Temomi Shin Cha is one of (if not THE) rarest and highest quality of all Japanese green teas. The word temomi means "hand-rolled" and it refers to a specific technique of steaming and rolling devised over 300 years ago. The method has been refined and perfected over the centuries resulting in an art form that is all but lost in today's world of mechanized tea production in Japan. The Japanese government recognizes this art form as an "intangible cultural treasure." A few small organizations, mostly non-profit, have preserved the tradition by creating small batches of temomi cha in celebration of the first spring harvest. This tea is then gifted to the Emperor every spring. A batch consists of only 3-4 pounds, so it never goes to market. It is very rare that the average tea aficionado will ever get his hands on it.
The process of making Temomi Shin Cha is done entirely by hand by a small group of elite artisans. The newest tea leaves are meticulously hand plucked from a special tea garden reserved only for Temomi Shin Cha. They are then collected in a bamboo steamer basket for the critical steaming stage conducted only by the most senior Temomi Master. Following steaming, the leaves are loosely shaken to remove moisture. Next comes a light rolling and then pressure rolling. The final stages include removing clumps, followed by the fine rolling into needles. Lastly, the leaves are spread out to dry, and the 12-hour long process is complete!
The resulting needle-like tea is incredibly rich in flavor. Traditionally, Temomi Shin Cha is steeped highly concentrated to highlight its unique nuances and fresh taste. A typical steeping involves 10g of leaves steeped with 2.5 oz of 100°F water for 2-3 minutes. A 2nd and 3rd steeping are possible, with the flavor changing each time. The Temomi process maintains the leaves intact, so the full leaf can be seen beautifully unfurled in the teapot. The leaves are edible and can be eaten either with a salad or on their own.