Not too long ago now I was able to purchase(*) Batabatacha through Yunomi. I took a risk with this blend because I had never tried anything like this before, but I’m always looking to learn more about Japanese tea traditions and to try them out for myself so I wanted to give it a go and see if I enjoyed it. I’ll be honest though, I love blends that have a roasty toasty feel to them so as soon as I saw that it had not only a Hojicha base but also roasted soy beans, Kawasaki ketsumi (Chamaecrista Nomame) and tea flowers (from the Camellia Sinensis plant) I think I knew I was going to love it no matter how I prepared it. As you all know, I’m always on the look out to try new teas / tisanes and learn as much about them as I can, while experimenting with different ways to prepare it so that I can share everything I learn with all of you and help to wider community learn more about Japanese tea and rare tea tradition as from the country.
“Batabata -cha” (also known as “Tatecha” or “Furicha”) is one of the local traditional banchas of Japan that has been historically enjoyed in the Itoigawa (Niigata prefecture) region for a long time. Herbal Batabatacha is said to have originated in the neighboring prefecture of Toyama Prefecture in the town of Asahimachi Birudan. This herbal batabatacha from Seikoen is made by boiling the blended Batabata tea and roasted soybeans, Hojicha (roasted tea), and tea flowers, then adding a tiny bit of salt, and whipping the drink with a special Chasen, but is done with two whisks instead of just one, but should you want to you can also use a electric whisk or milk frother if you already have one. Around 5 mins of intense whisking is needed so it will definitely save your arms and wrists getting tired.
It is said that the unique name, “Batabata” comes from the sound of making this particular tea or the rushing hours of the morning. In Japanese, “Batabata” is one of the onomatopoeias that signifies commotion and when used as an adverb. I’ve prepared this herbal batabatacha now western style and traditionally and I really enjoyed both, the traditional preparation was definitely a unique experience but still very enjoyable. I thought that the salt was going to make this too much of a savoury blend but it actually balanced it out quite well, there was foam present but it was much more thin than Matcha however it did add a nice creamy underpinning to it. I think having a Hojicha base stops it from being too savoury because it gives it that chocolate, caramel note that you see in a lot of different Hojicha.
Let’s move on to the fermented version of Batabatacha now then shall we (sadly I haven’t had chance to try this yet and I’ve only had the herbal version but I’m aiming to try it for myself as soon as I can.
It is said that of all traditional Japanese folk teas the fermented version of, Batabatacha is the most similar to Chinese dark tea and I think that’s mostly down to the way that it is processed. Although the in-depth history of this blend is mostly unknown, its processing and focus on fermentation is definitely Chinese at its core. There is written evidence that this tea was being drunk in 1472, but it is probably much older than that and there just isn’t any documentation to prove that. It actually used to be part of a Buddhist tradition, where it was drank on death anniversaries, wedding ceremonies, and birth celebrations.
Studies have shown that this the fermented version of Batabatacha (which is just tea leaves) is particularly rich in Vitamin B12, which I didn’t know at all until I started doing my research into this traditional blend, but it’s a huge bonus as I’m always told that I need to have more B12 and I am yet to have found a way to add more into my diet. It’s a great health benefit but not something I’d think about each time I drank this tea. As tea is all about taste an experience for me and I don’t like to focus on potential health benefits and over inflate them to a point where it’s all people care about.
The version of Batabatcha I had for this post is the herbal version however the fermented version from the neighboring prefecture is usually processed in the following way; firstly the mature leaves from July or August are picked and then boiled until they become yellowish brown. Then, the wet leaves are usually left on top of a straw mat to dry under the shade for half a day. The fermentation process happens when the leaves are stuffed in a square, wooden box that is most often around 2 meters in size. Inside that box, the leaves are compressed by a person standing on them. The temperature is controlled so that it doesn’t go past 60 °C (140 °F), because one of the main agents of the fermentation process is the Koji Mould, and it doesn’t survive past that temperature. Every four days the tea leaves are loosened. Doing so evens up the fermentation process, which lasts about a month in total. Finally, the tea leaves are again dried half a day under the shade, and then for two to three days under the sun.
The herbal version I had didn’t effect my allergies of course but I would be interested to try out the fermented version to see if it did trigger my allergies like puerh and other fermented teas do! I’ll definitely have to do some more in depth research about that and see if I can try a few things out. As I said earlier if be interested in at least trying the fermented version and other dark teas from Japan just to explore weather or not I would react to them.
The fermented version It is prepared by boiling about 6 grams of leaves in one litre of water for a long period of time. At least it should be 10 minutes, if not an hour, but it’s not uncommon in Asahi town to boil the leaves for most of the day. The tea is poured into bowls called Gorohachi (五郎八), which are smaller than the usual Matcha bowl. As I mentioned earlier, a pinch of salt is usually added and then the tea is whisked until it forms a white foam on the top. Once that is present the tea in ready too drink. the whisk used to prepare Batabatacha the traditional whisk is usually referred to as a Batabatachasen and some people say that this kind of whisk is actually much older than the Chasen you would use to prepare Matcha, however I could not find any information online to confirm this for this post.
You can also prepare this tea western style though should you not have the time to prepare it traditionally and the best thing about it is that is can be steeped for long periods of time and I even had success with resteeping my leaves when I prepared the herbal version western style which you don’t often find with many tisanes these days. So I’m sure you would probably be okay to prepare the fermented version both ways as well. It makes for a very unique experience that I would say it is at least worth experiencing once or twice should want to try both the herbal and the fermented versions. While I knew I was probably going to enjoy this, I didn’t expect to end up loving it as much as I do and want to immediately purchase more so I always have this in my stash to reach for when I want something a that’s a little more out of the box and unique. I enjoy prepared both ways honestly but I like that preparing it traditionally is more of an all encompassing experience so will definitely choose that route in days when I’m feeling well enough too. That being said it’s also really nice to have the option to be able to prepare it western style on days when I’m in too much pain.
Before I finish this post I just want to say a huge thank you to Yunomi for doing the work that they do because they have enabled me to constantly build my knowledge with Japanese teas and tisanes over the last few years and have helped me to have so many first time experiences with new teas, most of which I probably wouldn’t know about if it were not for them and I would love for my blog to be a place for other teas lovers to have that same experience hence why I wanted to change things up and start creating the content that shares the knowledge I have learnt and continue to learn, content that I would have loved to have had when I was starting my journey with loose leaf tea.
If you have any questions at all about Batabatacha remember to stick them in the comments or send them to me on Instagram @kimberleyskyusu and I’ll do my best to answer them all as quick and as accurately as I can. Remember to use the code START20 to get 20% off your first order with Yunomi. You can find the herbal version of Batabatacha and the fermented version plus much more here.
Until next time, Happy Steeping – Kimberley
*The tea or tisane featured in this post was purchased using a gift card provided to be by Yunomi Tea. For the purpose of creating content. I was however not asked to produce this post, all opinions are my own and have not been paid for* Yunomi are a brand I’ve worked with for a long time and I wouldn’t feature them so much if I didn’t love the items they stock.