Tea has a history of at least 800 years in Japan, taking hold long before the industrial revolution. Today, the art of hand-picking and hand-processing tea leaves is a dying one, and very few organizations exist to carry on the tradition. At Sugimoto America, we are proud to offer Temomi Shincha, a “hand-rolled tea” produced the traditional way at the hands of artisans from start to finish!
Tea cultivation in Japan began with the intent of producing matcha, a finely ground tea powder. Roughly 300 years ago, the process of rolling and steaming leaves was developed and hence gave birth to modern sencha, a green tea made of leaves rolled into needles. With modern times have come modern methods for tea processing, and presently, Japanese teas can go from harvesting to packaging without ever touching human hands. While sentimental folks may see this as a shame, the use of machinery greatly increases tea production, consistency, shelf life, safety, and, some may argue, quality.
One important aspect of tea production that machines can’t change is tradition. The temomi (“hand-rolling”) method has been refined to an art over the past few hundred years, and is recognized by the Japanese government as an “intangible cultural treasure.” Small organizations throughout Japan have preserved this tradition, creating small batches of temomi cha with each spring harvest. Since these organizations are generally small non-profits, the majority of this tea never makes it to market and is thus unavailable to the average tea lover.
We are very proud that our company vice president, Kazue Sugimoto, is a member of such an organization and partakes in making temomi shincha every spring. The team of 9 artisans meet for one day in early spring each year to make one batch of temomi cha totaling between 3-4 lbs. That’s 3-4 lbs. for the entire year!
The process begins with hand-picking the new-growth leaves from a special tea grove reserved for temomi cha. The leaves are then collected in a bamboo steamer basket for the critical steaming stage, conducted by the senior temomi master.
Following steaming, the leaves are loosely shaken to remove moisture. Next comes a light rolling and then pressure rolling. The final stages include removing clumps, followed by the fine rolling into needles. Lastly, the leaves are spread out to dry, and the 12-hour long process is complete!
The resulting needle-like tea is incredibly flavor rich, and is best steeped highly concentrated to highlight its unique nuances and fresh taste. A typical steeping involves 10g of leaves steeped with 2.5 oz of 100°F water for 2-3 minutes. A 2nd and 3rd steeping are possible, with the flavor changing each time. The temomi process maintains the leaves intact, so the full leaf can be seen beautifully unfurled in the teapot. The leaves are edible and can be eaten either with a salad or on their own.
Taste the tradition of Japanese tea making with Temomi Shincha! Presently, a very limited quantity from our April 23, 2014 picking still remains. Get yours at our online store before this year’s stock runs out!