I guess you could pickle just about any food item you put your mind to (including a peck of peppers), but I’m sure there are certain items that are better suited for this sort of thing. Until recently, my only knowledge of pickling, in relation to tea, had to do with lahpet, a pickled tea salad popular in that country once known as Burma (now Myanmar). This delicacy can apparently include a variety of ingredients, which are not fixed, but which might include garlic, peas, peanuts, toasted sesame, dried shrimp, ginger, and shredded coconut.
But as I found out, the more I looked into the matter, the Burmese don’t have a monopoly on this notion of pickled tea. According to one source, pickled tea also turns up in such Asian nations as China and Thailand.
And Japan, as I happened to discover this when I ran across a study alleging that there was an antioxidant that was specific to Awa-ban, which is a type of pickled and anaerobically fermented tea said to be “exclusive to the Tokushima area” of Japan. The antioxidant found in this type of tea is known as resorcinol and it was said to be absent in the types of black and green tea that were analyzed.
Also known as Awa bancha, Awa-ban takes its name from this region and from the Japanese word for evening. The production process has been compared to that of the process by which sauerkraut is made. It results in a tea that’s yellow in color and sour to the taste, and is described as follows: “Tea leaves are harvested in July, boiled, rubbed, pickled in barrels, and then anaerobically fermented using natural bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, to produce Awa-ban tea leaves.”
For a rather in-depth description of the production process for Awa bancha, complete with photos, be sure to check out this informative page from the Japanese Kamiyama Artist in Residence site, which points out that this type of tea is “made in just a couple of places in Japan where the climates is suitable.”
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