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Home made Japanese tea

In the past before tea processing machinery came into existence, tea was handmade. The most primitive type of tea was made by cutting down the tea tree with branches attached, the dried tea was roasted in an earthenware pan which produced a type of tea, when brewed in boiling water, similar to Hojicha. This type of tea is still produced in small scale throughout Japan, and is known locally as Bancha. Making tea can be simple, depending on how we think about it.  

For the past number of years, all the Sencha we drink is made in factories. State-of-the-art tea factories filled with computer-controlled machines make tea through complex processes. Even in Shizuoka, Japan's no. 1 producer and distributor of tea, many people think that tea can only be made at a tea factory.

However, anyone can make tea, easily.

Here we introduce how to make “Kamairi” (pan-roasted) Sencha using a hot plate at home. 

To begin, gather fresh tea buds, a hot plate, chopsticks, and a pair of gloves to prevent being burnt. 

The amount of tea buds to use depends on the size of the hot plate, but 100-200 grams is a guide for one serving. Maybe there is a tea farmer in your neighborhood who is kind enough to share some new buds with you? Tea buds cannot be picked throughout the year, so it is good to be consider the timing of the harvest. It is a good idea also to plant one or two tea trees in your garden. If you are able to successfully cultivate the trees, you will be able to pick up 1kg of new buds a few years after planting.

Let us explain about tea buds. At the right time of picking a bud usually has about 5 new leaves. Those buds, which are the basis of the tea shoots, are formed in winter. When spring comes, new buds grow and leaves open one after another. But the number of new leaves per bud is always about 5, not 10 or 20. Taking the first flush tea as an example, the buds begin to swell in late March, and from the beginning of April, new leaves open at a pace of roughly one every five days. When five leaves have opened, new buds (young leaves) shift from a growth stage to a maturity stage.  Picking is done when most buds are at this stage, because the young leaves are soft and the components of the taste have shifted to the buds. If the time of picking is delayed, the buds will mature and become hard, making it difficult to make delicious first flush tea. If tea is made with only hardened buds, it would be similar to Bancha.


For the reasons above, it is recommended to use new buds harvested when picked by farmers. The first flush tea season is from late April to early May, and the second flush tea season is around mid-June. Depending on the cultivation method, soft buds can be picked in late September. Recently, these are carefully picked and commercialized as “Autumn-picked new tea”.

Picked buds can be packed in a plastic bag and stored in a refrigerator for a few days. However, if it is packed tightly in a plastic bag, it will become stuffy and damaged. To avoid this, place the buds loosely in a bag. If the buds are spread thinly and left in the shade (indoors) for about half a day, they will become slightly withered and start having a flowery scent. If you would like to make tea similar to Sencha you should process the buds as soon as possible. If you prefer to also enjoy the aroma, it is better to allow the buds to wither a little.


 やわらかな新芽Picked new buds