Kitchen Culture

tasty tidbits from the old-fashioned Japanese Kitchen

Ryoku Cha

(Green Tea)


Green teas -- ryoku cha -- are green because enzymes responsible for oxidization have been prevented from doing their (dark and discoloring) work.

The Japanese halt oxidation by steaming freshly picked leaves, while the Chinese typically pan-fire or roast tea leaves to achieve similar results. The steaming process accentuates latent vegetable-like and herbaceous tones in tea -- qualities that are prized by the Japanese. In much the same way that wine enthusiasts throughout the world eagerly anticipate the arrival of Beaujolais nouveau, tea connoisseurs everywhere keenly await Japanese shin cha at market.

Tea Maidens (Cha Musume)

Harvesting Tea


hachiju hachi ya

(the 88th Night)

The official beginning of spring on the ancient koyomi, a lunar-based calendar-cum-almanac, was risshun which corresponds to early February on the Gregorian calendar.

Counting 88 days from risshun brings us to the beginning of May and hachijuhachi ya (literally the 88th night) that marks the traditional start of the tea harvest.
From the first plucking on the 88th night, through subsequent ones throughout the summer and early autumn, young buds, tender leaves and flavorful twigs are handpicked and processed. Most of the commercial crop in Japan is grown in Shizuoka, southwest of Tokyo, though Uji (near Kyoto) and Ureshino (on the island of Kyushu) are also famous for their tea plantations. 
left to right, above:

煎茶           SENCHA (leaf tea)

茎茶           KUKI CHA (stem tea)

                        (deep-steamed to stabilize)

玄米茶       GENMAI CHA
                        (green tea mixed with roasted rice)

焙じ茶       HŌJI CHA (roasted green tea)

To find out more about these teas and how to brew them