Fukuejima Mushisei Tamaryokucha (福江島蒸し製玉緑茶) is a classic vegetal Japanese green tea grown on Fukuejima, which is the largest of the Gotō Islands that lie just west of Kyūshū. Tamaryokucha is a type of Japanese green tea that is also commonly known as guricha. It has a distinctive curled dry leaf appearance and can be either steamed (mushisei) or pan-fried (kamairi). This version is steamed, which results in a more savoury and grassy profile. This tea is picked from organically-grown Yabukita cultivar plants and this batch is from spring 2019 harvest.
The name tamaryokucha (玉緑茶) literally translates as ball green tea into English. The alternative name for the steamed version of tamaryokucha is mushiguri (蒸しぐり) or guricha (ぐり茶), meaning (steamed) curly tea. The processing method for tamaryokucha follows that of sencha. The only difference is that the last step in processing, which is shaping, is omitted. The shaping stage gives the straight leaf appearance to the classic sencha leaf. As tamaryokucha is not shaped, the leaf retains the natural curl or coil shape. This also means that fewer leaves are broken during processing, resulting in a larger leaf. In terms of flavour, it also contributes to a smoother, less astringent and less drying flavour.
It is said that the rise in popularity and major increase in production of tamaryokucha is attributed to the Taishō Period (1912-1926). During this time there was a rise in demand for tea from countries that formed the Soviet Union. But since there was a preference for Chinese-looking and tasting tea, the Japanese tea export industry had to adapt to meet that demand. And while now not exported on large scale anymore, with time tamaryokucha had become a type of speciality Japanese green tea.
Our Fukuejima Mushisei Tamaryokucha is a mushisei (蒸し製), or steamed version. This is the classic way of producing Japanese green tea. There are also kamairi (釜炒り), or pan-fried, versions of this tea. Since we already feature a number of fantastic kamairicha teas from Ashikita, we opted for this more classic steamed tamaryokucha. When Japanese teas are pan-fried, this greatly alters their character, resulting in a profile that is less grassy and savoury, being closer to vegetal Chinese green teas. While steaming brings out more grassy, savoury and umami flavours that Japanese green teas are famous for. This Mushisei Tamaryokucha in our opinion is best of both worlds. It delivers the classic umami, savoury flavours, while not being too overpowering or astringent when compared to some top sencha teas.
This Fukuejima Mushisei Tamaryokucha green tea has neat, dark curled leaf that is slightly finer when compared to pan-fried teas. Still, the processing results in the leaf remaining more intact when compared to shaped and rolled sencha teas. The liquor has a a vibrant green-yellow colour and a fine savoury and vegetal aroma. The vegetal profile has a mouth-coating quality, with savoury, umami notes of fresh buttered asparagus and nori seaweed. There are also some lightly fruity and zesty notes present. The aftertaste is moreish, with a green and savoury finish and just a touch of dryness to balance the flavours. Overall this is a beautifully balanced tea that has a nuanced interplay between classic Japanese green tea flavours and a more accessible pan-fried green tea profile.
It is best brewed at 80°C for around 2-3 minutes, with multiple infusions.