Japanese Tea: chief different sorts of tea

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Hence arises the distinction between the three chief sorts of Tea.

The first sort contains only the youngest and tenderest leaves, or the very first buds. This sort, after it hath undergone a due preparation, is call’d Ficki Tsjaa, that is, ground Tea, because by grinding it is reduced into a powder, which they sip in hot water. The same sort is also call’d, Udsi Tsjaa, and Tacke Sacki Tsjaa, from some particular places, where it grows, and this is reckon’d preferable to others, partly for the goodness of the soil in those places, partly because it is gathered on shrubs of three years growth, when they are reputed to be in their greatest perfection.

For it must be observed, that both the soil and age of the shrub contribute greatly towards the goodness, as well as the growth and largeness of the leaves, though as to the largeness, that cannot be always allowed a sufficient proof of their goodness, unless they be both large and tender, in so much as the oldest and coarsest are also the largest. I have already observed, that the Theh Buu of the Chinese is the same with this.

The leaves of the second sort are somewhat older, and fuller grown than those of the first. This is call’d Tootsjaa, that is, Chinese Thea, because it is prepared after the Chinese manner. The Tea booth-keepers and Tea-merchants in Japan commonly subdivide this sort into four others, which differ both in their goodness and price. The first of these contains those leaves which are gather’d at the beginning of the spring, just when they appear, and when every young branch bears but two or three, and those generally not yet open, nor come to perfection. A Kin, foreigners call it a Catti, or a Dutch pound and a quarter of this sort, prepared, costs in Japan, if I, being a foreigner, was not misinform’d, a Siumome and more, or as foreigners call it, a Thail and more, or from ten to twelve silver Maas, that is from seventy to fourscore and four Dutch stuyvers, every Maas being reckon’d at seven stuyvers.

The second sort contains older leaves, and fuller grown, which are gather’d not long after the first: A Catti of these comes to six or seven Maas of silver in the Country. The leaves of the third sort are still larger and older, and one Catti of these is sold for four or five Maas of silver.

The greatest quantity of Tea, which is imported from China into Europe, and is sold in Holland for five, six or seven Gilders a pound, is of this third sort.

The leaves, which make up the fourth sort, are gather’d promiscuously, and without regard to their size and goodness, at that time when every young branch is conjectur’d to bear about ten or fifteen leaves at farthest. A Catti of these comes to three Maas of silver, at which price it is sold by those people who cry it about the streets, it being that sort which the generality of the natives commonly drink.

It must be observed, that the leaves, so long as they continue on the shrub, are subject to frequent and very quick changes, both with regard to their largeness and goodness, and that, if the proper time for gathering be neglected, they may in one night’s time become worse by a great deal: But to proceed.

The third chief sort is call’d Ban Tsjaa. The leaves of the third and last gathering belong to this sort, when they are become too gross and course, and unfit to be prepared after the Chinese manner, (that is, to be dried in pans over the fire and curled.)

These are design’d for the use of the vulgar, labourers and country people, no matter how prepared. The virtues are more fix’d in the gross leaves of this third sort, and will not be easily lost, neither by their lying exposed to the air, nor by being boil’d, whereas on the contrary the leaves of all the former sorts, by reason of the extreme volatility of those parts wherein their virtues consist, cannot, without considerable prejudice, lie exposed to the air any time, or undergo even a simple decoction.

Read more:
Japanese Tea: history of Darma
Japanese Tea: manner of cultivating the Tea in Japan
Japanese Tea: gathering of the tea leaves
Japanese Tea: chief different sorts of tea
Japanese Tea: tea for the Emperor’s court
Japanese Tea: use of the tea

Source: Engelbert Kaempfer: The History of Japan, London 1727
Photo: Ukiyo-e print, internet

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