This is a less-commonly found type of tea, but it’s the kind that is served in sushi restaurants where it is called agari. The name means ‘tea powder’ and is the rejected buds and tea dust left over from processing of sencha and gyokuro. Because of its strong colour, flavour and aroma, it’s a good tea for cooking with. [Info from Tokunaga, New Tastes in Green Tea]
So basically, it’s a low-grade product. We normally think of the leftovers of tea production being chucked into tea bags. However, some tea dust can produce some extremely popular and distinctive tea – such as the strong, milky and sweet flavour of teh tarik produced by Indian sarabat stalls in Malaysia and Singapore. The secret to teh tarik is in the tea dust! You can easily find tea dust for sale in Mustafa.
Anyway, I came across konacha on sale recently at my favourite store – Daiso! I haven’t seen it in any other Japanese supermarkets or tea shops in Singapore. And before you sniff at $2 tea, the boxes of Japanese tea bags sold in Daiso are the same brand sold in regular supermarkets for more :). And the loose leaf houjicha is pretty drinkable; one day I’ll buy and compare it with expensive bagged houjicha, e.g. Muso brand macrobiotic grade ($7.50 for pack of 10 bags in Brown Rice Paradise, $6.50 in Eat Organic, and $4.50 at Meidi-ya’s organic shelf!) or Fukujuen‘s non-organic houjicha teabags (sadly, Fukujuen in Singapore does not stock its looseleaf houjicha, nor its organic range).
Konacha from Daiso. Note how it’s packaged as ‘sushi shop tea’ in the name and with the photo of sushi.Update 5.6.07:
Nope, not going to buy this Daiso konacha again :P. Followed konacha-brewing instructions carefully but it came out tasteless.