Updated: Aug 20
This tea is an uncharacteristically a Japanese green tea. It has been pan-fried, unlike most Japanese teas which go through steaming. I have not tasted a lot of Japanese teas I have to confess, but this tea was very different from the ones I did. It was close to Chinese drinks, but yet it was the sweetest green tea I have ever tasted, and this came as a pleasant surprise.
According to this article on the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, the word zairai is ordinarily used to describe varieties of vegetables and plants that are native to a particular region. When it comes to tea, however, it refers to heirloom trees of unknown type.
Pan firing is considered more labour intensive as it is a mostly manual process. At the same time, steaming can take place in machines in a short period. This increase the value of the tea, however, it does not necessarily mean that pan-fried greens are better. To be honest, it is up to one’s taste. I liked the Kamairicha more than Sencha (a typical steamed Japanese tea) because its taste profile was richly aromatic.
Obviously, different processes cause different chemical reactions which in turn change the taste profile of the teas. A research looked into the different flavour dilution (i.e. odour intensity of the flavour component) factors between sencha and kamairicha. The researchers found that the latter had high levels of 2-Ethyl-3,5-dimethyl pyrazine and 2,3-Diethyl-5-methyl pyrazine while Sencha did not have any. Both of these structures are associated with nutty-flavour. When was also interesting to note that, there was no single flavour component that was higher for sencha than kamairicha. I think this also explains that the end product is richer for the pan-fired tea.
So, this was a tea I really enjoyed. Thank you, Japan, for the exceptional tea!
Origin: Shizuoka, Japan
Harvest time: 2020
Leave colour: Curly shades of dark green
Liquor colour: Translucent yellowish green
Tea aroma: Very aromatic (both dry and infused leaves)
Tea taste: Sweet all around that lingers very long
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 80°C water and brew about 4 g for up to 30 sec. gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Fresher the better