production a lot more efficient. Now the vast majority of picking and processing is done by machine and only the extreme high end of the tea on the market is picked and processed by hand.

Picking is done by a hand-held machine that comprises of a large bag, an air compressor and scissors. Two pickers walk down the rows of bushes, which are cut into a curved shape to improve the efficiency of the picking. The scissors cut the leaves and the compressor blows the leaves into the bag. The leaves are then processed by machine into arancha. Arancha is the unfinished tea – the term is similar in meaning to the Chinese mao cha. The arancha will then be auctioned and sent to another site for the final processing.

The Sugimoto family who have run the renowned Shohokuen business for fourteen generations (in 1915 Shohokuen’s tea was served to the new emperor at the Japanese Imperial Court) combine modern technologies with traditional methods to produce their high end green tea. This Sencha is in fact machine picked as per the method outlined above (the Gyokuro that we will taste later in the month is actually hand-picked). However, unlike the majority of Japanese tea industry, Shohokuen use traditional hand processing methods; as outlined below:

1. Steaming: The fresh leaves are steamed immediately after picking.
2. Chakiri: A charcoal fire is stoked under the rolling table which is topped with a Jyotan (a board made of hundreds of sheets of traditional Japanese paper pasted together). The leaves are dried on this board and constantly moved about by hand to ensure that the leaves are evenly dried.
3. Yoko-makuri: The leaves are laboriously rolled by hand for over an hour.
4. Itazuri: A skilful artisan will then sit at a wooden table and roll the leaves back and forward for 50 minutes which lengthens them and gives them their characteristic sheen.
5. Drying:  The leaves are spread out on paper and fanned with a Uchiwa (a traditional hand-held paper fan), they are then sieved.

The entire process takes around five hours. This truly is a special tea.

You can buy this wonderful Sencha in our shop

  1. adp3355 says:

    Beautiful to look at and to drink.  The glossy dark green leaves are tiny and very pretty – you can imagine them coming from a bonsai tea bush!  I took my time to filter water to brew with.  I heated it to 65 degrees and brewed about a third of the 10g supply in a small teapot for  a minute as instructed.  The resulting tea liquor was a very clear and pale lime green – again very pretty.  The aroma and flavours were surprisingly strong for such delicate looking leaves.  The flavour was smooth, sweet and nutty.  The aroma matched and reinforced the flavours.  The leaves reinfused well, the second cup being if anything stronger and more flavoursome even though infused for slightly less time.  I would suggest being careful not to let the leaves steep too long.  I found that a strong, sweet and refreshing aftertaste lingers long after the tea is drunk.  Definately amongst the most enjoyable green teas I have tried.

  2. cantonteaco says:

    @adp3355 Very perceptive – often the second infusion is the best with Japanese teas, especially these top grade examples.

  3. KathyMonaco says:

    I absolutely agree with adp3355. A beautiful soft green tea, that for me was very similar to High Mountain Tea (Gaoshan Cha) from Taiwan. It had the same delicious scent and greeness. This however has a stronger after taste, which lingers beautifully. Subsequent steeping were successful. A great joy to savor for my tea meditation.

  4. tomfreeman says:

    I had very little knowledge of Japanese teas, so was very happy to get 4 weeks’ worth of them when I returned recently from a month away! I like them all, but this one, the Sencha Midori Na Kaori is far and away the best to my taste.  Now I can understand why people go crazy about Japanese Sencha.  A really good Long Jing is the only other green tea I have tasted which is in the same league, although very different in qualities and flavour.  These are the only 2 green teas (so far tasted) which I would want to come back to and drink regularly.
     
    Having said this, I did also enjoy the Gemaincha and the Hojicha very much too.  The other green tea was nice, but nothing special to my taste buds.
     
    btw what happened to week 49?  We seemed to go straight from week 48 to week 50.  Or did I sleep for a week and somehow miss it? 🙂