- 1 Yamanashi Shoten, a tea wholesaler specializing in a high temperature production, with high reputation in numerous contests and competitions
- 2 Current situation of the tea industry in Shizuoka from the view of Hiroyuki Yamanashi, president of Yamanashi Shoten
- 3 La Kouju, Japanese enzyme fermented tea producing a fruity aroma without any artificial flavorings, won the gold prize in the World Green Tea Contest. Certified as a masterpiece in the world
Yamanashi Shoten, a tea wholesaler specializing in a high temperature production, with high reputation in numerous contests and competitions
We interviewed Hiroyuki Yamanashi, president of Yamanashi Shoten.
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “Hojicha, roasted green tea, contains Pyrazine that improves blood circulation. The ingredient is also included in barley tea and coffee. As Hojicha is effective for a cold sensitivity, the Japanese, especially from a cold area like Hokkaido, loved and needed it. We had outsourced tea roasting process, but we have dealt with it on our own since around 1955. Shizuoka City has about 120 tea wholesalers. Of those, five sellers only specialize in Hojicha. This tea needs quite a specific technique in which the leaves are roasted with hundreds of degrees. That’s why few sell Hojicha. Having said that, the scale is enough to outsource the production. These five sellers can offer Hojicha intensively. Moreover, around five tea wholesalers only specialize in Gyokuro, premium shaded-green tea. Shizuoka Prefecture has about 500 tea wholesalers, but just about 15 Hojicha wholesalers. I guess about 50 sellers specialize in Hojicha in Japan.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “The demand for Hojicha was limited when I mainly sold it in Hokkaido around 1955. Forty years ago, plastic bottled tea was developed. At that time, the bottle contained both Sencha and Hojicha. It was difficult to roast Hojicha, so plastic bottle manufacturers could not make Hojicha by themselves. Therefore, they cooperated with us, a company for roasting Hojicha, to produce it. With the increasing demand of bottled tea, the job opportunity for Hojicha was expanded. Now, some companies specialize in bottled tea. They use Bancha, tea including ingredients at a more reasonable price, roast it on high heat and put it in a plastic bottle. In this way, the majority used to the taste roasted on high heat, namely Hojicha. This is how Hojicha got common. We’re used to the taste without knowing.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “Tea is distributed from a farmer to a wholesaler. That is, we operate a relay system. The farmer processes raw leaves into Aracha, unrefined tea, to reduce the water up to about 5%, which allows preserving tea. Even if they tried to go to the next step, they couldn’t complete it. This is because they must harvest the raw leaves to come later in the same season. So, that’s all for the farmer’s role. They leave the following process to the wholesaler, sell tea and receive rewards. The wholesaler heats, produces, and finishes tea.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “This is the tea leaves, the raw material of tea. Roasted leaves swell three to four times like popcorns, with the cracked cell membrane gives sweetness. Yamanashi Shoten produces 1,000 kg for 500,000 people per day (as 2 g per person).”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “In machine roasting, ceramics is mixed with tea leaves, and these are heated from the inside for quick processing. The machine drains water completely, peels off and explodes the cell walls at once, and releases sugar at a high temperature. The principle is the same as popcorn. Mixed ceramics is separated in the later process.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “Collect the smoke from the chimney into a tank, splash water and strain through a net. Then, you can see steam from the residue of wet smoke, which is caused by fermentation. This steam also can be used as a fertilizer. In producing Hojicha, the garbage is just tea bags in the end. I believe tea is a mysterious creature. It can survive even in the soil with PH3.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “Now, let’s try roasting by hand.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “The top left one is Ichibancha, tea from the first harvest of the year. We can get it after trimming bushes. It contains young shoots and hard leaves. The young shoot is on the way to the growth, so the bud rapidly grows by roasting. The bottom right one is Aki Bancha, tea leaves harvested in fall. The most leaves are hard. They keep hardness with less swelling even after roasting.”
Pick up 3 grams of the leaves every time.
Put them over a fire.
This is Ichibancha from the first harvestroasted. The stems swell in general. You can clearly see the difference here.
This is roasted Aki Bancha. Let’s taste it.
The top left one is Sencha with Ichibancha. The bottom left one is Hojicha with the first picked tea.
The top right one is Sencha with Aki Bancha. The bottom right one is Hojicha with Aki Bancha.
― “Sencha with Ichibancha smells delicious and savory. I feel Hojicha with Aki Bancha is sweeter and more fragrant.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “The first picked tea contains lots of young shoots with proteins and the leftovers with amino acids, umami ingredients. Aki Bancha contains lots of hard leaves. They produce sugar in roasting on high heat. That’s why it’s sweet. By the way, Fukamushicha is sweet as deep-streamed tea produces sugar easier. Then, let’s compare these three kinds of tea.
The left one costs 200 yen per 100 g.
The center one costs 500 yen per 100 g.
The right one costs 1,000 yen per 100 g.”
― “The left one is very sweet. The center one has sweetness and umami. The right one has strong umami but less sweetness. I feel the center one is well-balanced.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “The left leaves with 200 yen per 100 g are hard mostly. The hard leaves give more sweetness in roasting. The center one with 500 yen per 100 g contains both hard leaves and young shoots, so you can feel both sweetness and umami. The right leaves with 1,000 yen per 100 g have many young shoots with few hard leaves, so it’s too soft and emphasizes on umami without sugar. We use Bancha, containing various parts such as hard leaves and young shoots, because we can utilize their potential in roasting. We always change the amount of roasting following the potential of each ingredient.”
Current situation of the tea industry in Shizuoka from the view of Hiroyuki Yamanashi, president of Yamanashi Shoten
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “In the world, 7 million tons of tea is produced. Of these, black tea accounts for 60 to 70%. The harder the extracted water is, the sweeter it is with less bitterness. In Japan, soft water is used, which gives more bitterness. So, we try to produce sweetness by cooling down the hot soft water. Japanese tea has a needle shape while the other tea has a comma shape. This reflects an advanced technology in Japan. The total production of Japanese tea is 0.8 million tons. The half indicates the leaves using a teapot, and the other half includes plastic bottles, tea bags and tea powder. The demand for Hojicha is divided into the plastic bottles, leaves, tea bags and tea powder.
Some manufacturer shows the following ranking for the demand of tea powder:
1. Hojicha powder
2. Genmaicha powder, green tea with roasted rice
3. Green tea powder on conveyer belt sushi.
Powder is the same as brewed tea leaves. In the first place, we cannot take it so much. We don’t have chicken bones even though the soup is good, do we? Max 0.5 g of powder can be taken. For the brewed tea leaves, we cannot take even 2 g. That means it only needs 1/4 of the leaves. Tea powder is used in various ways like a deodorizer for air conditioners. Besides, I can tell you the best way to enjoy tea powder on conveyer belt sushi. Mix well and drink the surface of the tea. This is the best part.”
― “I didn’t know that tea powder was used to take away the odors too. Tea can apply to a wide range from plastic bottles to powder.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “A teapot can just keep 2 to 3 brews, but some technology allows to extract more than 5 to 6 brews for a plastic bottle. We can extract them with a consistent quality using the manualized technique. In general, 0% of the water hardness is easier to extract tea. With technology innovations such as manufacturing methods of complete extraction for a plastic bottle or powder, even a small amount of tea leaves can be utilized today. Overall, a small amount is enough for tea production with 60,000 tons, which results in excess supply and a drop in the tea price.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “The tea history lasts for about 800 years in Japan. In the Kamakura period, the first trace of tea is discovered. It is clear that Shoichi Kokushi brought tea to Japan. In 1837, Soen Nagatani created a streaming method. Until then, Bancha was more common. That means the Japanese have taken Hojicha for more than 800 years. For me, I was working in a mountain village before where I put roasted tea leaves into a kettle and enjoyed it. Nowadays, many people tend to prefer a plastic bottle, a tea bag and powdered tea to a high quality of tea taste with a teapot. Sadly, such a high quality is nearly disappearing. The overall trend is returning to Bancha. I think we took a higher quality of tea in the early 1900’s. Ironically, our technology goes against the culture.”
― “Some tea merchants cannot see a high quality of tea, and I’ve heard a tendency to quantify Good Quality. That’s how our sense is changing.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “Premium tea is not common, so we should make cheaper tea. Like this, producers shift their minds. In the future, two types may only survive: Highest Class or Lowest Price. The average farmers cannot survive just with general tea. I guess, with the complete extraction technique develops, fine Sencha will decrease. This is our background in which excellent tea farmers suffer from the situation.”
La Kouju, Japanese enzyme fermented tea producing a fruity aroma without any artificial flavorings, won the gold prize in the World Green Tea Contest. Certified as a masterpiece in the world
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “When the tea leaves are frozen to -80 degrees Celsius, the enzyme rests. Meanwhile, returning to the normal temperature, the enzyme is activated. At 100 degrees, the enzyme activity stops. Put frozen raw leaves into room temperature water and process into a paste in the blender. Pour the paste into the finished tea, which penetrates the cell membrane. The enzyme cuts the aroma and sugar, which provides the aroma and sweetness. They are generally popped out and released by heat at once in Hojicha. For La Kouju, it is processed slowly. Why is it La Kouju? La is a French feminine noun and definite article as we hope young women enjoy the tea. We knew it later, but tea is called La in the tea origin in southwestern China.”
Hiroyuki Yamanashi “We have a patent about the manufacturing method of La Kouju to avoid the situation in which we cannot use the method due to others’ patent. However, we never intend to monopolize it. We just wanted to maintain our free right, so the patent information is opened.”
You can also purchase La Kouju, the world-renowned tea, from our tea shop of Baby Leaf or Rakuten Shop at Yamanashi Shoten. It’s worth savoring the specialty of Yamanashi Shoten, a traditional tea wholesaler who is recognized by everyone of the tea industry in Shizuoka.
Thank you for reading the report of Yamanashi Shoten by our chief editor.
|Address||Ichibancho 80, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, 420-0071, Japan|
|Phone number||+81 54-252-0503|
|E-money and credit cards|
|Open||8:00 to 17:00|
|Closed||Saturdays and Sundays|
take Warashina line for Yatsu terminal (Hinata) and get off at Anzai Yoncho-me.
15-minute drive via Tomei Expressway Shizuoka Interchange.
|Address||6-17-24 Chiyoda, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, 420-0803, Japan|
|Phone number||+81 54-263-1710|
|E-money and credit cards|
|Open||10:00 to 17:00|
|Closed||Saturdays and Sundays|
Take Shizutetsu Express from Kodomo-Byoin (Shizuoka Children’s Hospital) Line after JR Shizuoka Station and get off at the stop of Chiyoda Nanacho-me To-bu Taiikukan Iriguchi, with about 10-minute walk.
About 5-minute drive via Ryutsu Center Street from Chiyoda Interchange or about 10-minute drive via Shin-Shizuoka Interchange.