According to macrobiotics, Sannen Bancha is a yang, warming drink. This Sannen Bancha is true healthy traditional Japanese green tea. It has a lovely smooth, sweet, roasted, soothing taste, is low in caffeine, easy on the stomach and evokes a sense of well-being and welcome warmth when brewed hot during the winter months but is equally delicious served chilled in the summer.
Produced by the organic tea garden Harima En in Uji, near Kyoto, before the leaves for the tea are harvested, the bushes are left to grow freely for a period of 1-4 years. As a result of letting the leaves grow on the plant for a longer period of time, they contain less caffeine and more minerals and catechins (anti oxidants) than other teas. Although the tea looks and smells similar to a hojicha, because there are less tannins in the tea it is much milder in taste. It is also very low in caffeine and therefore perfect for drinking in the evening.
This tea is made in quite a different manner to most Japanese teas. At harvest time, which is in the autumn and winter, the long, straggly branches are cut off using hand-cutters. The branches are then transported to the factory to be made into tea. With much handwork involved, the leaves are removed from the branches and the branches themselves are cut into small lengths the size of stems. to make them suitable for firing. At this point the tea is then steamed, rolled and dried into “aracha” (raw tea) and kept in a cool storage for 6 months up to 3 years (Sannen means 3 years) for ripening. This ripening process, which is a type of controlled oxidation breaks down tannins in the tea and helps to mellow the taste. When the tea has reached the right flavour, the tea is roasted in small batches, leaves separately from stems. Due to the amount of handwork involved and the fact that processing this tea is so time consuming the producer can only make a small amount each year.
Sannen Bancha can be prepared in a big teapot or mug with boiling water, however the actual traditional way to prepare it is on a stove top in a pan. Just put some leaves (about 10-20 gram for a liter, depending on your taste) in the pan, fill the pan up with water, bring the water to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer the leaves for around 5-10 minutes. After that, strain the leaves and it is ready to serve. If you make a big pot full of it, you can continue to reheat it on the stove top or even just drink it at room temperature throughout the day. Alternatively you can of course prepare the tea in the “normal” way in a teapot.