At the end of 2020 (hooray!), I was enthusiastically contacted by the Japanese government tea agency in Kyushu, because one of their farmers was experimenting with something new: A white tea!

The thought of a white tea catapulted me back to my days in China, where I was blessed to taste some of the finest white teas known to man, such as silver needle and white peony. To be able to experience the Japanese equivalent simply thrilled me!

I waited with anticipation for the tea to arrive.

White tea in China is the most highly praised of all teas due to the painstaking harvesting, done once a year in spring, of very tender and delicate young spring leaves and buds. White tea is also the least processed of all Chinese teas because it is literally left to dry naturally in the sun or with heat vents, without any steaming or firing. 

I was imagining the tiny leaves with a white cast to the furry underside of the leaf, which incidentally serves as a natural defense against insects. This white furry quality is what gives the tea its classification as a white tea.

The Japanese White Tea Odyssey - Part 1 - Photo of temomi tea leaves

Temomi white tea

As with all teas, there can be radical differences in the look and shape of the leaf and white teas are no exception.  If the tea is comprised of compact buds, it will have smaller, longer leaves like a silver needle or it might have open, lightweight leaves like in white peony. 

The taste of a white tea is typically light and delicate, very subtle; but that’s not to say it’s boring. It will have layers of floral or honey notes with fragrances to match that make you fall in love with this very unique classification of tea.

When the Japanese white tea arrived earlier in the month, I was greeted with two very large, yet extremely lightweight packs of tea. Written in Japanese, one pack said “made by hand” or temomi, while the other was a machine-processed tea. I opened the temomi, clearly the more expensive one, based purely on my experience of what temomi means to a sencha or kabusecha: lovingly labor intensive!

The leaves were green and huge and included long stems. I didn’t see any white furry leaves whatsoever. Is this white tea??

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