What is Fukamushi Cha?
Fukamushi Cha literally means “deep-steamed (fukamushi) tea (cha).” Fans of it favor its bolder, richer, and sweeter taste. This unique flavor is brought forth by steaming freshly harvested young tea leaves for about twice as long as the usual green tea steaming process before they are rolled dry. Most popular in the Shizuoka Prefecture, Fukamushi Cha is steamed for about a minute longer than other kinds of green tea.
How did Fukamushi Cha originate?
Green tea has been around a long time, but the culture, especially in Japan, is alive and well, hence its ability to continue evolving. That’s why there are more recently developed green tea varieties such as Fukamushi Cha. It’s a relatively new kind of green tea, only surfacing in the 1960s, driven by various problems in the global tea trade.
These crises in post-war Japan led to the creation of a good drink from subpar teas. Tea masters responded to the call of the time by merging an old-time tea leaf rolling process that can be traced back to Tozuka Toyozou in the Meiji period (1868-1912) with a longer variation in steaming time, thereby creating the modern Fukamushi Cha.
What tea leaves are in Fukamushi Cha?
While Fukamushi Cha is usually made with Sencha (the most common Japanese green tea variety), the deep-steaming process can also be done to Kabusecha (leaves shaded from sunlight five to ten days before harvest, resulting in a darker and less astringent flavor), Gyokuro (first flush leaves shaded from sunlight for 20 days, resulting in the highest quality tea available), and even Bancha (late flush leaves that make a coarse and lower quality, but also cheaper tea).
What difference does deep-steaming make?
The steaming process has a big say in how the tea will taste. Steaming itself is a necessary step in tea production to stop fermentation and oxidation. Regular green tea steaming runs from 30 to 40 seconds and results in Futsuumushi Cha or “normal steamed tea.” On the other hand, light steaming lasts shorter than 30 seconds and results in Asamushi Cha or “light-steamed tea.”
With the longer duration of the fukamushi process, the leaves gain more sweetness and body while reducing astringency and the raw grassy quality. They become full-bodied and robust, but with a smooth mouthfeel and a mild aftertaste. The process also makes the leaves very soft, causing them to easily break at the tips during rolling.
As previously mentioned, the fukamushi process was developed to give inferior teas a better flavor; however, it was also discovered that it could be applied to high-quality teas to create a first-rate beverage.
What are the advantages of roll-drying tea leaves?
Drying tea leaves by hand-rolling them makes them more prone to breaking at the tips, forming dust or powder. This leads to increased health benefits, especially in terms of the non-soluble nutrients such as some vitamins, fiber, and chlorophyll from the tiny particles that end up being ingested. It also results in a thicker and fuller-bodied mouthfeel from the sediment created by the pulverized bits that broke off during rolling.
How is Fukamushi Cha brewed?
The Fukamushi Cha brewing process is similar to the standard green tea brewing method but a bit more involved. First and foremost, due to the particles present, the recommended brewing vessel is a kyusu or Japanese teapot specifically designed for Fukamushi Cha. It should have an infuser with a fine mesh to properly filter out the larger bits, as well as a large surface area so it won’t quickly clog.
Take note especially that Fukamushi Cha should only steep for 40 seconds, and then it’s ready to pour. This is half the time more lightly steamed teas are supposed to steep. Therefore, it can be deduced that the steeping duration is inversely proportional to the steaming duration.
Keep in mind that if steeped too long or too hot, tea could end up being bitter, so it’s vital to pay attention to the duration. Nonetheless, the correct steeping of Fukamushi Cha will ensure a delicious drink with a delicate aroma.
Brewing and serving Fukamushi Cha is easy, but there is a bit of ceremony to it, so it behooves those who drink it to heed the ritual for optimal enjoyment. Here’s the general step-by-step guideline:
- Bring water to a boil. Springwater or carbon-filtered water is best.
- Pour water into serving cups, about 60 to 100 ml or two to 3.33 oz of water per cup, cooling to about 70 to 80 degrees Celsius or 158 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit in the process.
- Put three grams or ¾ of a teaspoon of Fukamushi Cha in your teapot.
- Pour the water from your serving cups into the teapot to mix with the tea leaves.
- Cover the teapot and steep for 40 seconds.
- Pour tea drink into each cup a little at a time, alternating from cup to cup so that all of them will have about the same tea concentration.
Is Fukamushi Cha worth a try?
This green tea variety is becoming increasingly popular worldwide, and for a good reason. The darker color and the abundance of sediment may give it an inferior look, but its high quality is revealed at the first sip. Sweeter and richer, it provides a delightful, not to mention healthy, green tea experience. It also embodies Japan’s genius for marrying ancient elements with modern innovation, so give it a try if only to satisfy your curiosity. However, many have found their new favorite in doing so, and the same could very well happen to you.
Here are examples of tea we carried:
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