Green Tea Steaming Process – Light Steamed (Asamushi) vs Meidum Steam (Futsumushi) vs Deep Steam (Fukamushi)
For Japanese Sencha green tea, the length of steaming time determines the flavor, aroma, and color of green tea. Different kinds of green tea have specific timed steaming processes. Mostly the period of steaming depends on growing circumstances such as where it was grown and elevation etc. The more steaming time, the more quickly, the enzymes and cellular membrane break during later processing. Steaming the tea leaves for a longer period results in a brighter color, and astringency and aroma become less.
Brief Summary of Steaming Process
Green tea leaves when plucked are sent to the crude tea factory where the processing starts. The tea leaves are steamed immediately, and it is an important step because high heat inactivates the enzyme present in tea leaves. If this process is skipped, then an enzyme in green tea leaves changes the components, and oxide of catechin takes place caused by polyphenol oxidase.
Catechins are one of the main components found in tea leaves which is also responsible for the astringent taste of tea. It works as an antioxidant agent in your body when you drink green tea processed with a proper steaming process. The steaming process has the foremost importance as it keeps the taste of tea and the function of catechins in tea leaves which then transfer to tea and you get health benefits.
The steaming process is made just for crude green tea to eliminate the smell of green leaves, generate the aroma of green tea, inactivate enzymes and for easy use later during processing. Other types of teas, such as black tea and oolong tea, have fermentation methods or pan-fried methods to get the desired result and inactivate enzymes.
The steaming process came to Japan a long time ago but gained popularity in recent years due to the large scale export of tea. Japanese monk Kobo Daishi learned this method when he visited China in A.D 804 and introduced it to Japan. Nowadays, the majority of green tea sold has gone through steaming.
Green Tea steaming time and characteristics
|Method||Light Steaming||Normal Steaming||Deep Steaming||Special Streaming||Extra Deep Steaming|
|Steaming Time||20-30 sec Short time||30-40 sec Short time||40-60 sec Short time||90-120 sec Long time||140-160 sec Two-step steaming|
|Taste||Clear (astringency)||Slightly rich (astringency)||Rich (astringency)||Deep rich (smoothness)||Strong. Low astringency|
|Leaf Shape||Long, narrow and uniform||Long, narrow and uniform||Long, narrow and uniform||Broken and fine||Coarse|
|Tea Color||Clear light-green||Clear light-green||Clear light-green||Darkish green||Deep green|
Asamushi (light steamed) 浅蒸茶
Asamushi tea is known as light-steamed green tea because tea leaves are steamed for a shorter period compared to others. Asamushi is the finest green tea and most suitable for this method. The traditional Japanese tea-making method is used where the tea leaves are put in a steamer for 20-30 seconds max and then rolled dried. Due to the short period, leaves stay in a long narrow, and uniformed look without breaking down. Such leaves are suitable for any teapot when brewing.
When the tea is brewed like the usual green tea method, you get a clear and delicate mild yellowish liquid. The aroma, on the other hand, is strong and subtle. Due to low steaming time, tea is high in astringency level, which gives it a bit of bitter taste.
Here are examples of normal steamed tea we carry:
Futsumushi (normal steamed) 普通蒸し茶
Futsumushi-cha is ordinary or regular steamed tea which is also sometimes confused with Chumushicha. It is between Asamushi and Fukamushi, which indicates that it is steamed a little longer than Asamushi and little less than Fukamushi. It is a standard green tea due to balanced and mild characteristics.
It is steamed for 30-40 seconds to achieve the desired aroma and colour. Brewed tea has a slightly rich taste and balanced astringency. The tea leaves remain long and neat, which makes it easy to brew. As for aroma, it has a fresh sweet smell and delicacy. The tea has a bit darker shade than Asamuchicha, which is light greenish.
Unless the tea is mentioned as light-steamed or deep-steamed, you can assume that they are normal-steamed and this is most common in Japan.
Here are examples of normal steamed tea we carry:
Fukamushi (deep steamed) 深蒸し茶
Fukamushi tea has a very special taste which is achieved by deep steaming green tea leaves. The method to develop fukamushi tea was introduced in just the last century. Such a method was brought to light when there was a need to make better tea from inferior leaves. This type of tea was introduced during the post-Japan war. Since then it has become popular and well received by masses of people around the world.
The green tea leaves are steamed for a longer time compared to the above two mentioned teas. Therefore it is known as deep steamed. The freshly harvested tea leaves are put in a steaming pot for nearly 40-60 seconds which is twice the time for other green teas.
The deep steaming gives it a rich flavour and a bit low astringency level. People widely like the bolder, sweeter and rich taste of Fukamushi. Such a taste can only be achieved by steaming for a long time before rolling and drying. Such steaming helps in later processes because tea leaves membrane breaks down and releases more flavour.
Tea leaves have a long elegant shape after the process and have light to the non-grassy aroma. Fukamushi tea, when brewed, has a light-greenish color and clear liquid.
Here are examples of fukamushi deep steam tea we carry:
- Shizuoka – European Sencha Deep Steamed
- Kagoshima – Excellent Deep Steam Sencha
- Kagoshima – Deep Steamed Shincha Yabukita
- Premium – Deep Steamed Shincha Yutaka Midori