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Kamairicha – Japanese not steemed tea

Kamairicha is a japanese tea whose leaves are heated dry and not steamed. The name refers to ” Kama “, which is an iron pan. So Kamairicha means ” the tea of the pan”. Nowadays, it is very rare to prepare the Kamairicha by hand in the pan. Sometimes it is done, but only for teaching purposes or championships. Over time machines were used in the production process but even that is rare nowadays. The amount of Kamairicha is only 1 % of the total Japanese green tea production.

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In 2015, on our trip to Japan, we visited Haruyo and Shigeru Morimoto. To learn more about the production of tea, they suggested to visit a neighbour, who produces green tea without vaporization (Kamairicha), as it was done before. With great curiosity we went together to visit his small tea plantation. We were surprised to see how it is possible to produce such delicate and unique green tea with simple means and without vaporization. Enthusiastic, we bought a small amount to share this experience with our tea friends back in Portugal. Right now, we only have a limited amount of 90 packs of 100g but we hope to continue this cooperation in the future.

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Later we did meet another producer of very good quality Kamairicha and decided to include his tea also on our list to be able to show the differenced in Japanese not steemed teas.

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Visiting Shutaro Hayashi in Kirishima and having a wonderful tea tasting

We have to get up early in the morning. Saying good bye to the Morimotos is not easy, but they will stay in our hearts as they are.

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Together with Tobias we drive the two hours to Kirishima, where we meet Shutaro Hayashi, the producer of our new Tennen Gyokuro. He receives us at the little tasting room in his families tea shop. He is the fifth generation of the family tea business and the first, who studied tea making. With great concentration he starts preparing teas for us.

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We taste several Senchas, he produces of the different tea bush varieties. His family does not make blends, but sells the different qualities separately. They send the teas for the final heating to a specialized company. In contrast to almost all other tea producers they leave out this last production process for the very first tea of the year (Shincha). It has a wonderful fresh taste and vibrant smell of the freshly picked tealeaves, but is not as stable as other teas. Therefore the Hayashis just sell it just for one month.

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After several very elegant and complex green teas, Shutaro san prepares a very delicious and creamy Matcha from a friend with a teagarden nearby and in the end surprises us with a black tea (Koucha) produced by him from the Benifuki tea bushes, which has a wonderful flowery nose.

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After having lunch together we visit the teagarden, which has a big field with 100 year old Zairaishu plants, which in contrast to modern plants where grown out of seeds. These tea bushes are more robust and therefore get much older. As all the plants are a bit different they grow not homogeneously. It is not so easy to decide when to pick the leaves, as some plants are more and others less developed. The great diversity of different leave than is processed together to tea, which has a very own character.

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On our way through the tea fields we meet a goat, which Shutaro san has bought with the idea to defend the weeds. As the goat also like the young tea leaves, he next wants to see if sheep could do the job. He is a smart guy, continuing the tradition of his family, but also trying to find his own new way.

Than we drive to Miyazaki, where we have to say good bye to Tobias, who will stay some more days with the Morimotos to help finish the first picking and to prepare the shipment of the teas. Dirk and me have a simple, but very delicious dinner. Tomorrow we will leave to Jeju Island in Korea. We are a bit sad to leave Japan, but we keep so many good memories of inspiring moments, which fore sure will stay with us for a long time.

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Rainy day with preparations for shipment and saying good bye to the Morimoto Family

The Morimotos managed to pick some tea in the morning, than it starts raining again. I quickly visit the now 4 years old Minami Sayaka plantation, which I already saw two years ago. The plants are looking not too much different from how we expect our little plants to develop… that gives us hope, that one day our still little tea plants will look like a real plantation.

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Than have a look around in the tea fabric, where Shigeru san is the master of the machines, while Haruyo san is taking care of the plants and the picking. In the tea fabric Shigeru san is regulating every fine tuning of the several machines. The whole production process starts with the steaming to keep the green colour and fresh taste of the leaves. Than the very humid tea passes several machines, which are drying and rolling the tea leaves step by step, until it enters the Sencha machines, which make the tea needle shape.

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Tobias is tasting the teas again and again to make decisions, how long the teas are finally heated before they get packed and shipped to Germay, from where they come to Portugal.

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The day just flies away and in the evening we have already to say good by to the Morimoto Family, what is not so easy as they all are so lovely people. We enjoy a last delicious dinner cooked by Dirk. Luckily we all know, that we will see each other again.

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Sakura jima volcano island and Sushi dinner with Morimotos

Finally we stayed the night on the little volcanic island Sakura jima close to Kagoshima. In the morning we wake up from the noise of rain. The still active volcano is hiding in the clouds and it’s not easy to distinguish between clouds and smoke. We decide to drive around the island and enjoy beautiful views on the Sakura volcano.

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The islands vegetation in the far South of Japan is subtropical and after the rain the air is crystal clear… we see really beautiful details of Japanese daily life.

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Already back on the mainland we see trees along the road with something that at first sight seem to be white flowers. The closer look reveals that it is white plastic bags. Wondering what this could be, we stop to see that the women are selling. It is medlar, which we know very well from Portugal (nespras), but we never have seen them that beautiful as in Portugal they have almost always black spots and are a bit rotten. Here they are almost looking like apricots as the plastic bags protect them from rain and getting damaged. On top of that, they are really tasty. I am touched, of how carefully Japanese handle food.

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Slowly we drive back to the Morimotos, which are welcoming us very warm. We are so happy to see them again. As today it was raining, they didn’t pick tea and therefore have time to go out with us for a sushi dinner. There is coming a lot of Sashimi, even more Nigiri and Maki Rolls and steamed fish. It is delicious and the whole Morimoto family and some of Haruyos Karaoke friends, which help at the teapicking, enjoys the delicious food in this relaxed atmosphere.

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