YAME, FUKUOKA – Rich green liquid flows onto my hand as Mr Kenji Yuge, owner of Yame Yuge Tea, squeezes the freshly steamed tea leaves he’s grabbed from his tea production line.
Try it, he says.
Initially bitter, the familiar flavours of Japanese green tea soon emerge. Familiar, yet completely different.
This unadulterated version of the dried leaves we attain in teabags or even in fancy tins on supermarket shelves boasted a much stronger, fresher aroma, and intensity that is incomparable.
Steaming is just one of the stages in the production of the finished product though.
Located just an hour’s drive south from central Fukuoka, the region is synonymous with acres of tea plantations that stretch for miles as far as the eye can see. Fans are situated everywhere not to keep the cool, but to shake up the leaves “so that the leaves don’t get frost”, says a beaming Mrs Kyoko Yuge in Japanese.
“We have 18 plots of land here,” she adds.
The couple belong to the second generation of tea growers in this 70-year-old tea plantation. Their son would be the third.
The mountains, temperature and mist in the Yame area make it perfect for the tea to thrive, resulting in award-winning teas.
HOW TO DRINK GREEN TEA
1. Add one teaspoon of dried tea leaves per person into your teapot.
2. Pour hot water (70 deg C) into your teacups.
3. Pour the water from the cups into the teapot.
4. Wait for one minute. Swirl the teapot in your palm gently.
5. Pour the tea into the cups alternately so the intensity of the tea is evenly spread.
6. Make sure every drop is poured out.
7. Enjoy your drink.
Every year, between end-April and early May, the tea is harvested for the first time to make green tea.
Only the top three leaves out of each stalk are picked.
This is considered the best batch, followed by another harvest later in the year, and a third would be made into black tea.
The harvested tea is then steamed to soften them, and ground to even out the water concentration before being roasted, dried and sorted.
Apart from making tea, the leaves are also used in various cuisines. One delightful way is immersing freshly plucked leaves into tempura batter, and frying them, resulting in a light, crispy treat with undertones of tea.
The tea is also mixed into mochi, jelly and granola.
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