Early in the Meiji era (1868 - 1912), green tea was one of the main Japanese exports with most of the green tea being sent to the United States. But the Meiji government was anticipating that black tea would be the next major resource to export because of the large demand in other western countries. The government sent Motokichi Tada to India for ten years learn about the production of black tea. When Motokichi returned to Japan, he shared his knowledge with several tea production areas, and Mariko in Shizuoka was one of them. It is now considered the center of Japanese black tea.
Unique Production Process
In green tea production, tea leaves are quickly brought to the factory after picking to be heated. In contrast, tea leaves for black tea sit for half a day for wilting. In this process, moisture in the leaves is greatly reduced and the unique fragrance and flavor of black tea starts to evolve. The other process that green tea does not have is fermentation. For black tea there is a special container which controls temperature and moisture and causes the tea leaves to ferment. This further enhances the unique black tea fragrance.
Niroku Muramatsu was born and raised in Mariko and learned about Motokichi at a very early age. He grew up wanting to be part of black tea history and production in Japan and this brought him to black tea production with a passion. During his production career, he invented his own storage container for wilting and fermentation and even acquired patents for them. With his passion for black tea and the use of his special equipment, his tea has high quality color, aroma and taste. He is also particular to organic growing; however, the tea has not been certified as organic.
Den's Tasting Comment
Wakoucha Mariko has a unique calm flavor unlike the strong rising flavors of the three major black teas, Darjeeling, Uva and Keemum. Yet I like it and was never bored with it. It is a good tea to enjoy with meals such as Sushi and other Japanese foods. Maybe this is because it is made in Japan and I think this unique black tea goes well with Japanese food.
It also has elegant and gentle qualities which embrace my body and soul. This tea has brought me many calm times and made me imagine that “If there was black tea in Japan 1000 years ago, it would be used for Zen training by Buddhist monks like Matcha.”