The traditional Japanese hand-rolling technique is known as ‘Temomi’. The product, the decocted tea, is known as the ‘sencha’. The process is not widely preferred nowadays as machines took all the work.
However, at Mitatani Tea, we try to keep this tradition alive.
Let’s just take a look at the various steps involved with the production of hand-rolled tea.
The process of steaming, also known as ‘jounetsu’, allows the tea leaves to stop its oxidation process. Ideal green tea leaves will only be oxidised to the minimum.
The leaves are put on a wooden drying table (also called hoirou), over a large sheet of paper, called the jotan.
This step reduces the moisture in the leaves. The leaves are shaken and dropped back to the jotan repeatedly for about 30 to 50 minutes. By the end, the total weight of the tea leaves will be reduced by around 30%.
Kaitenmomi is the technique by which the moisture inside the leaves is reduced evenly. The moisture inside the leaves will be otherwise higher than the outside.
In this process, the person will bend his/her knees and the leaves are rolled using the weight of the upper body. The tea leaves are rolled rhythmically from side to side.
Rolling the tea leaves this way will ensure that the cell wall of the tea leaves breaks, thus enhancing its aroma and flavour. As the moisture in the tea reduces more pressure will be applied.
In this step, the tea leaves are rolled horizontally with little pressure so that the lumps inside the tea leaves are loosened for about 10 minutes. The weight of the tea leaves will be then reduced by over 50%.
The jotan is then cleaned for the next step.
In this step, the tea leaves are further rolled to reduce its moisture content. The step is more similar to haburui with the leaves being dropped onto the jotan over and over again. The person uses his/her little finger and index finger to apply pressure, while the tea leaves fall back into the jotan through the rest of the palm. It takes almost half an hour to finish this step.
In this step, the tea leaves are rolled against each other. The leaves start to change its colour to dark green. The process is carried out for 30 to 40 minutes and helps to enhance the aroma of the leaves.
The final step in rolling, the leaf obtains its classic needle shape in this step. The process lasts for 20 to 40 minutes.
The leaves are then placed on the jotan for the final step, drying. The jotan will be 70°C (158 °F). For the heat to dissipate without damaging the leaves, a hole is made in the middle.