July 2024 Tea Subscription


Thank you for coming onboard Parchmen & Co and travel with us to savour our world in a cup!

We aim to bring tea drinkers into the world of extremely fine and exclusive teas. These teas used to be inaccessible to commoners in the past but today we are able to bring it to you via our extensive network of sources directly from tea farms owned by our friends in different countries.

In the month of July 2024, we are featuring a Japanese green tea, a Japanese red tea and a black tea, namely:

- 2024 Saitama Samaya Takano En sencha green tea 高野园煎茶 10g
- 2023 Saitama Samaya Takano En Wakoucha red tea 高野园红茶 10g
- 2018 Six Fortress black tea 广西六堡茶 10g


We recently made a trip to Japan Saitama (埼玉) to visit new tea farms and factories for this season's Japanese teas. We were introduced to Sayama (狭山) teas of Saitama during COVID days, when we did a tea event to remain engaged with our customers. A Singaporean friend matchmade us with a Sayama tea group and we did a tocha (斗茶) event using their teas. While many are familiar with Kyoto, Shizuoka and Fukuoka teas, Saitama teas are relatively unknown to most. Of course, we are not referring to the other Saitama, an independently-acting superhero in One Punch Man who dreams of becoming famous. The low profile of Sayama teas may indeed make it look like vying for fame, this cannot be further from the truth domestically. In fact, Japanese agree on the “Three Great Teas of Japan” - 'Shizuoka for colour, Uji (Kyoto) for aroma, Sayama for flavour'. Its international low profile today betrays its glorious past.

Teas at the north of Tokyo are steeped in history. Heian-kyo (平安京) - then-capital and Kyoto today - had been the capital for Japan for over a thousand year. This gave Kyoto teas a natural advantage in prestige and marketability. However, few know that Kawagoe teas (川越茶) emerged earlier than Kyoto Uji (宇治茶) tea by around a century. Then, Kawagoe tea was enjoyed as a matcha (河越抹茶), adopting its name after the same growing area which later changed a Kanji character with the same pronunciation (川 and 河 mean rivers of different scales but are both read as 'kawa' in Japanese.) It was well documented that Kawagoe teas have enjoyed the patronage of the ruling Muromachi (Ashikaga) shogunate during the 14th century.

Situated north of most other tea-growing regions in Japan, the harsh winter in Saitama conditions thicker cold-resistant leaves, allowing higher accumulation of flavour notes - a reason for its popularity. Additionally, Kawagoe's historical role as the supply town for Edo (江戸) (present day Tokyo) earned it the nickname 'Koedo' which means 'Little Edo' (小江戸). During the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), it was one of the early adopters of loose leaf teas after emulating the new tea drinking trend across the East China Sea in China. The Japanese name for this change in brewing style confusingly retained the old term of sencha (煎茶), which referred to how tea was cooked before Edo era.

Located 500 km north of the ancient Heian-kyo of the shogunate, Kawagoe held significant cultural, religious and military importance. The magnitude of its standing is exemplified by the decree of the third Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu (徳川家光), to transplant palace buildings from Edo Castle to Kitain (喜多院) - an important Buddhist temple in Kawagoe - after a fire destroyed most of it in 1638. These relocated structures became the sole surviving buildings of Edo Castle today after the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and World War II.

Adjacent to Kawagoe, Sayama was recently established in 1954 by the merger of a few neighbouring towns. Today, Sayama tea has surpassed its former incarnation as Kawagoe tea in fame, with the main production area in Sayama and neigbouring Iruma City (入間). Such are really modern administrative divisions rather than actual geographical divisions based on historical tea growing areas of Kawagoe tea. During our brief visit to Sayama, we dedicated more time in Takano En (Takano is the family name of the producer and 'en' means tea garden). Every farm we visited has their own tea processing facility, and Takano En is no exception, boosting older structures made of wood. Importantly, the farm employs organic farming techniques, which is rather uncommon in Sayama. The owner is Takano Chamio (
髙野茶実夫), who humorously acknowledged that his name sounds amusing but described his birthplace in a tea shop. 

Takano En's green tea is made using the ‘Samaya Kaori' variety (さやまかおり) which translates to 'aroma of Sayama'. Employing the traditional method of Sayama Hiire (さやま火入), it acquires an elegant roasted aroma with a lingering afterflavour. Although Hiire (火入) is an crucial final step common to all Japanese green tea production, Sayama Hiire employs a higher temperature to cater to the thicker Sayama tea leaves. Takano En's wakoucha (和红茶, Japanese red tea) is crafted using 'Yutaka Midori' variety (ゆたかみどり) which translates to 'luscious green'. This variety is well-suited for red tea due to its intense sweetness. Both varieties have low astringency and bitterness. [The 'wa' in 'wakoucha' refers to the major Japanese ethnic group of the Yamato (大和).]

We are brewing both teas in our Parchmen Glass Gaiwan. For the sencha, we are using 3g of tea leaves to 130 ml of 75℃ distilled water for 35 sec. The dry leaves are dark green in colour and appears torn and with tea fanning. This is the characteristic of Japanese teas due to the employment of heavy machines in repeated steps. The brewed leaves smell of seaweed and nuts, reminding one of Sayama Hiire. The tea is greenish in colour and not entirely transparent like Chinese tea due to presence of tea fanning. The flavour is fresh, seaweedy and has a clear aroma of hazelnut, with a smooth mouthfeel, low bitterness and low astringency. The afterflavour lingers on the nose. It can be brewed twice. For the red tea, the leaves look broad and short, with reddish or golden tips. The brewed leaves smell sweet with hints of fruits. The tea colour is bright red, and the flavour is smooth, sweet and dominated by peach, lemon and plum aroma, extending to its afterflavour. The tea is bright, with low bitterness and low astringency. The second brew retains the colour and flavour, while the third brew becomes a lighter tone of red with reduced flavour. It is best enjoyed in two brews.

Guangxi Six Fortress Tea boosts a long history dating back to the Tang dynasty. Its name was derived from its origin - Six Fortress Town in Wuzhou City (梧州). The region has a historical legacy of up to 4,000 years, while the city has remained in the same location for around 2,000 years. Designated as a Geographical Indicator (GI) product of China since 2011, Guangxi Six Fortress Tea is also registered as a GI product under EU laws as of 2020.

Yunnan is the motherland of tea, with its heirloom variety of assamica, extending  westward to India, Vietnam and Myanmar, and eastward to Guangdong. As it moves east, the leaves become reduced in size and suitable for making wulong teas. As tea extends further north, it continues to reduce in size so as to converse energy in the increasingly cold environment. Guangxi is situated between Yunnan on its west and Guangdong on its east, and Wuzhou is on the province's eastern border with Guangdong. The local heirloom tea varieties are of assamica, akin to those found in Yunnan, explaining the similarity in the form and style in tea processing and flavour profile. Traditionally, Guangxi Six Fortress Tea is compressed into tea blocks, but loose leaves are also available. 

There are three methods to enjoy this tea. One approach is to steep it in a flask in a 1:100 ~ 150 ratio for 15 to 30 mins to yield a thick and smooth tea with fruity undertones. The unusually large ratio is compensated by the extended steeping time. Alternatively, one can also cook it in a pot over a stove, using the same ratio of 1:100 ~ 150 for 10 to 20 min, creating a robust and bold tea, but could be less smooth as compared to the steeping method. This method harkens back to ancient times when tea was consumed as a medicine during the Han and Tang dynasty, underscoring the tea's longstanding heritage. The third method is what we are all familiar with - brewing in a small tea pot. We are using the Bell zisha tea pot to brew this tea, using a smaller ratio of 5g to 200ml in gongfu style by brewing for 15 seconds before dispensing, for numerous times. This method produces an elegant tea with more nuanced notes. We choose to leave the tea pot uncovered for the first two brews to allow its earthy and fermented notes to dissipate. In all methods, use boiling water to rinse the tea leaves once by covering the leaves and discarding the water in 10 sec. The tea presents a bronze brown colour, and the brewed leaves smell sweet with hints of earth and fruits. There is a hint of smoke, which is in fact a mark of distinction from the fermentation and not as a result of poor processing.

Thank you for coming onboard Parchmen & Co and travel with us to savour our world in a cup!