Kyobancha is a green tea that is unique to the Kyoto region. I was fortunate enough able to experience this tea from farm to cup, and I wanted to share it!
Kyobancha is a large leaf green tea that is roasted. The leaves are large because it is made from the leaves that survived during the winter after Autumn Harvest in November.
Since the winters are cold in the Kyoto Region, the growth is reduced. In March, the leaves are harvested in preparation for the Spring Harvest. This is to ensure the large leaves are not mixed in with the new tender shoots of spring.
At that stage, the leaves can be put back into the ground and used as fertilizer or made into a new tea: Kyobancha. Kyo in the tea name comes from Kyoto. In other areas it might be simply called iribancha.
The ‘bancha’ part of the name signals that it is a lower grade tea, which is normally harvested after the Sencha or Tencha (used to make Matcha). Kyobancha can be called a bancha because it is harvested after the Sencha or Tencha from Autumn Harvest the previous year.
Farming & Processing
I went farming with Akky-san (Obubu President) and David (a fellow intern). We started at 8am and we drove to the field. The weather was beautiful!
In Japan, 99% of all tea is actually machine harvested, which is part of why all the tea plants are in long rows. Here at Obubu, we use a machine called a tekisaiki (摘採機). It is held by two people on either side of the row.
The machine has blades that cut the leaves which are blown into a big bag. The netted bag is connected to the machine. The users walk along the row in sync to cut the plant. The closest thing in comparison would be a lawnmower.
When harvesting, one must take special care to not cut the « mother » part of the plant. This part of the plant is not cut and used for harvesting. Only the new shoots are harvested for tea.
Narashiki (均し機) is the trimming machine which is used to keep the tea plants in an orderly fashion. It works in a very similar manner to the tekisaiki.
I trimmed a few rows with Akky-san on the other side. I am pretty small in stature, so I found the machine to be a bit heavy. Akky-san was very patient and would tell me to move the tekisaiki higher or lower and did most of the leading.
The bags are netted to allow them to expand. While carrying the bags, I could hear the leaves swishing around. All of us carried the bags to the truck and then they were off to the factory!
The leaves are brought to a local factory where they are steamed for an hour, then dried for one hour. The drying takes longer because the leaves are so large. Then the leaves are roasted for 10 to 15 minutes. The roasting is done using fire with the tea in a barrel. This is shorter than for example roasting a hojicha, because the leaves are wide and flat and dry quicker.
Written by Obubu intern Connie, who also has her own tea blog teainspoons.com