About Tea Processing

Machinery Developments Founded on Manual "Temomi" Tea Processing Method

There are two basic methods of processing tea: hand-rolling (temomi) and machine-rolling (kikaimomi).

1. Temomi Processing Method (Hand-Rolling Method)

This manufacturing method was invented by Souen Nagatani in 1783. Until the tea rolling dryer (soujuuki) was invented in 1896, manual rolling was the most widespread method of processing tea. Today, most teas are processed by machines; however, the manual hand-processing method serves as the foundation for these technological advancements.

Mr. Toshikazu Yamashita, introduced in our animation movie, is Japan's greatest expert in hand-rolling the highest quality Gyokuro in the country. He has won the most prestigious awards for his excellent teas, including seven times the highest national award possible from the Minister of Agriculture. It is no surprise that he is a very prominent figure in the tea world.

2. Machine Processing Method

With the invention of the tea rolling dryer (soujuuki) in 1896, machinery began to replace the orthodox hand-kneading "temomi" method.
Today, due to developing technology, there are automated factories processing tea completely by machine power.

It may be inevitable for machinery to replace manual labor. However, it is important to remember that the orthodox hand-processing method serves as the foundation for machine developments. In the column below, we introduce the Gyokuro Research Center Kyoto (Kyotanabe Gyokuro Seicha Gijutsu Kenshu Koujo) which exclusively produces Gyokuro tea. This research center relies partly on machines for processing tea. Although they may all look the same, each batch of tea leaves varies from others in many aspects such as moisture content. The length of time suitable in each step of processing differs for each batch. In factories where processing is completely done by machine power, these careful and exact adjustments cannot be made.

How tea is processed at the Gyokuro Research Center Kyoto (Kyotanabe Gyokuro Seicha Gijutsu Kenshu Koujo)

Tea production begins with tea plucking. Here, we introduce how the tea farmers in Kyotanabe process tea from freshly picked leaves.

1. Tea Picking

Recently, most tea-picking has been done using tea plucking machines. Hand-plucking, as shown in the picture to the right, has become rare.

Tea shoots start to ferment if left too long after picking; they acquire heat and become discolored. Tea leaves must be processed soon after picking. Freshness is crucial in producing Japanese green tea.

 2. Chako's Tea Picking (Animation)

2. Steaming

Freshly picked tea shoots are steamed in high temperature. After removal, the steamed leaves are instantaneously cooled. This steaming process is to prevent oxidase activity within the leaves, to rid them of the unwelcome "green" smell, and to make the leaves tender.
The quality of many aspects of the tea such as its flavor, aroma and color depend on this important steaming process.

3. Aramomi (Primary Rolling)

Equates to the Chakiri (draining) and Yokomakuri (rolling) steps in the Temomi Method Moisture is removed as the leaves are rolled in a dryer.
This step takes approximately fifty minutes. During this time, the amount and temperature of the hot air current, and the speed of the revolving rolling pin are adjusted so that the leaves do not overheat.

4. Nakamomi (Secondary Rolling)

Equates to the Tamatoki (tea ball breaking), Nakaage (untangling) and Chazoroe (sorting) steps in the Temomi Method
Moisture is regulated as tea leaves are formed into appropriate shape.
In this step, moisture is evenly distributed and the tea leaves are further rolled and kneaded under a weight. This forces the moisture from the stems to evenly seep into the leaves. During this step, the leaves form interesting round balls that have to be unraveled.

5. Shiagemomi (Final Rolling)

Equates to Denguri (pressing) and Itazuri (rubbing) steps in the Temomi Method.
This is an important step to shape the tea leaves.
The leaves are twisted and kneaded to take on the appearance of fine needles under a weight. The amount of weight to apply is difficult to adjust, as too much will flatten the tea leaves, and too little will produce bent leaves.

Finally, the tea leaves are dried in a dryer. Too little drying will cause the tea to be discolored, badly preserved, or have a defect aroma. Too much drying will also discolor and deprive tea of its important flavor.

7. Final Finish

The tea is sorted into leaves, stems and powder. After sorting, they are packaged to be sold as Gyokuro, Sencha, Karigane and Konacha.
MaikoTea handles teas from plants grown under diligent attention and processed with ultimate care. We blend the teas according to plentiful experience gained in the tea market to bring about a unique flavor throughout the year to serve our customers in the best way.