Tengu Kurocha, Legendary Fermented Tea from Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture!

Ever heard of “post-fermentation tea”?

Teas can be divided into non-fermented, also known as green tea, and fermented tea. Known as semi- and fully-fermented teas, oolong tea and black tea, among others, are made by fermenting green tea once. On the other hand, there are also post-fermented teas where mature tealeaves are fermented twice. One such tea is Chinese Pu-Erh tea. In Japan, however, it’s so rare that it’s currently only made in four locations: Toyama’s Toyama kurocha (bata bata-cha), Tokushima’s Awa bancha, Kochi’s Goishi-cha and Saijo’s Tengu kurocha.

The production method of Tengu kurocha is unique.

Rather than new sprouts, mature, ripened tealeaves are used. At the time of harvest, the tea trees are taller than the average adult.

 

Instead of plucking the tealeaves, whole branches are cut at knee height with clippers. It doesn’t look like they’re harvesting tea, right?

The branches are then washed and steamed. As this is done, the large leaves drop off the branches.

 

These leaves are then put into wooden boxes for the first fermentation stage (aerobic fermentation).

After 4 or 5 days, the state of fermentation is checked, and the leaves are removed from the boxes and rubbed by hand. Before being fermented further by lacto-acid bacteria, the mixture is put into plastic bags, and the air removed. This is the second fermentation stage. After this process, the tealeaves are dried and sterilized in Japan’s strong midsummer sunshine. The product is then finished.

 

As the known effects of the tea differ from others, a study is being conducted at Ehime University to find out if it can be used to combat Japanese cedar allergy.

 

A tea called Ishizuchi kurocha had been made in Saijo city since ancient times, but as there was only one person left making the tea, a local life research group succeeded the techniques and created Tengu kurocha.

Although I say they ‘succeeded the techniques’, apparently nothing went well at first and they suffered many hardships!

 

Coming from Setouchi’s mountainous region, Tengu Kurocho, a tea that can be only produced in small quantities because of water shortages, trouble with succession, etc., is truly legendary.

Though mild, it has a slight bitterness that could become a habit, and whether made in a small pot like regular tea or brewed with cold water, it’s delicious!

Do have a try!

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Establishments offering Tengu kurocha

Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Toshiyasu Uchida

 

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