While black teas do exist in Japan, are considered a rarity. The majority of tea produced in the country is usually green. However, there are some farmers that also produce other types of teas that are most known in China, India or Sri Lanka.
One of these farmers is Mankichi Watanabe from Yakushima Island. I personally like his teas a lot & this is the reason why I stock them in the shop.
For his black tea, Mr Watanabe uses the tea bush variety Kanaya Midori, which is a Japanese tea cultivar that is usually used in green tea production. The use of the variety Kanaya Midori, which does not exist in other tea production countries, is the first characteristic that makes the Kanaya Midori Koucha (black tea - wakoucha - Japanese black tea) so extraordinary & different from black teas from other countries.
Mr Watanabe does not only use the leaves from the first flush for his Kanaya Midori koucha, but also some leaves of later pickings, which have received more sunlight. While Japanese green tea cultivars tend to be quite soft in taste and not too astringent, for black tea production the leaves need to contain enough catechins for the tea to reveal a nice floral aroma after the leaves have been oxidized. It is just as important not to harvest the leaves too early, when the sunlight is too weak for the plants to produce enough catechins.
In the black tea production process, the tea leaves are rolled using the kneading machine also used for green tea production. While the leaves for green tea are steamed before rolling, the leaves for black tea production should still be in their raw state. The rolling process breaks down the structure of the raw leaves, which is important for oxidation/fermentation process. Finally, the leaves have to be heated, in order to stop the fermentation process. This has to be done at the right time in order to obtain a smooth & delicate flavour.
Before Mankichi Watanabe releases his black tea to be sold to his customers he insists on storing it for around two years. Only after this storage time will the Watanabe Koucha have developed its typical fruity, light and fresh flavour. It may sound a bit odd, but it is the storage time that gives the taste of the tea a fruity depth of character whilst still tasting fresh and light (thanks to the use of Kanaya Midori bushes). The result of this special and somewhat unusual production process is an inspiring black tea, which is seen by Mankichi Watanabe to be his unique special treasure!
If you scan the QR code in the image gallery you will be able to enjoy a nice song that I have selected to match this tea.
The Japanese Tea Evangelist says: I have been drinking this tea for years now. I usually have it hot brewed. However, I have also used it to make bubble tea, kombucha & cold brews.
Occasionally, I have used it mixed with milk with outstanding results. This is by far one of my favourite black teas out there. And it doesn't make my stomach hurt as many other stronger black teas do.
Japanese Black Tea Kanaya Midori (100 grs)
Type of tea: Japanese wakoucha black tea (single-origin, naturally grown)
Tea Bush: Kanaya Midori
Amount: 100 grams vacuum-sealed pouch
Origin: Yakushima, Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan
This is how Mankichi Watanabe recommends brewing his wakocha:
Amount of tea: the desired amount of tea
Amount of water: 200 ml of water
Water temperature: 90 degrees Celsius (1st to 4th brew)
Amount of time: 20 secs (1st brew) 10 secs (2nd to 4th brew)
This is how The Japanese Tea Evangelist recommends brewing this fantastic Japanese black tea.
Medium: Japanese clay teapot (kyuusu) dobin or glass jug
Amount of tea: 3 grams of tea (about a teaspoon & a half)
Amount of water: 100 ml of water
Water temperature: 90 degrees Celsius (1st brew) 95 degrees Celsius ( 2nd to 4th brew)
Amount of time: 60 secs (1st brew) 50 secs (2nd to 4th brew)
NOTE: If you do Gong Fu Cha my recommendation is to use your usual parameters for Japanese green teas. Remember that Japanese teas are for the most part steamed & therefore more delicate than other types of teas.