A very unique, ancient type of Japanese fermented tea, believed to date back to the 9th century, the production of which today is made by only a few families in several villages on the island of Shikoku, mainly for their own use and not for commercial purposes.
Awa is the old name for Tokushima prefecture and Bancha is the name for more mature, late harvested leaves. Summer leaves are preferable for this fermented tea since tender buds and leaves would break up and disintegrate during the fermentation process and more mature summer leaves also have a higher sugar content, which facilitates fermentation.
In this case they used Zairai (wild seed-grown tea trees) leaves which are boiled for 20-30 minutes in a big pot to stop oxidation, then they are rubbed or rolled to break down the cell walls. The tea leaves and lactic acid bacteria are then packed into a fermentation barrel, covered with straw, palm or banana leaves, a finally a lid is placed on and weighed down heavy rocks and it is left to soak in their own juices for about a month. During that time without oxygen anaerobic fermentation occurs, which is
basically the same way that milk is fermented into yogurt. Finally the leaves are removed, spread on straw mats and preferably sun-dried, turning them over for consistency.
This tea is great for the digestive system and is low in caffeine while high in probiotics, glutamic and aspartic acids. The result is a silky tea with well balanced umami, sweet and sour notes and without trace of bitterness or astringency.
It has a slightly sour taste, and we recommend steeping about 5 grams worth of tea in boiling water for 3-5 minutes depending on how strong you like it
Preparation: Boil 5 grams in 300ml water for 3-5 minutes and filter. You can re-boil at least 3 times. Or, alternatively you could brew in a kyusu teapot with 100 degree water.