What is “Iri Bancha”? – The Secret Tea of Kyoto

Summer is just around the corner – I hope you have exciting plans for your summer holiday!

I returned to Japan early last month for the first time in two and a half years. It was great to see my family and friends in person, rather than on screen.

I visited Kyoto for few days while I was there. I spent four years in Kyoto, as I studied at a university there. As it was Japan’s capital city before Tokyo, people have their own unique culture that has developed over the past 700 years. And there’s something that I’d like to tell about – a special tea in Kyoto called Iri-bancha.

Have you heard of “Iri-bancha” or “Kyo-bancha” before? It’s the favourite tea in Kyoto – if you have been to Kyoto before, you may have tasted it at Japanese restaurant.

I worked at a Japanese restaurant for a couple of years when I was living in Kyoto. The chef brewed the tea in a large pot before opening the restaurant, and I walked around to each table with a small teapot to serve the tea to the customers when they finished their meals. The aroma still remains as a part of my memory of Kyoto.

Kyoto in summer

 

What is Iri-bancha?

As you may know Japan has a rich history of tea, and Japanese culture is deeply connect with tea. There are few different types of tea – Matcha, Japanese Green tea (Sencha), and Bancha.

Bancha is also known as daily tea, and is made with the mature part of the tea leaves. Each area has their own way to make their Bancha and local tea makers have been keeping the techniques alive for generations. “Iri-bancha” (or Kyo-bancha) is Kyoto’s Bancha, and one of the most well known local teas in Japan. “Iri” refers to the roasting, and as the name suggests, the tea leaves are roasted over a fire until they are smoky. This gives the tea a wonderful aroma, like a bonfire that you can smell in every corner of Kyoto.

We have just added iribancha from Ippodo to our tea collection this summer. Ippodo is the one of most famous tea makers in Japan, and was established in Kyoto in 1717. As Kyoto tea maker, they proudly produce the signature tea of Kyoto. Despite its strong aroma, iribancha has a mild smoky and sweet flavour. The roasting process also removes a lot of the caffeine so I would recommend this tea for when you want to relax, or before you go to bed. It would also be perfect for children and pregnant women too. Once you taste its refreshing flavour, you won’t want to drink anything else!

 

 

Iribancha tea leaves once they have been roasted.

Our iribancha is sold in handy tea bags

 

How to brew Iri-bancha

As our iribancha comes in tea bags, you can simply put one bag into boiling water (400ml), then remove the tea bag after 5 minutes.

Personally I also like the tea served cold. Just leave the tea bag in the boiling water a bit longer, then put ice cubes in the tea. This is particularly refreshing on hot days.

 

I hope you’ll enjoy Kyoto’s favourite tea at home this summer!

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