So I discovered... the incredible aroma of icho tea leaves, only comes from wounded or bruised tea leaves. It’s the expression of sorrow, pain and cry for help from the tea plant. When the wind brows the leaves, the leaves seeks gentle caress by a kind soul alluring such by their gentle aroma. When the leaves are pluck by trained artisans’ hands, they seek dynamic embrace by masculine arms alluring such by powerful aroma. Mr. Hiruma, the legendary icho tea artist, told me when he fills his Icho making atelier, the overwhelming aroma of eroticism and orchid fills the room. He says it’s suffocating, I say it’s romantic. I would like to burry myself in the aroma... one day. But, I don’t think I would get that full experience. He is the person the wilting and wounded leaves are seeking attention from desperately, while he, the pure soul with samurai spirit, rejects any unruly seduction. What a romance!!
I had incredible encounter and chat with these passionate and innovative tea makers among slowly declining and exhausting Japanese tea industry leaders who run toward mass production and brutal modernization. Yes, democratization and popularization of tea is important for survival, but, at the same time, we have to defend ourselves from walmart-ization of tea industry as well.
Chinese has long history of fermented tea or tea made with secondary fermentation or aging, while Japanese values greenness and freshness. I discovered teas made by Japanese tea artist who looks for middle ground. Yumewakaba by Mr. Hiruma is exactly that!!! It is fukamushi sencha, (popular sencha with longer steaming time) but made with slightly wilted or oxidized tea leaves. I totally fell in love with the tea born out of marriage between established chinese tea making technique we, Japanese, always looked up to and learned from, and the traditional Japanese method. Icho, the Chinese lightly fermented tea making technique, like oolong tends to emphasize aroma to the extreme and rejects any astringency, tannin and bitterness that we Japanese value. Yumewakaba by Mr Hiruma has achieved to preserve slight bitterness and tannin by roasting faster and steaming, and reducing bitterness and increasing aroma by wilting, the icho technique. You must try this. You will see the world of tea in front of you open to infinity.
My journey into Icho tea is just beginning!!!
What’s more is that,,,, of course, I was not the first one to be impressed by the possibility of Yumewakaba. My favorite and champion of kamairi tea maker, Mr. Koorogi, already made his first attempt with icho kamairi tea with this yumewakaba tea leaves. Now his version reflects his philosophy of preserving the property of the tea itself. It has abundant enough aroma at nose, but, nicely work its way to balance its effect on your tongue with soft flavor of young green with a touch of roasting (kamairi) scent and flavor. This is his first trial, so you will never find this in the market, but, this masterfully crafted Yumewakaba kamairi icho is available only at Cha Do Raku tea store. This is the spirit of cha do raku. Join our tea tasting club membership and join the joy of tasting these incredible artisanal teas that you can find only here at cha do raku tea store.