Kamairicha: a Japanese Take on Chinese Tea

Kamairicha is a rare pan-fired Japanese green tea. The unique pan-firing method makes it similar to a Chinese green tea.

While it is difficult to find in Japan as a whole, there are some areas that specialize in it like Miyazaki prefecture in Southern Japan.

In this article, we are going on a journey to explore this rare Japanese tea. We’ll learn how kamairicha is made, the history of kamairicha and how to brew kamairicha.

Let’s get started! 🍵


What is Kamairicha?

The word Kamairicha can be broken down into 3 parts. “Kama” means kettle or pan, “iru” is a verb for roasting and “cha” means tea.

If you put these words together, kamairicha tells you exactly what the tea is, pan roasted tea.

This differentiates it from most other Japanese green teas like sencha tea which are simply steamed after harvest.

This is very important because depending on whether you steam or pan-fire the tea leaves, you can get completely different flavors.

Think about when you pan-fry spinach leaves in a pan versus steam them. They taste completely different and the same concept applies to tea leaves!

The flavor takes on more of these nutty or caramel characteristics, instead of the steamed vegetable notes most Japanese green teas are known for. 


How is Kamairicha made?

Both of these teas are roasted inside a large pan, and turned slightly to get a consistent roast. For the Kamairicha, the farmer will roast the leaves for a shorter time at a lower heat and for the hojicha, he will put the lid on the pan to raise the heat and let it roast for a longer time.

This difference in roast can be seen in the color of the leaves. The kamairicha still maintains its green color, but the hojicha takes on this dark brown color. Kamairicha has a flavor somewhere in between a sencha or unroasted tea and hojicha.

Sencha and hojicha are two very different teas, and kamairicha seems to fall perfectly in the middle of the two. If you want to learn more about these teas, you can read our article 👉 Difference between Sencha vs Hojicha


The History of Kamairicha

Kamairicha has a rich history that traces back centuries in Japan.

The origins

The origins of this unique tea can be found in the Kyushu region, specifically in areas such as Saga, Kumamoto, and Miyazaki.

As we mentioned before, while other Japanese green teas are steamed, kamairicha is pan-fired, a method that was likely influenced by Chinese tea production techniques. This distinct method involves heating the leaves in a hot pan, halting the oxidation process and imparting a delicate flavor profile to the tea.

Edo period

The exact origins and timeline of kamairicha's development remain somewhat uncertain, but it is believed to have been cultivated during the Edo period (1603-1868).

If your loving these little nuggets of tea history, you should check out the full guide we made 👉 History of green tea in japan & Tea ceremony

Kamairicha Today

Over time, kamairicha gained popularity and became a cherished regional specialty, known for its unique characteristics and the skillful craftsmanship required in its production.

Today, kamairicha continues to be appreciated by tea connoisseurs, offering a fascinating glimpse into Japan's tea heritage and the diversity of its traditional tea culture.


Where is Kamairicha made?

Deep in the mountains of Takachiho, Mr. Issin is hard at work, crafting beautiful pan-fired teas like the kamairicha green tea Issin. He lives right next to his tea fields with his family in their 200 year old home.

Mr. Issin makes two different types of green teas. The first is hojicha, a fully roasted green tea and the second is Kamairicha, a partially roasted tea.

Kamairicha is a regional specialty in Takachiho and in Miyazaki prefecture as a whole. It is difficult to find Kamairicha grown outside of this area, and the fact that the tea farmers still produce this tea is a testament to both it’s delicious flavor and the rich tea culture of this region.

Kamairicha is just one type of roasted Japanese green tea, if you want to learn about the others, we suggest you read our guide 👉 All you need to know about Roasted Tea


Cultivating Kamairicha in Miyazaki

Miyazaki, located in the southern part of Japan's Kyushu region, has a flourishing tea cultivation industry. The region's favorable climate, with mild winters and ample rainfall, provides ideal conditions for tea cultivation.

In addition to being famous for its Kamairicha, Miyazaki is renowned for producing high-quality sencha, hojicha and even oolong and black teas. Tea plantations stretch across the picturesque landscape, carefully tended by skilled farmers who follow traditional cultivation practices.

Miyazaki is just one tea growing region in Japan, for a complete list of the other tea growing regions, you can read our guide 👉 Where Does Japanese Tea Grow?

Kamairicha Farmers in Miyazaki

Miyazaki's tea farmers take great pride in their craft, paying meticulous attention to every step of the cultivation process.

The result is a range of teas that showcase the region's distinctive terroir and reflect the dedication and expertise of those involved in their production. This was apparent when we visited the farm of Mr. Issin and he explained to us how much worked goes into making his fertilizer.

If you want to learn more about the fertilizer used by Mr. Issin, as well as the other farmers we work with, you can read our article 👉 Complete Guide about Tea Fertilizer in Japan


Why is Kamairicha Similar to a Chinese Tea?

The reason we say Kamairicha is similar to a Chinese tea, is because it takes on much warmer, more nutty flavor profiles. Most Japanese green teas are simply steamed after harvest, which causes them to take on more of these steamed vegetable flavors.

If the teas are steamed for a longer time, they become a fukamushi sencha and take on this deep Jade green color.

The pan roasted Kamairicha has more of a golden color, and the leaves take on a curled, slightly gray appearance. 


Where to buy Kamairicha

If you want to get the very best Kamairicha, we suggest you get the Kamairicha Issin, which is made by the award winning farmer Mr. Issin. This tea is made using the delicate saemidori cultivar, which is normally reserved for premium green teas like gyokuro.

After tasting many different Kamairicha teas, and several from Mr. Issin, we ended up selecting this as our favorite.

We found that the natural sweetness of the saemidori tea leaves held up most favorably to the roasting, creating these pleasant caramel tasting notes.

Another fantastic kamairicha is the Pan Fired Kamairicha Miyazaki Sabou, which is also produced in Miyazaki prefecture. This tea offers the same flavor profiles, but it is more suitable as an entry level kamairicha, allowing you to get acquainted with these unique roasted flavors without having to spend too much.


How to brew Kamairicha

Now you should be an expert on kamairicha, but there is one last thing you need to know and that is how to brew it!

All you have to do is take 5 grams of loose leaf tea, place it into your kyusu teapot or strainer, pour in 150ml of hot water (70°C or 158°F works best) and let the tea brew for 1 minute.

If you want to become an expert on brewing Japanese green teas like Kamairicha, you can learn all about it in our guide 👉 How to Make Loose Leaf Tea explained by Tea experts

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