Uji of Japan–the matcha trip

It is a very happy thing to make an relate investigation about tea in Japan. It means that you not only can see different scenery, but also can taste very good tea. After all,tea is regardless of national boundaries.

Here to talk about the little knowledge of Japanese tea, the tea origin can be traced back to the 16th century, but the introduction of the tea is accomplished by the Tang ambassador.

Japan’s ancient has no native tea tree, and does not have the habit of drinking tea . But since the  Tang ambassador of Nara Age take the tea back to Japan, the drink tea has taken root in Japan.

In the early heian period,the Tang ambassador of the Japanese eminent monk Saicho(In 767AD to 822 AD, the first ancestor tiantai sect in Japan) had brought Chinese tea trees to Japan and  and started to plant trees in kinki sakamoto area. It is said that it was the beginning of Japan’s cultivation of tea tree. In kamakura era,  Zen monk Yosai have learned the tea processing method in China and brought high quality tea back to Japan to spread.He wrote a Japan’s first tea book “have some tea health in mind” in 1211 AD.

we sell a lot of Japanese matcha and matcha peripheral products, so when we go to Japan, Uji is one of our important journey

Uji ,the mid-west city of Honshu Japan, belong to Kyoto .It has a population of 163000 in 1986. It is in the south of Kyoto, adjacent to the southeast of Kyoto city. Uji chuan, the place of crossing the river, since ancient times it is the pathways to connection Nara and Kyoto. So as the traffic crossroads,it is very prosperous.

Today, Uji is famous for it’s tea.It become a place to take a tea tourism and spread Japanese tea culture. Before coming here I’ve been thinking about a particular difference between Chinese and Japanese tea culture. That is what led to the spread of Japanese tea culture in world at the forefront?

After coming here,I found it is caused by the industrial chain, due to the mature peripheral products industry chain to cooperate, the spread of tea culture will not seem so single.It has attracted more diversified group . For example ,in Uji ,there are tea snacks everywhere.

Although the types of Chinese tea is the best in the world,  peripheral products form a complete set of production does not rich. Fortunately,  this aspect in China started late,  but now there are many places have been conducted.

When we talk about matcha , we must Speak of the stone mil and the use of matcha .Firstly, we tell about stone mill, the Japanese are very traditional, so in this society which has been industrialized production, keeping this process is very rare. As the follow picture ,you can see that modified stone mill machine is except drive by electric, other places are basically kept grinding method of the tang dynasty in China. production, besides keep this process is very rare. You can see in the following picture, modified stone mill machine, besides is electric drive, other places are basically kept grinding method of the tang dynasty in China.

A lot of people don’t understand. Why now it continue to use such a low efficiency of processing method in this kind of industrial society(a day 24 hours it just can produces matcha less than 20 kg). In fact, our company have done a similar research. When with high efficiency air compression crushing matcha, whether  the taste or the retention of nutrients, can’t compare with  the stone mill. This may be the science and technology can’t cause. I quite understand the Japanese make efforts for the traditional retention. Such as our company, our pressure is also huge because we still retain the traditional practice in the impatience society. But when I saw Japan’s this machine, I felt relieved.

When talking bout matcha teaware, originally ,I want to tell the detail of the production and making about tea whisk. After all,  one of the most famous places in Japan is not Uji, but talking of matcha tea brewing, I think it can be omitted. .

Japanese people actually make maccha is very exquisite. I have communicated with other friends in before about this, whether it’s technique, or the  finally achieve effect, almost all have a common standard detail. This is worth to learn.

Such as the types of tea whisk, including Ye Dian, Chang Hui,  Kazuho , Matcha Whisk Chasen-80 Pondate , Matcha Whisk Chasen-100 Pondate and so on. According to the types of bamboo, it can divided into purple bamboo, golden bamboo, white bamboo and old bamboo. Besides,on the basis of the process, there is real tea whisk,  ordinary tea whisk, long poles tea whisk and so on.It would be very complex.In Japan, it will divide the genre. I think it will make us fall in a faint directly.As the following picture.

Tea, is a lots of knowledge for us to study.

 

Pu Er Tea Definition & Making Process

What is Pu Er tea

Pu Er is a post-fermented tea produced in Yunnan province only.  Pu Er tea’s definition includes the following basic & must aspects:

  • Tea leaves: Tea leaves from Yunnan tea-growing areas.
  • Selecting the tea leaves from Yunnan tea-growing areas, followed the traditional way of making tea plus sun-drying the tea leaves can be defined as Pu Er tea.

There are two types of Pu Er tea in terms of fermentation; green(raw) Pu Er tea; another is cooked(ripe) Pu Er tea.

There are mainly two shapes of Pu Er, mainly loose leaves, cakes; but there is also other shapes, like bricks, mushroom shape, Tuo Shape, melon shape, and other unique shapes as well.

So below, it is a brief summary of two different types of Pu Er tea making process.

Below is the detailed illustration of the two Pu Er teas making process by picutres

  • Raw Pu Er Maocha tea making process

1. Picking the fresh leaves(采青)

picking standard, one bud with two/three leaves; the best time to pick fresh leaves is between 9AM to 3PM; at this time, the sun has just spread all its light in the whole tea field, and morning dew just disappears.)

 

2. Indoor Liangqing(凉青, withering in door)

Indoor temperature: best is around 22-24 degree; if too low temperature, the aroma of fresh leaves can go out yet;

The thickness of leaves piling up during Liangqing should not be over 5 or 6 cm. If too thick, the tea leaves can’t breathe and become soft quickly; if in this case, the finished Maocha has some dull taste, and its aroma is not as high as other Pu Er teas.

 

3. Shaqing(杀青killing the enzyme)

The best one is to kill the enzyme by wok, which is the most traditional way.

Another way is by machine, which is normally for medium-low quality Pu Er tea.

Normally for killing the enzyme, the temperature should be around 120 degree. If too high, and does not control well, the fresh leaves can be over-burnt, which leads to the tea has light burnt aroma or burnt spots on the leaves;

If the temperature is too low, and can’t kill the enzyme completely; in this case, the tea has the light grassy odor.

Pls be noted, the “ killing enzyme process” does not mean to kill the enzyme completely and stop any further oxidation in tea leaves; at this step, it just kills most of the enzymes in Pu Er tea leaves, postpone quick oxidation, increase the softness of leaves to rolling them easily.

 

 

 

4. Rounian & Litiao(揉捻&理条, rolling the tea leaves by hand & shaping the leaves)

This is extremely important step and requires very high skills & years of experience;

The purpose of rolling is to disrupt the leaves cell tissue to a certain degree and cause the tea juice comes out.

If rolling too light, then the tea taste will become very light & mild;

If rolling too heavy, then the tea liquid will be very cloudy; taste will be too bitter & astringency.

Rolling & shaping requires to be done at the same time;

Shaping is greatly related to the appearance of Pu Er Maocha or cakes; Many tea farmers don’t have the shaping step, as they don’t realize the shaping’s importance. Shaping is a further step to disrupt the cell tissue & pectic, which will make tea liquid is more thick & mellow.

When comes to compare the same Pu Er tea from the same tea field, if there is a shaping step, then its liquid will be more dense, thick & mellow than tea without shaping.

 

5. Shaiqing(晒青,sun-dryness)

The most important & crucial step for Pu Er tea. If tea leaves are not dry by sun, then it can’t be defined / called as Pu Er tea.

If the tea leaves are baked by steam/hot heat to dryness, then it can’t be defined as Pu Er tea, and can only call Yunnan baked green tea(烘青绿茶).

So sun-dryness is the most important step for Pu Er tea, it is a further continuity step for “ killing the enzyme”, stops all the enzymes oxidation, and become the solid foundation for the Pu Er tea concept” the longer it stores, the better & aged it becomes”

The difference between sun-dryness Pu Er tea & Yunnan baked green tea lies in its appearance & taste. The sun-dryness Pu Er tea is dark green color; whereas Yunnan baked green tea is kind of blue green color.

With regards to taste, sun-dryness Pu Er tea has little sun taste(after it is freshly sun-dry), good, profound & deep aroma; whereas Yunnan baked green tea has very high aroma after it is freshly-baked, with burnt bean aroma as well.

 

6. Raw Pu Er Maocha

After Shaiqing, then it is Pu Er Maocha(raw tea). Now in the market, many people sell the Pu Er Maocha directly; however, there are also many sell the Pu Er raw cakes/bricks, or Pu Er ripe tea.

 

Below is another detailed process of raw Pu Er cakes making process.(here we just introduce raw Pu Er cakes making process; raw Pu Er tuocha/other shapes are similar)

Pu Er tea cakes making process.

1. Sorting the Maocha

Picking out the old/yellow leaves or old stems in Pu Er Maocha

 

2. Weighing the Maocha

If press into 357g cakes, then weigh 357g of refined Maocha.

 

3.Steam the Maocha

Steam the Maocha in a bucket by hot steam for around 5 seconds; then the tea leaves become very soft.

 

4.Shaping the Maocha in the cloth by hand

This is the initial step to make the cake shape by hand. This also requires high skillful people to make the cakes shape looks beautiful; if not, then the shape will become uneven or ungly.

 

5. Pressing by stone

The skillful people stands on the stone and shake the stones on a regular direction to make the cakes in a uniform shape and evenly.

 

6. Unwrap the cloth, take out the cakes gently & put them in the racks in doors for 3-4 hours before putting them inside the baking room.

 

7. Putting the teas in the baking room

In the baking room, it stops the leaves oxidation completely by hot heat inside room providing by wood fire. Normally, cakes are required to stay inside the baking room for 48-72 hours before taking out.

 

8. Wrapping

Wrapping with Pu Er paper, then put 7 cakes into a bamboo leaves to make one tong(seven cakes in one tong, called Qizi bing tea).

 

Pu Er ripe teas

In Pu Er ripe tea, it is also categories into two parts; One is the Pu Er ripe loose leaves tea ; another is Pu Er ripe cakes/bricks.

  •  Pu Er ripe loose leaves making process

1. Raw Maocha Wet Piling Fermentation ( Wodui, 渥堆the most important step for ripe Pu Er tea’s quality)

Wodui technique is a national secret recipe and only a few people technicians know this expertise/knowledge through years of working experiences in the state-owned tea factories like Menghai tea factory, Xiaguan tea factory & Kuiming tea factory in the past.

This requires at least 10 tons of Maocha as a pile to conduct the piling fermentation successfully.

The theory of Wodui is with the help of dampness & heat to increase the auto-oxidation of the non-enzyme’s activity in polyphenol substances, catechins, which has transferred the interior substances inside tea leaves, decreases the bitterness & astringency, get rid of the grassy odor aroma and develop unique aroma & taste.

Normally the Wodui time period is around 45 days, which is all controlled by the technician’s knowledge on Wodui and years experience. During the 45 days, piling’s temperature are strictly controlled and requires to be check from time to time. Then it requires at least 4 times of turning the piling over to lower the piling temperature, in case of tea get burnt inside.

 

2. Dryness of the Wodui Maocha

After Wodui, then the tea requires to be dry before winnowing and grading.

3. Winnowing

4. Grading by rotary screening & sieving

5. Sterilization

6. Selecting the old leaves & stems in the loose leaves ripe Pu Er tea

Now it is the finished loose leaves ripe Pu Er

 


 

  • Ripe Pu Er tea cakes/bricks( the making process of ripe Pu Er tea cakes/bricks are almost the same as raw Pu Er tea; The main difference lies in; almost all ripe Pu Er cakes are pressed by machines; However, high quality raw Pu Er cakes are traditional stone-pressing;

1. Blending

2. Weighing

 3. Steaming

 4. Shaping

 5. Pressing

 6. Drying in the baking room

 7. Wrapping

 8. Finished ripe Pu Er tea cakes

 

 

Traditional Dai Minority bamboo raw Pu Er tea making process

Here we would like to take this opportunity to explain how the traditional bamboo raw Pu Er tea is made.

Normally the best time to make bamboo Pu Er tea is the Autumn season, as only at this moment, large amount of fragrant bamboo is available.

1. cut the fresh bamboo( only fragrant bamboo is using; this fragrant bamboo is unlike common bamboo; after freshly-cut, smell inside the bamboo, this natural, unique, super high aromatic fragrance comes against the nose. The fragrance is better and natural than any perfume. Dai minority often use this kind of bamboo to put sticky rice inside & cook together to eat.

2. cut the long bamboo stick into small bamboo.

 

 

3. Put the leaves inside the fresh bamboo and cook it directly on the wood stoves.

 

4. for 500g/bamboo Pu Er tea, it requires at least 9 times of putting those Maocha inside the bamboo separately and press it hardly inside to a solid stick shape after it is burnt on the stove and become soft by heat.

 

 

 

5. After the bamboo is well-cooked/burned above the stove, we will take it out and cool down, before peeling the bamboo;

6. after well-peeled the bamboo, we need to put those stick bamboo raw Pu Er tea inside the heating room for at least 72 hours, so the tea inside can be completely dry.

Then in this case, because the tea inside the bamboo fully absorb the bamboo’s unique fragrance & bamboo juice after burning on the stove, that is why the bamboo Pu Er tea has such high fragrance, sweet tea taste with little astringency & bitterness;  That also explains why local minorities like this way of drinking tea and can be easily well-kept and store this kind of teas. 

ByJennifer.Jiang

Here is the link of Naka bamboo Pu Er tea offered by JK Tea.

http://www.jkteashop.com/2011-autumn-handmade-traditional-naka-bamboo-raw-pu-er-tea-p-704.html

 

La Lao Huo(the final step baking) for Liu An Gua Pian

Video in Youtube: La Lao Huo(the final step baking) for Liu An Gua Pian

I will put some video in our blog, It can help some  tea lover to understand the tea making process. 🙂

Laohuo-refers to bake the leaves around 160-180 degree. This is the extremely crucial step, which directly influences on the aroma, leaves color, shape and taste. A big baking basket is adopted with 1.5 diameter. Wood charcoal is used at this step. Around 3-4kgs of teas are on the big basket. This procedures of this step can be described as following. Two tea makers carry the basket onto the charcoal for about  5 seconds, then carry it down to stir the leaves to lower down its temperature; This two procedures require to be done at least 120 times, which is similiar to walking over 10 km road.

URL for Liu An Gua Pian in our store: http://www.jkteashop.com/premium-liu-an-gua-pian-green-tea-p-175.html