Expert tea kneader – Yoshiaki Hiruma, Hiruma-en Teas

Expert tea kneader – Yoshiaki Hiruma, Hiruma-en Teas

You must be a tea enthusiast if you know what “Temomi-cha (hand kneaded tea)” is. While most teas are dried using a machine, Temomi-cha is dried by skilled tea masters who spend hours hand kneading (temomi) the tea leaves. When hand kneaded by an expert tea master, each tea leaf rolls into a thin needle like shape. The most expensive Temomi-cha can be sold for up to 1 million yen per kilogram. The tradition of Temomi-cha continues to be carried on in Iruma-shi in Saitama prefecture, known for Sayama-cha. Hiruma-en Teas is located in Sayama where tea fields seem to go on forever.

“In most other areas, the growing, processing and selling are handled separately, but in Sayama, most handle everything themselves. I think that’s why the tradition of hand kneading has continued.” (Yoshiaki Hiruma, Hiruma-en Teas)

Mr. Hiruma is also the chairman of the “Zenkoku Temomi-cha Shinkokai” and is a “supreme tea master” who has received the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries award on 7 occasions. Mr. Hiruma shared his tea kneading techniques with Nakata. Temomi-cha uses only the very best “gyokuro” tea leaves from the first cultivation of trees which are covered two weeks before being picked. The tea leaves are hand kneaded over a “hoiro” which gently heats the tea from underneath.

“There is a certain order to hand kneading – circular motions, cutting motions, rotating and ‘kokuri’. You use a different technique based on the temperature and humidity of the tea leaves.” (Mr. Hiruma)

The surface temperature of the “hoiro” is about 40-50 degrees Celsius, and the tea leaves give off steam as they dance in his hands. Sometimes, it can take as long as six hours to dry the leaves in this manner. Nakata also takes a stab at it, but finds it difficult to dry even a handful of tea leaves evenly.

“It’s a delicate process that requires you to determine the timing with your hands and by the color, the scent and weight of the tea leaves. You can’t hand knead without having the right senses.” (Mr. Hiruma)

Temomi-cha is made by experts who spend a lot of time and effort. This tea is enjoyed by wetting 2 or 3 tea leaves with just a few drops of hot water. It’s hard to believe that just a few droplets is so full of flavor and aroma that spreads throughout your mouth, filling you with a sense of joy. It’s also interesting to watch the tea leaf spread to reveal its former shape. You’ll understand why this tea is so expensive once you taste it. It is a very exclusive tea, but is sold in small batches, so we recommend you give it a try.


Hiruma-en Teas
616 Kamiyaganuki, Iruma-shi, Saitama 358-0042
TEL 0120-514188