Friday, December 23, 2016
Tea Appreciation: Batabatacha
Batabatacha (ばたばた茶 or バタバタ茶) is a post-fermented dark tea from Japan and bears the closest similarity to Chinese dark teas like puerh. Post-fermented or dark teas are called ato-hakkou (後発酵). "Batabata" refers to the swishing and clattering of the whisk. Traditionally, it is prepared as a whisked tea or furicha (振り茶) on special occasions such as weddings and death anniversaries and for guests, though it is also enjoyed with meals as an unwhisked tea.
Batabatacha was officially introduced in Japan at Shingon Honsenji Temple around 1427. The process was Chinese in origin and is believed to have been in use in Japan well before 1472.
Batabatacha is produced in Asahi in Toyama Prefecture and is a specialty of Niigata Prefecture and Toyama Prefecture. It was also produced in Fukui Prefecture, though production ended there in 1976.
Bancha tea leaves are harvested in early-August and steamed until the color changes from green to yellow-brown and oxidation is stopped. Next, the leaves are dried for half a day, then stored in a box to ferment in temperatures no greater than 140°F/60 °C for just over 3 weeks. During this time they will be agitated every few days, loosening the leaves to assist with the fermentation process. Finally, the leaves are shade-dried for a half day and then sun-dried for 2 to 3 days.
Botebotecha (ぼてぼて茶) - In Shimane Prefecture, shade-dried tea harvested in late-Autumn is boiled and whisked. Then black beans, red rice, and chopped pickles are added and the tea is ready to eat.
Bukubukucha (ブクブク茶) - In Okinawa, roasted rice and oolong tea are boiled together, poured into a large 30cm bowl and whisked to a high froth, the froth is transferred to the top of cups that have been filled with jasmine or sencha tea, then crushed peanuts are sprinkled on top before serving.
Hikicha (挽き茶) - Sun-dried bancha is ground, prepared with hot water and a pinch of salt, and whisked before serving. In Nara, hikicha is traditionally served in temples and when entertaining guests.
Okecha (桶茶) - A specialty in northern Aichi Prefecture. Tea leaves are boiled, poured into a wooden tub called a chaoke (茶桶) along with a pinch of salt, and whisked before serving.
Traditional: Add tea leaves to boiling water and simmer anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours, pour into a tea bowl, add a pinch of salt, whisk left to right (not up and down as you would with matcha) briskly until frothy, and serve. The whisking brings out a mellower flavor.
Traditionally, the tea is whisked in a tea bowl slightly smaller than a matcha chawan called a gorohachi chawan (五郎八茶碗) with a batabata chasen (バタバタ茶筅) which is two long bamboo whisks bundled together.
Alternate: Add boiling water to the tea leaves and steep for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.