KYOBANCHA NAKAI is a kyobancha ("everyday tea of Kyoto") from Wazuka (lower Uji), Kyoto prefecture, Japan. Technically a houjicha, kyobancha is a green tea of mature and/or late-flush material that undergoes a roasting process. For this lot of winter '21 material, leaves left to grow further down the branch through the year were machine-harvested, steamed for nearly 2 hours at 100ºC, and air-dried indoors before being roasted at 200ºC in a tumble-oven. Kyobancha, like most Japanese teas, is usually ara cha ("crude tea"; the Chinese term is mao cha) before an order is placed by a domestic customer or importer (us!). The producer will then pull, blend, sort, roast, or conduct any number of other post-processes to finish a tea. For KYOBANCHA NAKAI, the material was cultivated and harvested under direction of T. Suzuki-san, processed to kyobancha-specific aracha by Satakay-san, and when we order, expertly roasted by Kawaguchi-san, the same legacy roaster at Nakai that prepares KABUSE HOUJICHA.
Unlike most houjicha, kyobancha is not rolled during processing, leaving the whole leaves mostly flat through drying. Although the roasting process is identical to KABUSE HOUJICHA, this lack of rolling effectively sears the leaves in the tumble oven, imparting a slight smokiness not found in other forms of houjicha (and quite distinct from truly smoked tea). Additionally, roasting eliminates most of the caffeine content of kyobancha , making it highly suitable for the caffeine-sensitive. Children and the elderly drink kyobancha like water in Uji.
The fresh 2021 material (kyobancha, as other Japanese standards, can be finished from aracha aged in cold-storage for any length of time), careful handling leaving large, intact leaves, and Kawaguchi's masterful roasting all coalesce in the final cup, with intense sweetness, soft body, and a comforting ash character. Steep hot and let it ride. This tea is forgiving.