Tokunoshima Sun Rouge is an unusual new type of green tea from Japan. Created from a new ‘Sun Rouge’ purple leaf cultivar, this tea is known for high anthocyanin content and a unique colour-changing liquor! This Sun Rouge tea comes from a plantation on Tokunishima Island (Kagoshima Prefecture) that does not utilise any pesticides. We currently have the May 2021 (Second Flush) harvest.
Tokunoshima Sun Rouge gets its name from the Island of Tokunishima where this tea is grown. The island is located about 100km north of Okinawa and as such enjoys a much warmer climate than the major tea growing regions of the main Japanese islands. The sub-tropical climate combined with the volcanic soil of the island make it an ideal location for this cultivar. The Sun Rouge cultivar itself was only registered in Japan in 2009. It is the result of a 9 year development project to produce a green tea that is high in anthocyanin content. This particular tea was developed by crossing Camellia sinensis var. sinensis with Camellia sinensis var. taliensis from Yunnan Province of China. Taliensis is widely used for making different types of tea from Yunnan, such as our Da Li Cha black tea. Here the crossing of the two tea plant species resulted in a tea with particularly beneficial properties.
Much like our Kenyan Tumoi Nandi Hills Purple green tea, the leaves of these tea plants are tinted reddish-purple. This is the result of the tea plants having higher amounts of anthocyanins in their leaves. This is a natural pigment that also occurs in grapes, blueberries and cranberries and also acts as protection from UV rays. These types of tea can be grown at higher altitude and closer to the equator. Purple tea can also be found naturally occurring in Yunnan Province in China where they are subject to strong sunlight and harsh growing conditions. If you would like to see what other teas of this type on offer in our shop, please check out our Purple Tea page!
This Tokunoshima Sun Rouge is processed slightly differently to traditional Japanese green teas: it is pan-fried rather than steamed. This results in a dry leaf appearance that is more similar to a pan-fried Chinese green tea. However the dry leaf does have a much darker green appearance than is typical of many other pan-fried green tea types. The colour of the liquor changes depending on the water you use and comes out in a range of colours between: bright pink – colourless – purple-grey. The colour in your cup will largely depend on the pH level of the water that you use! When using water with a high pH (less acidic), the colour will be duller and darker. Now for the fun science part of this tea! In most cases your water will have a medium to high pH level, so your tea will be either dull green or dark purple-grey. When you lower the pH level of the water used, the colour will come out lighter and more bright red or pink. Hence this tea is also often known as ‘Pink Tea’. You can do this easily by adding a few drops of lemon juice to the brewed cup. You will notice the colour change from dark purple-grey to a bright pink! This is the direct interaction between very high anthocyanin content and acidity of the water. You do not get the same interaction with other teas as they typically will have much lower anthocyanin content.
Flavour-wise, this Tokunoshima Sun Rouge is also not typical of other Japanese green teas. The pan-roasting and high anthocyanin content produces a brewed cup that is most unusual. When brewed normally, the taste is verdant, peppery and grassy with pronounced savoury and umami notes and a fresh, herbaceous profile. There are further marine notes of kombu seaweed and a light astringency on the mineral aftertaste.
Tokunoshima Sun Rouge is best brewed at 80°C for 2-3 minutes, with multiple infusions. Depending on brewing parameters and personal preferences the very high anthocyanin content may cause the flavour of this tea to be too astringent for some drinkers to fully enjoy this tea. In such case we recommend either enjoying it with added fruits and honey or cold-brewing this tea. The best cold-brew parameters are 10g of tea to 1l of water left in a fridge for around 8 hours, or overnight.
This tea was first featured in our April 2019 Curious Tea Subscription Boxes.