Tamayokucha is a shaded green tea, made using the Japanese method of steaming the leaves and then rolling them in a coiled, “comma” or rounded shape giving Tamayokucha green tea its distinctive character.
At Two Leaves and a Bud, we affectionately call our Tamayokucha green tea, “Tamy” and if you are as big a fan as we are of this extraordinary tea, we invite you to read the full story.
But, there is much more to this story which unwinds almost like a fairy tale. Green tea originated in China over 1500 years ago. (In fact, green tea is the most widely grown tea in China.) The first documented writing about green tea was “The Classic of Tea” written in approximately 680 AD, by Lu Yu in the time of the Tang Dynasty. Yu wrote generally about green tea’s health benefits, and we in the modern world with our experiments and scientific studies, proclaimed with puffed chests of all the amazing benefits of green tea. O.K. perhaps modern science can explain in a bit more detail, but the core message of green tea’s amazing powers were known 1,500 years ago. And this, is where the story of Tamayokucha begins……
Fast forward a few hundred years to around the time of 1211 AD when the Zen priest, Eisai, wrote the “Record of Drinking Tea.”
This ancient and classic document describes how drinking green tea affects the five vital organs in the body: liver, heart, lungs, kidney and spleen and how the organs correspond to the five Chinese elements of water, fire, earth, wood and metal. Eisai advocated for everyone to drink green tea everyday for the health benefits.
Eisai, it could be said, was the father of green tea cultivation in Japan. He was born in Japan and studied the Tendai sect of Buddism which originated in China. He had a strong desire to learn more about Buddism directly from the source and travelled to China as a young man to study with the monks. It was during this time that he encountered green tea. Convinced of it’s health benefits, he brought seeds of the Camellia sinensis plant to the Uji region near Kyoto, the original capital city of Japan, growing this amazing plant for the Emperor. This is why Uji prefecture is the oldest and most revered tea growing region in Japan.
Green tea and black tea come from the same plant, the difference is the processing. Green tea is made from tea leaves that have been unoxidized. There are two important steps in this process. 1) The leaves are harvested with care to keep the leaves whole and unbroken preventing air getting into the small fissures which catalyzes the natural oxidization process. (Think of a banana or avocado left on the kitchen counter. It does not take long before it turns a darker color, this is natural oxidization.) 2. After harvesting, the leaves are left to wilt for several hours, releasing some of their natural moisture before heated quickly and then cooled to stop the oxidation process, “locking in” the qualities and health benefits of green tea. This minimal and gentle processing of the leaves gives green tea superior antioxidant and polyphenol levels, as more of the health benefiting qualities of the tea leaves are preserved.
In both China and Japan, premium green teas are shaded in the early growth stages in the spring to preserve the “green” flavor characteristics of this tea. In China, the traditional Chinese method of stopping the oxidation process is to fire the leaves quickly in a large batch over high heat, known as pan firing. This process is brief, lasting only a minute or so before cooling the tea leaves. Over the centuries, the Japanese developed their own technique to process the tea leaves. Instead of heating the leaves on direct heat, the Japanese method uses hot steam. Again, this process is fairly intense and short, between 30 and 120 seconds. The longer the steaming, the deeper the color and richer and smoother the flavor. Both methods are very effective and traditionally accepted yielding flavorful, brightly colored green tea.
So, where does the term, “Tamayakucha” come in? It is a direct reference to the shape of the finished tea leaves which have been rolled to give a rounded, coiled or comma shape. "Tama" means round. "Yokucha" means green tea - so "round green tea." This green tea is finished in the shade - it is covered for the last few weeks of growth to preserve the chlorophyll. This gives it a full and complex flavor. It is a "Gyokuro" style tea- the most sought-after of all Japanese green teas.
Two Leaves Tamayokucha incredible green tea has a sweet, light flavor... never bitter. The tea leaves are gently steamed as they dry, for a beautiful green hue you’ll enjoy seeing in your cup and savoring on your tongue. A note from the founder/ CEO, Richard Rosenfeld: “This tea goes back to the first days of Two Leaves. I wanted an awesome Japanese Green Tea, one that was actually green in the cup, sweet, rich, but not too strong and bitter. So many green teas in the US are just not that great. When I first approached tea suppliers and told them that I wanted a tea of this quality to go into a tea sachet they told me I was crazy. "Americans don’t like this quality of green tea," they said. One grower didn’t even want to sell us! He would only sell me his tea when I reassured him that we would strictly maintain the quality of the packing to keep the tea fresh.
Two Leaves and a Bud Tamayakucha is sourced from China using the Japanese technique of rolling the leaves into the distinctive rounded shape. Our “Tamay” is one of our best sellers and is known in the U.S. as one of the finest Tamayokucha teas. This is the end of our story, but don’t take our word for it, ask our customers.