Japanese Hei Cha: An Innovative Take on Dark Tea Production

Hei Cha, or dark tea, production is a recent development in Japan, and it is taking a new and innovative approach. A small group of producers in Japan has been experimenting with Hei Cha production using traditional Chinese methods for only the last decade. The producers mostly use tea leaves from the Yabukita cultivar, the most common tea cultivar in Japan. The processing follows orthodox methods, which include withering, steaming, rolling, and fermenting the tea leaves.

One of the innovative Japanese Hei Cha varieties is Yamabuki Nadeshiko. What sets it apart is that it is fermented with a Japanese fermentation starter called “kuro-koji-kin” or black Koji mold. This mold has been used for centuries in Japan to ferment traditional foods and drinks such as soy sauce, sake, and miso. Unlike Chinese Hei Cha, the Japanese dark tea ferments in a sterilized room with strict control over molds and bacteria. In contrast, in Chinese Pu-erh processing, fermentation is natural, allowing for the spontaneous development of all molds and bacteria naturally present in the air.

The use of Japanese fermentation starters and the strict control over the fermentation process give Japanese Hei Cha a unique flavor profile, distinct from Chinese Hei Cha. The tea has a light, refreshing taste and aroma, with a smooth and slightly sweet finish. Additionally, the use of traditional Japanese fermentation starters and the controlled environment add an element of consistency and quality control to the production process, ensuring that the tea has a consistent flavor profile batch after batch.

In conclusion, while the production of Hei Cha in Japan may be new, it is a testament to the country’s innovative spirit and willingness to experiment with traditional methods. The use of Japanese fermentation starters and the controlled fermentation process result in a unique and flavorful dark tea that is worth trying.

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