Ashikita Koshun Kamairicha (芦北町香駿釜炒り茶) is a light pan-fried Japanese green tea grown on Kajihara Tea Farm that is run to organic standards in Ashikita District of Kumamoto Prefecture. This tea is crafted from the unusual Kōshun cultivar plants, which results in a smoother, creamier and lightly floral flavour. We source it directly from the grower, Mr Toshihiro Kajihara. The current batch is the first flush harvest from May 2021.
While Kajihara tea garden mostly focuses on heritage native ‘zairai’ plants, they also have a number of various Japanese cultivars planted on their farm to further differentiate and extend their range of teas. This Ashikita Koshun Kamairicha is made from the leaves of Kōshun (香駿) cultivar plants. This cultivar is still quite rare and it is largely used to make steamed green tea, known for a distinctive floral aroma. However some farmers like Mr Kajihara are starting to experiment with producing some more unusual teas from this cultivar like this pan-fried Koshun Kamairicha and Koshun Wakocha black teas.
Kamairicha (釜炒り茶) literally translates as ‘pan-fried tea’. Pan-frying or steaming fresh tea leaves is the process that stops oxidation of the leaves, making green tea. Most Japanese green teas are steamed, which results in a distinctive taste that tends to be heavy on grassy, savoury and astringent flavours. By contrast, kamairicha undergoes pan frying that results in a different flavour profile that is more balanced with sweeter and lighter green notes. Less than 5% of current Japan’s tea output is within the pan-fried category.
The process of pan-frying of tea leaves first arrived to Japan from China in the Edo period, around the 17th century. This was the preferred method for stopping leaf oxidation in order to produce green tea. To this day, this is the most common green tea production process around the world. It is considered that the first time steamed tea was produced in Japan was in 1737 when a tea grower named Nagatani Sōen developed a new process of tea production. This process, which consists of steaming the tea leaves fist, then rolling them and finally drying them in the oven is considered to be the standard production method of tea in modern Japan. By contrast, pan-frying has fallen out of favour due to demand for steamed Japanese style of tea as well as the ease of processing steamed tea. It is much easier to automate steamed tea production, thus greatly reducing production costs. By contrast pan-frying is still largely performed by hand and requires great skill by the tea master to achieve the perfect results. Hence the general rarity and higher costs for kamairicha pan-fried green tea.
Ashikita Koshun Kamairicha green tea has a very neat dark green leaf that has a distinctive curled appearance common with other kamairicha teas. It produces a clear and bright liquor with a light vegetal aroma. The smooth taste has no harshness, astringency or dryness and leaves a juicy, mouth-watering impression. The taste is vegetal, creamy and a touch floral with some light savoury notes of wood and hay. It has a spicy, peppery and herbaceous aftertaste reminiscent of asian herbs. Overall the aftertaste is clean but some pleasant refreshing tannins can be found towards the end of the taste. The smoothness and ease of drinking makes this an excellent everyday tea!
It is best brewed at 80°C for around 2-3 minutes, with multiple infusions.
You may also be interested in other teas crafted by Kajihara-san.