A Comprehensive Guide to Aracha Tea

Aracha (荒茶) is a type of Japanese green tea that is also known as “crude tea” or “unrefined” and is made by steaming, rolling, and drying the tea leaves and stems right after they are picked. This results in a darker green tea with a bold flavor that includes the whole leaf, blade stems, and fine hair of the tea plant.

Unlike other types of green tea, Aracha does not need to undergo the later refining process to get different flavors and a more refined form. However, wholesalers may take Aracha through a second process called Shiage, which involves firing, sorting, and blending, to turn it into a more polished form, such as Sencha or other types of green tea. The tea leaves are then sorted based on size, grade, and blend to create specific flavors.

What makes Aracha unique is that it contains whole tea plant parts instead of just leaves from a single harvest. Sometimes, big companies will blend tea leaves obtained from different plantations to meet their demand, a process known as blending.

Aracha (荒茶)

What is Aracha Tea?

Aracha, also known as “raw tea,” is a type of Japanese green tea that is unprocessed, unsorted, and unrefined. The tea leaves, stems, and fine hair of the plant are included, giving it a bold flavor and a darker green color. It is often called “farmer’s tea leaves” as it comes directly from the fields and is processed by farmers themselves or in shared local factories.

Can I Drink Aracha Tea?

Aracha tea can be consumed as is through the brewing method, but it is typically sold to brokers who eventually sell it to different tea companies and distributors for processing into their final green tea products.

Brewing Aracha Tea

The brewing method for Aracha depends on the type of plant it comes from. For example, Aracha from the Gyokuro plant is brewed like gyokuro tea at a low temperature and for an extended period. The same goes for Aracha from Sencha plants, which is the most common source of Aracha in the market. For optimal brewing, check the instructions on the package. Generally, two teaspoons of Aracha per person are steeped for 40 seconds in 365ml of 90-degree hot water to enjoy the grassy aroma and intense taste of green tea.

Health Benefits of Aracha Tea

Aracha tea is known to have more nutrients than other refined teas due to its “natural” state. The unprocessed tea leaves contain four types of catechins that produce astringent components which work to reduce the absorption of fat and cholesterol. Four new catechins are created after the steam processing of the leaves in the factory.

Processing Aracha Tea

Fresh tea leaves are processed into Aracha, which is the first step in green tea production. Green tea leaves with a moisture content of 78% by weight are steamed to inactivate enzymes and then subjected to a series of treatments, including primary rolling, rolling, secondary rolling, final rolling, and drying, to have needle-shaped tea leaves.

Aracha Processing: A Detailed Look

The process of making aracha tea involves six sub-processes. The first step is tea steaming, which lasts between 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This step is crucial in killing oxidizing enzymes in fresh leaves, adding fragrance to the smell and increasing the flexibility of leaves for easier operation in the making process. After steaming, the leaves are cooled down rapidly.

Primary drying and rolling come next. The leaves are twisted and dried in the machine with press arms and stir arms at around 35 centigrade for effective drying and higher quality of tea, and this takes about 45 minutes. Rolling is done by twisting the leaves through pressing without heat to ensure uniform moisture and takes about 20 minutes.

The next step is secondary drying and rolling, which is done by a direct-fired furnace. The main shaft with press arms in the rotary drum presses and dries the leaves, giving them a gradually long shape. This step takes about 40 minutes.

The final drying and rolling is then done to reduce the moisture of the leaves and to have needle-shaped leaves by pressing the leaves as they are being dried by a burner. This process also takes about 40 minutes to complete.

The last step is drying the leaves in a chamber with 80 degrees centigrade heat to reduce the water content to about 5% for about 30 minutes. The resulting product is aracha, which now has 5% moisture content by weight.

During the manufacturing process of aracha, chlorophyll changes to pheophytin, and the contents of glycolipids and phospholipids decrease. The farmers distribute the leaves to several tea companies, and the final product is labeled by these companies as their own.

Aracha Production and Sorting

Aracha tea is a type of green tea that uses the whole leaf, including stems, veins, and baby hairs. The taste and color of aracha depend on the cultivation and production process. Some tea companies may sort the leaves based on their grade and size to produce a more consistent product for the retail market.

Heating Aracha for Shelf Life and Flavor

To extend the shelf life and enhance the flavor, some tea companies may heat the aracha tea at a high temperature of 110-1300 degrees Celsius, which is called Hire or firing. This process, however, reduces some of the beneficial compounds found in the tea, such as amino acids and vitamin C. The end product is called Hire cha or fired green tea, which is commonly sold on the market. For those who prefer the natural taste and quality, it is recommended to store aracha at a reduced temperature below 10 or 5 degrees Celsius.

Roasting Aracha to Hojicha

Another variation of aracha tea is Hoji-cha or roasted green tea. The tea companies roast the crude green tea at 150°-170 degrees Celsius using a combination of microwave and far-infrared heating, which gives it a unique and strong roasted flavor. This process reduces some of the beneficial compounds such as amino acids, vitamin C, and glucose up to 20-40 percent.

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