Out of the different types of Japanese green tea, Tamaryokucha is one less heard of. Indeed, it's not a very common type of tea. It comprises only 3% of all Japanese tea production. However, if you are a Japanese tea enthusiast, trying Tamaryokucha is a must.
What Is Tamaryokucha
Tamaryokucha is a type of Japanese green tea. The name translates as "coiled green tea." Some people also know it by the name guricha or mushiguri. These mean "curly tea" and "steamed curly", respectively.
Most sencha comes from Shizuoka prefecture on Japan's main island, Honshu. However, most Tamaryokucha farms are on the southern island of Kyushu. Read more.
It's a slightly newer Japanese tea as Kyushu farmers developed it in the 1950s. Interestingly enough, farmers produced a similar version of guricha in the 1930s in Shizuoka Prefecture. They grew this tea primarily for export into Russia, where it was quite favored.
The Russian tea market loved pan-fired Chinese green teas. However, in Japan, there was a ban on pan-firing tea. Thus, some innovative farmers created guricha. This tea looked and tasted like Chinese teas but was actually steamed.
With time, not only did the Russian market come to love this tea, but also plenty of Middle Eastern countries. It wasn't until later on that Kyushu Tamaryokucha gained a loyal following of tea enthusiasts throughout Japan and eventually across the world. Nowadays, Japanese tea farmers don't produce Tamaryokucha for mass export, but only for connoisseurs who know and love this unique and somewhat rare tea.
Tamaryokucha makes up only 3% of all teas produced in Japan.
How Is Tamaryokucha Made?
Just like most other Japanese teas, farmers steam Tamaryokucha instead of pan-firing it. Many believe that steaming preserves the vitamins and antioxidants in the tea.
From the beginning, the growing and processing methods are the same as for sencha. There is a difference only in the last step. After steaming, farmers roll the tea leaves into their iconic curly shape. Read more.
There are three main methods of steaming Japanese green tea - asamushi (light), chumushi (middle) and fukamushi (deep). First, asamushi steams are under 30 seconds. Then, chumushi is 30-60 seconds. Finally, fukamushi is a longer steam of 60 to 120 seconds.
Drinking fukamushi tea means it will have a much deeper flavor and a denser amount of nutrients. Moreover, both the tea leaves and brew have a mesmerizing dark green color. However, the more prolonged steam exposure causes the tea leaves to crumble. This is why fukamushi tea is usually more powdery. Furthermore, it requires brisker brewing methods and fine strainers. However, the finishing taste is undoubtedly worth it.
Although rarer, there is also a pan-fired Tamaryokucha known as Kamairi Tamaryokucha. You may notice how this one tastes slightly more reminiscent of Chinese green teas. This is because farmers process them similarly. The nutty qualities are more prominent. Not to mention, the finishing taste is like a sweet oatmeal cookie.
Kamairi tea is indeed rarer in Japan, comprising only 5% of all teas. During the 1890s, the Japanese government banned this method to force farmers to adopt more efficient production methods. Indeed, the kamairi process requires swift hands to quickly fry the tea leaves in big woks over the fire. It's not only more time-consuming but also requires more skill.
Furthermore, it also retains more catechins. Consequently, the price of Kamairi tea is also higher.
The Taste Of Tamaryokucha
Tamaryokucha has far less astringency than its Japanese green tea cousins. This deep-steamed tea (fukamushi) is later slightly baked which results in reduced astringency and enhanced aroma and flavor. It's mellow and at the same time deep in umami and robust. While sipping guricha, you may notice notes of fruits, almonds, and fresh-cut grass.
Our Oita Prefecture Tamaryokucha has sweet notes of roasted cashews and sappy mangoes. Followed by a wave of magnolia flowers and Brussel sprouts. Delightful!
How To Brew Japanese Green Tea
You can brew Tamaryokucha the same way you would brew sencha green tea.
0.5g per 1oz/30ml