By Miles Cramer
We are very happy to share with you an amazing new Japanese Green Tea called Sencha Michiko!
For our offerings of Japanese Teas, Dobra Tea has worked for a long time with a man by the name of Masahiro Takada. Over the years, he has become a dear friend of ours. Takadasan has hosted us many times in Japan, showing us tea fields all over the country and educating us on Japanese Tea culture. We are always pleased by the tea he sends us each year. This year, we have received a special blend that Takadasan has created called Sencha Michiko.
A few years ago, Takadasan decided to develop a blend in honor of his wife Michiko.
When Michiko first heard that he was developing a blend in her name, she became very anxious and nervous. She feared that if the tea was bad, it would bring shame to her and her family.
When she first tried Sencha Michiko, she was relieved to find that the tea was very good. It brings her pride to know that people all over the world enjoy a tea in her name.
I had the honor to meet Michiko on a tea trip in Japan. Takadasan was our guide on a long week touring the tea regions of Shizuoka and Uji.
On the last night, he invited us to his home for dinner. Michiko was a gracious host and prepared an epic feast of homestyle Japanese cooking. It was a truly amazing meal and so much food! I’ll never forget how perfect her tempura was.
How Sencha Michiko Is Made
The farmers harvest the tea at the one bud and two leaf picking grade. In Japan, this is now almost always done by a hand-held machine that shaves off the top growth of the tea trees.
Unlike Gyokuro and Kabusecha, where the tea fields are covered with a tarp for 2-4 weeks before harvest, Sencha is left uncovered entirely.
The freshly picked leaves are brought to the production factory and dumped into long withering bins. The leaves are allowed to wither for a short amount of time before they are steamed. The steaming is the most defining step of Japanese Green Tea. The leaves are steamed from anywhere between 30-90 seconds. This high heat process stops the oxidation in the leaves. For green tea in China, the leaves are pan fried, but in Japan they are steamed. This creates the unique grassy flavors of Japanese green tea.
After the steaming, the leaves are dried in a high heat chamber. With about 70-80 percent of the moisture removed, the leaves are then shaped in a rolling machine. This creates the distinctive long needle shape. At this point, the tea is called Aracha, or unrefined tea. The Aracha is then sold at auction to wholesalers.
The wholesalers buy large quantities of Aracha, sometimes from multiple gardens and producers. They then bring the Aracha to their refining factories. The leaves are skillfully sorted and blended. Any stems and unwanted small broken leaves are removed in high-tech electronic sorting machines. The leaves are blended in large mixing tumblers to achieve the desired strength of flavor and quality. This finished product is then ready to be sold to the public.
For Sencha Michiko, a high quality Aracha is purchased by Takadasan. This year’s batch comes from Kagoshima in the southern island of Kyushu. Takadasan then sorts and blends the leaves to create the perfect tea to honor his wife.