Tamaryokucha (Gem Green Tea)

Tamaryokucha is a green tea that has a curved (curled) shape like a ball.

Types of Tamaryokucha
Currently, there are two types of Tamaryokucha due to differences in the manufacturing method.

The first is Kama-roi Tamaryokucha, which is made by the Kama-roi method.
The second is steamed jade green tea, which is made by the steaming method.

These two types of jade green teas look similar, but their history is a bit more complicated (and interesting).

The name “Tamaryokucha
The name “Tamaryokucha” was chosen in 1932 by the Central Chamber of the Tea Industry Association (the predecessor of the Japan Tea Industry Association) after a wide competition for tea names. Incidentally, the honorable mentions included Magatama-cha, Marucha, Hinomaru-cha, and Fuji-cha.

Kama-roasted green tea
Kama-roari Tamaryokucha is also the tea that was originally (and still is) called Kama-roari tea. This is because, as mentioned above, the name Tama Green Tea was introduced in 1932.

The history of kama-roi tea (kama-roi jade green tea) is long, and there are many theories about its origin.

The first is that in 1504, in Ureshino, Saga Prefecture, a man named Benrei-min (not a specific person, some say he was from Koryo) roasted green tea in a kettle using a Nanking kettle. The first is that in 1504, in Ureshino, Saga Prefecture, the Benryumin (not a specific person, but a person from the Koryo Dynasty (Koryo-min)) started making Kama-ryori tea using a Nanjing pot. Today, it is called Ureshino roasted tea and is characterized by the use of a tilted kettle that is inclined at 45 degrees.

The second theory is that carpenters, masons, and plasterers brought from the Korean peninsula by Kiyomasa Kato (1562-1611) settled in the town of Yamato, Kumamoto Prefecture, after the construction of Kumamoto Castle. There is also a theory that the technique was handed down from generation to generation. This type of tea is now called Aoyagi kama-ryori tea, and is characterized by the fact that the kama is set horizontally.

In the 1960s, there were more than 900 kama-roasted tea factories in Kyushu alone. In the 1960s, there were more than 900 kama-roasted tea factories in Kyushu alone, but today, it is estimated that less than 0.5% of the total tea production in Japan is kama-roasted.

Steamed Tamaryokucha
Steamed jade green tea is also called “steamed guri” or simply “guri-cha”.

There are many theories about the origin of guri-cha, but guri (倶利, kururin) refers to a series of curved lines in the shape of warabi (bracken) used in temple architecture, and is said to be the origin of the word “guri-guri.

Steamed jade green tea (guricha) was invented in 1925 for export to Russia.
It was invented in 1925 for export to Russia because the production of roasted tea had been under nationwide control since 1893. In Russia, however, the demand was mainly for Chinese kama-roasted tea, and so the kama-roasted style steamed green tea, guricha, was developed to meet that demand.
The production of jade green tea increased rapidly, reaching over 10,000 tons by the late 1930s.
In the 1930s, 80% of steamed Guricha was produced in Shizuoka Prefecture.

After that, the production of steamed Tamaryokucha was drastically reduced due to World War II, but it was revived after the war, and in 1954, the production exceeded 10,000 tons again. However, in the 1960s, Japan’s rapid economic growth led to a sharp decline in tea exports, and the production of steamed balled green tea (guricha) in Shizuoka plummeted, and almost none was produced in Shizuoka.

However, the production of steamed ball green tea in Kyushu continued to grow and peaked in the 1980s at over 5,000 tons.

Today, about 1,700 tons of steamed jade green tea is produced annually throughout Japan, accounting for about 2% of the nation’s total tea production.

Steamed Kama-roi Tea
As a side note, steamed kama-roicha, a type of tea that does not exist today, was once produced in Ureshino. In the book “Japan” written by Siebold, who came to Japan in 1823 at the end of the Edo period, it is described that “freshly picked leaves are steamed in a steamer basket and dried in a flat iron pot. According to this description, fresh leaves are steamed in a steamer to kill the green leaves, and then dried in a kettle fry, which is a tea making method that is not used today. This method was called the eclectic method, and the resulting tea was called yumushi kama-roicha, eclectic tea, or steamed kama-roicha.

Characteristics of Tamaryokucha
The characteristic of steamed Tamaryokucha tea is that it does not have the fine rubbing process used for Sencha, but instead has a process called re-drying.
Instead, there is a process called re-drying. Because there is no needling process, the tea leaves become curled.
In addition, the recent trend of steamed jade green tea is that it is deep steamed, so the water color (the color of the liquid tea) is dark green, and the aroma is clear and refreshing because there is no fine rubbing process.