In the years I’ve been drinking tea, every so often, usually on the road, I would resort to some kind of bottled tea for a quick caffeine fix when it’s not practical to do anything else. One of these occasions is when going to some library or another – like during my recent trip to the National Diet Library in Tokyo. There’s basically nothing around there, so your food and drink needs are all served by the canteen on the top floor of the library. There’s also a little grocery store that sells drinks. Since drinking hot tea is rather impractical there, bottled it has to be.
When I go to these places, I normally buy some kind of oolong tea – it’s more palatable than bottled green tea, which are invariably some kind of nasty. In Japan, bottled teas are by and large not sugared, whereas even here in Hong Kong sugared variety is more common, leading to a really gross mix. So, non-sugared oolong tea is what I normally end up with, and they are generally really heavily roasted tasting things. Serviceable, nothing more.
Except this time, I saw something new – all the bottled oolong teas are now “made in the country” as in made in Japan. Whereas previously they were usually from China, this is I think the first time I’ve seen a Japan made bottled oolong tea. And it shows – the taste is different. I’m sure they try their hardest to make it pretty much exactly the same, but it’s not. You can taste a bit of that Japanese tea in the taste.
The marketing is also interesting – they’re saying they brought over the technique for making oolong in China, but also keeps it fresher and better because it’s made in the country. Some of the tea is grown in Yakushima – an island south of Kyushu. It’ll be interesting to see what else is made on Yakushima. Does that mean that we will start seeing oolongs more from Japan – not just in bottled form, but for real? Currently I only know of one farm that seems to consistently push out oolong teas in Japan, located in Miyazaki. They’re decent, although nothing compared with Taiwan. I’m curious to see what will appear.
The fun thing, of course, is that these producers – the major beverage manufacturers like Kirin, Sapporo, Coca-Cola, etc – always try to come up with new products every so often. Every spring there’s going to be a bunch of expensive shincha, taking advantage of the craze with new tea every season. And with these oolong teas there’s always new varieties that they try to push, like this one.