Day 12.

Temomi Gyokuro Shincha てもみ玉露

The day following our picking session, we were invited to watch the same leaves be hand rolled into gyokuro. Temomi tea is completely created by hand. The tea is picked, steamed, sorted, rolled, dried, rubbed and finished by hand. This is a labor intensive tea and is made in very small amounts. The 8 kilos of tea we picked would produce about 2.4 kilos of actual drinkable tea.

We were lucky to get schooled in the art by the Yame’s finest…these dudes are considered the best in Fukuoka. 

The table in the photos is used specifically for temomi cha. Under the white top are hot charcoals. The surface becomes hotter and hotter as the hours roll by (the process takes about 4 hrs). First, the tea is laid on the table and thrown by hand. This separates the leaves and begins the process of lowering the moisture. The leaves are very wet at this first stage. After about 45 minutes of separating the tea then moves into the rolling phase. I tried all the steps and something about this one in particular was challenging. The tea is rolled back in forth in a rocking motion.  The sound of this is hypnotic. Getting the tea to stay in a ball shape is IMPOSSIBLE. I just dragged it around in seperate clumps…no ball to speak of. The guys were of course very patient, but at this point I figured I was ruining the tea they were trying to make. After rolling, the tea is sorted and separated again. Then we untangled every piece in a separate basket. Half way done.

After untangling, back on the heated surface and rolling by hand commences. The tea is painstakingly rolled in the hands again and again. Like kneading dough, this seemed to be the longest step in the process. The needle shape achieve by this is incredible. Long shards of tea emerged that were very sharp. The tea was further seperated, split in half then re-rolled. This tea takes FOR.EVER.

After another rolling and final drying, the tea was done. The tea is much longer than traditional gyokuro. It was had less sheen than machine made tea and the aroma was remarkable. It was very amazing to see the leaves we had picked 24 hours before now as tea. The taste on the tongue and color in the cup were very light. The fragrance was incredibly deep. It was not far away from the smell of the leaves right after picking. Beautiful.

We were fortunate to able to see this first hand. What a great experience. Thanks Yamguchi san for inviting us!