Fukamushi leaves are steamed two or three times longer than standard Sencha. The extra steaming breaks down the fibers further resulting in a leaf shape that is coarser than regular Sencha. This produces an easy brewing tea with a darker color and a milder flavor.
What is Deep Steamed Fukamushi Sencha?
"Fuka" means deep and "Mushi" means steaming in Japanese. As the name says, Fukamushi leaves are steamed longer, two or three times longer, than regular Sencha. The result is coarser leaves but a much greener cup than the golden color of regular Sencha. You may wonder why tea merchants started to steam some teas longer, look to the history below.
Why is Fukamushi Sencha coarser?
Due to the longer steaming process, tea leaves contain more moisture and their fibers became softer. During the rolling and kneading processes, these soft leaves are easily broken and then rolled into small balls. Hench, the small coarse leaves that you find Fukamushi Sencha are different from the broken leaves that you find in a teabag. Actually those small (concentrated) coarse leaves infuse faster and make a very good cup!
History of Fukamushi Sencha
Fukamushi Sencha is a fairly recent type of Sencha that was developed 1970's in the Makinohara area of Shizuoka. The Makinohara area is a large Sencha producing area because they have well drained rich soil and warm weather. It also is flat land allowing efficiently operated and managed tea farms. However the terrain also has the tea leaves growing in sun shine quite longer than in mountainous areas. This resulted in tea leaves grown in Makinohara to be thicker, larger and somewhat bitter. Eventually, teas from Makinohara were considered lower quality than those grown in mountain areas where the leaves are thinner and less bitter. The tea farmers in Makinohara found through trial and error that adding extra steaming time removed the bitterness. Even though the processed shape was coarser, the taste became milder and full of flavor. They focused the taste rather than the shape.
Does Fukamushi Sencha taste better than regular Sencha?
Several decades ago before Fukamushi Sencha was distributed, people in Japan only sipped regular Sencha. They appreciated the shape of the long leaves resembling, the sensitive flavor of Umami, the slight bitterness, and the golden cup. When Fukamushi Sencha arrived on the scene, they were surprised at its mild and rich flavor and less grassy taste while the brewed infusion looked so dark and strong. Yet they were still concerned about the shape of the processed tea leaves because tea was often given as a gift and the needle shape meant that the tea was more expensive. Today the Japanese people appreciate the flavor, aroma and color of Fukamushi Sencha and appreciate it as a gift too.
Although Makinohara is the origin of Fumaushi Sencha, it is produced all over Japan now. Shizuoka, Uji, Kagoshima, Yame, Sayama, and many other areas produce Fukamushi Sencha. Den's Tea carries Fukamushi Sencha of Makinohara in Shizuoka and Yame in Fukuoka.
Here is a manufacturing scene at Matsushita tea farm where our organic Fukamushi Sencha is produced.
Another reason that Fukamushi Sencha became popular in Japan was easy brewing. While the temperature or quality of water affects the taste of regular Sencha, you can have a constant cup with Fukamushi Sencha even if you brew it casually. The extra steaming process used in making Fukamushi causes the ingredients to be extracted quickly, so you just need to brew for 30 seconds. Also the important hint is to brew a deep green cup. You should pour tea little by little (at least 5 short pours) into a cup by repeating an up and down motion. Since Fukamushi Sencha contains coarse leaves, make sure to use Japanese style teapot with sieve inside.
Special Health Benefuts
Another benefit of the extra steaming process is when you brew Fukamushi the cup will contain a greater amount of sediment from bits of leaves passing through sieve. Further, as explained in the History, Fukamushi Sencha produced in these areas contains more catechins because it is grown in full sunshine. Since your cup of Fukamushi Sencha contains more sediment you will get more antioxidants. More health benefits...
Fukamushi Sencha Trivia
Sencha has been defined as lightly, medium or deeply steamed. But all Senchas were steamed about the same time until deeply steamed Sencha became popular. There was only lightly steamed Sencha before Fukamushi Sencha so we just needed to say Sencha for any "normal" Sencha.
The Makinohara area was cultivated for tea by Samurais who lost their jobs during the Meiji Restoration. This political revolution in 1868 brought about the demise of the Tokugawa shogunate (military government) thus ending the Edo period (1603-1867) and returned control of the country to direct imperial rule. This lead to enormous changes in Japan's political and social structure and resulted in many unemployed Samurai.