Monday, May 23, 2016

Japanese Dark Tea Tasting

Recently, I was invited to taste a selection of rare Japanese dark (post-fermented) teas brought back by my friend Noli Ergas (Sugimoto America) from his recent visit to Shikoku, Japan.  In addition to his experience in the Japanese tea industry, Noli has also received Nihoncha Advisor certification and  had a wealth of knowledge to share throughout the tea tasting.

Ishizuchi Kurocha from Ehime Prefecture

This fermented tea is probably one of the most rare as it is only produced near Mount Ishizuchi in Ehime.  Lactic acid develops during the fermentation process and gives the tea what someone in our group aptly described as a "pickle" aroma with a mildly sour taste.  Very unusual from any other tea I've tasted and worth exploring further.

Awa Bancha from Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku Island

This fermented green tea is harvested late in the season when the leaves are fuller.  During processing, the tea leaves are basically pickled, developing lactic acid which gives the tea a pickle-like aroma and sour taste.

Goishicha from Kochi Prefecture on Shikoku Island

This fermented green tea takes its name from its resemblance to go (goishi) stones.  It has a sour taste that I didn't find unpleasant, though I have heard that it becomes mellower when served cold.

Batabata-cha from Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku Island

This fermented black tea is served at various social events, including weddings.  After brewing, the tea is poured into a bowl and whisked into a froth.  This is similar to matcha preparation, though the results are different.  We tasted the brewed tea first and it was intriguing.  Then we tasted the frothed tea and it was delicious!  The whisking process created a thick froth and gave the tea a smoother, creamier flavor.  It tasted like a completely different tea.

Thanks to Noli for welcoming us into his home to enjoy these rare and fascinating teas!  

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