Nowadays Japanese tea is produced with factory machines and hand-rolling has become the practice of the past. To preserve the old traditions, however, the National Tea Hand-rolling Competition is held every year. In 2023 the 27th edition took place in Fujieda City, Shizuoka Prefecture.
During the competition only the finish tea leaves are evaluated judging their appearance, aroma and taste. Interestingly, the rolling process itself is not scrutinized. Yet, it takes 5 long hours of continuous handling to craft the exquisite straight needles. It all begins with each team receiving frozen tea leaves, that have been steamed previously. Initially, the leaves are gently aired to warm them and to reduce the surface moisture. Then gradually, more pressure is applied to extract the inner moisture. Finally, tea leaves are meticulously shaped into beautiful, elongated needles and left to dry. Once the rolling is finished everyone can take a brake while the judges deliberate which team to award.
This year, 23 teams from all over Japan took place in the competition, with Shizuoka and Kyoto contributing the largest number of participants. It is a pleasure to share that the Wazuka team from Kyoto, comprised of Kenta Hosoi from Hosoi Nouen, Akihiro Kita from Obubu Tea, and our president Simona Suzuki, won the 1st place!