I recently saw a video from Japanese tea lover Shizuka Maitani about the final processing and blending of Japanese green tea.
It is so interesting that it deserves a blog post to discuss it. Watch the video below and then we’ll go over some aspects of it.
Sorting the tea leaves
First we see how many tea wholesalers buy aracha, the unprocessed tea. The finishing process isn’t normally done by the tea farmers themselves.
The leaves are sorted out so that on a given harvest you can have different types of tea, as I explain on my post about bancha.
Hiire, or firing
Hiire (火入れ) is a secondary drying process of the tea leaves. Although the aracha leaves have already gone through a drying process, the sorted leaves that will be used for sencha still have a water content that’s undesirably high.
Without this extra step, the sencha leaves will degrade quicker. Furthermore, the aroma and taste of the tea improves if it’s done correctly.
Depending on the tea’s qualities, the hiire process is adjusted. The same leaves with different hiire process result in different taste and aroma.
At 6:44 minutes in the video you can see Fumio Maeda, the famous tea blending master which I introduced in the last post. He’s wearing the same polo shirt 🙂
Blending is often necessary to please the consumer’s palate and to have a uniform flavor, since tea leaves have a different taste each year because of changes in climate.
In order to effectively blend a tea, you must have a proper training. It’s definitely not an easy task.
I hope that this clears your doubts about the last steps of making Japanese green tea.