Mashiko’s Tea Roasting Experiment

A subpar fragrance




Over a weekend trip to visit the home of lady Mashiko in the mountain of Gifu, I had a task to help out setting up a café next to her farm. During an afternoon break, I casually brought up my interest in learning tea roasting. Understatedly, she said: “Why don’t we try that out now?” She led us to the side of the road in front of her house, there she squatted and started picking out the tea leaves. If it wasn’t her direction, little would I know some tea plants were hidden right behind these insignificant bushes. The tea could have been planted by her ancestors, or they simply came from seeds dispersed by the wind from some nearby tea farms, before having their roots deep into the soil now.

The tea leaves we picked were too big in size, thick and tough without many young tips, thus not quite suitable for brewing tea. Normally, the tea leaves available in market are roasted from young leaves, offering the distinct freshness and fragrance. But we just didn’t care too much and decided to give it a go. After the rinsing and steaming processes, we grabbed a bunch of leaves and started rolling them in our palms. The rolled leaves, now in the shape of a maki roll, then went into a hot wok and are roasted to dryness to complete the process.

We put a portion of leaves into the tea pot and poured in hot water, then patiently watched the tea leaves float peacefully around in the pot and slowly loosening up for a good five minutes. The brew we acquired is green, slightly muddy, and infused with small broken tea leaves. Apprehensively, we took a sip, “So this is tea!”, we all uttered simultaneously in excitement. The flavor was light but carried a subtle fragrance. This tea was probably not quite up to the benchmark but this was our very own produce in this summer, a gentle sweetness that came out of the roast.