KUMIKO KOGA visited Comins in Bath in October 2018 - this is one of a series of blogs detailing some of the insights from her visit
About Kumiko Koga [pictured below]: Kumiko is the fourth generation of her family business established in Yame (Fukuoka) in 1938. Her mother is the current head of the company and Koga is next in line to take over. To have two women in these senior positions, even today, is rare in Kyushu and Japan which made Koga's visit even more exciting.
Below is the transcript from the amazing event held at Comins in October 2018. It gives an excellent insight into the beautiful teas of this region!
Hello : My name is Kumiko Koga and I come from Koga Tea Industry/Koga Chagyo mainly dealing with Yame Tea. Our company is 80 years old since it was founded by my grandfather. Our company manufactures and sells delicious tea around Kyushu ,mainly Yame tea. We started introducing and selling Yame tea overseas around 15 years ago and are doing our best to promote and sell Yame tea with the motto “Good tea is more delicious”.
A little bit of history : Japanese tea came from China around the 7th century together with Buddhism. Japanese monks travelled to China to learn Buddism and brought the tea seeds when returning and then the cultivation of tea began in Japan. As for the beginning of Yame tea it is said that Buddhist monk Eirin-Shuzui-zenji who learned Buddhism in China brought back tea seeds and started to plant tea trees in the temple called Reigan-Ji Temple built in Yame city. This was about 600 years ago. The buddhist monk Eirin Shuzui taught Mr Matsuo who was a powerful person of the land at the time. Cultivation of the tea trees and tea cultivation method ensued and Yame tea spread. The descendent of Mr Matsuo is still engaged in tea making in Yame and now it is in the 34th generation.
Tea for health : This part of the transcript in no way represents a 'health claim' rather it is taken from the transcript of the talk by Kumiko - we recommend doing your own research around the topic and consulting your doctor if you are interested to learn more "At the time that tea came from China to Japan in the beginning of the year 800 it was highly prized as a medicine. Then in the 12th century a book named ‘Kissa Yojoki’ [drinking tea for health] that describes the efficacy and tea making method was written by Zen priest Yosai and presented to the General at that time [Minamoto Sanetomo]. “Tea is an elixir of health care and miracle cure of longevity” the utility of tea is written. I think the most popular efficacy of tea in Japan is “anti-viral/antibacterial’. In winter colds and influenza are prevalent in Japan but it is said that you can prevent by drinking tea or gargling with tea. This is due to the tea catechin and it has a great effect on infection prevention regardless of the influenza type. As an antibacterial act it is also confirmed that there is anti-bacerial property against bacteria [botulism, vibrio parahaemolyticus, Walsh bacterium, O-157, Vibrio cholerae] that can cause food poisoning. It is also effective in suppressing the rise of cholesterol. Tea catechin has the property of suppressing the rise of bad cholesterol [LDL] which is said to cause arteriosclerosis and angina pectoris. It also has the effect of suppressing an increase in blood pressure and an increase in blood glucose level. Tea catechin has the effect of inhibiting the action of blood pressure raising enzyme angiotensin 2 converting enzyme /ACE, suppressing the action of salivary amylase, reducing glucose and suppressing the rise of blood sugar. In addition it has been investigated that it is effective in suppressing ageing and preventing blurring. About suppressing ageing - tea has antioxidant enzyme for suppressing lipid peroxides which is the cause of ageing, tea also contains abundant vitamin C-E and the antioxidant power of tea catechin is about 20 times as much as vitamin E. About preventing blurring it is said to delay the death of brain cells.
So what is delicious tea? Well that depends on your perspective! What do you think delicious tea means? Is it a sweet taste , astringent, bitter and fragrant etc…..and such things would be a personal preference but in general high grade sencha has UMAMI< everyday tea is refreshingly astringent rather than UMAMI. Fragrance is more important for black and oolong tea.
Kumiko's tips for preparing delicious tea : Care must be taking when brewing. It is important to draw out the characteristics of the tea. For example brewing with hot water to extract fragrance, or lowering the temperature of the hot water to pull out UMAMI etc.
The importance of water temperature : So why is it necessary to adjust the temperature of hot water? Because the characteristics of the taste component of tea is deeply involved. ‘Catechin” component that feels astringent and bitter and “caffeine” component that feels bitter are rapidly leached with hot water above 80 C. Amino acids that feel sweet taste and umami are leached with low temperature hot water by taking time. Catechin and caffeine are released with water above 80. Amino acids and umami are released by water below 80 C
Let's brew delicious tea! Top tips!
- Understand the characteristics of tea
- Choose teaware suitable for the tea type. IF you use a big teapot to brew sencha the taste will not be so good.
- Choose the correct water. The water is different if the country is different In japan water is soft, in the UK water is hard. Soft water is suitable for Japanese tea. When using mineral water please also look at the hardness of water I often use Volvic when I brew tea in Europe and can brew delicious tea.
- Boil water surely. This is because if not skip the dissolved air in the water you can not extract the ingedients of tea well. Boil until the bubbles and big bubbles come out, please boil thoroughly for 3-5 minutes and let it down from the fire
- Determine the amount of tea, the amount of hot water, the temperature of the hot water, the brewing time according to the tea type and number of people
- Mawashi tsugi [pour and go around] so that the concentration of each tea cup will be the same
- Pour until the very last drop - even with black tea it is said the drop is a golden drop, pour until the very last delicious drop of Japanese tea.
Care must be taken to brew tea to its full potential. Here are some areas that require extra attention!
1. The amount of the tea leaves. One teaspoon - 2g is enough for one serving. In common Japanese teapot it is for 3-4 people so this time we are brewing 4 servings. Put 4 teaspoons of tea leaves 8g in a pot.
2. The amount of hot water. The amount for one serving is about the 80% of the teacup of Japanese tea. It is about 60cc[ml] Pour hot water into each of the 4 teacups
3. The temperature of the water - some handy tips To put only hot water is to lower the temperature of hot water itself, in addition to heating teacup. As I mentioned earlier in the sense of ‘understanding the characteristics of tea’ this tea does not use hot water because it is necessary to pull out UMAMI. In order to extract umami and sweetness lower the temperature of water to 80 C.
Even if you do not have a thermometer you can know 80 C. Do you know how to do it? The boiling water is 100C - it is said that it will drop by about 10 C when hot water is transferred to a tea pot. Here 90 C. Next when you put hot water into the cup it will drop again by 10 And it will be 80 C. In this way you can simply calculate. Also you can make a judgement with the flickering of steam. The steam coming out of boiling water rises straight upwards. This is too hot so leave it for a while. Then the steam will slowly sway bigger. You can brew delicious tea with hot water at this level.
Now its ready for hot water so I will brew tea. Gently pour the hot water cooled to 80 into the teapot. Close the lid and wait 30 seconds to 1 minute. When the leaves open loose start pouring. At this time I do ‘Mawashi tsugi’ [pour and go around]. Pour small amounts of tea into each cup at a time and go around Pour small amounts of tea into each cup at a time and go around you can pour tea with equal taste and colour. The beautiful golden colour is the colour of the Japanese tea Sencha.
Lets try it!
How do you like brewing Japanese green tea sencha?
Please enjoy healthy and delicious Japanese tea
Thank you very Much Kumiko