Batabata-cha, a somewhat well known fermented Japanese tea, contains vitamin B12, and thus the black dragon, image of fierce protection, seems appropriate.
Originally it was believed that Batabata-cha contained B12 because of fermentation used in processing the tea leaves.
However, when a study was done of freshly picked organically grown Japanese tea leaves as well as processed tea leaves, it was discovered that all organically grown Japanese tea leaves contained vitamin B12.
Since only bacteria make B12, and plants cannot make B12, the researchers concluded that B12 in organically grown tea leaves resulted from tea plants taking up B12 from the soil which is richly fertilized with fish meal in Japan’s organic farming sector.
Just to be clear, fish are a rich source of vitamin B12.
Occurrence of Vitamin B12 in Green, Blue, Red, and Black Tea Leaves ~ Read more
Study conducted by Hiromi KITTAKA-KATSURAI, Fumlo WATANABE and Yoshihisa NAKANO through the Departments of Food and Nutrition and Health Science, Kyoto Women’s University, Kyoto, Japan, and the Department of Applied Biological Chemistry, Osaka Prefecture University, Sakai, Japan. J Nutr Sci Vitamnol, 50, 438-440, 2004
The first paragraph of the following, by the same researchers, is pretty technical, but so impressive given that the operative word is, Authentic.
A Japanese fermented black tea (Batabata-cha) contained a considerable amount of vitamin B(12) (456 +/- 39 ng per 100 g dry tea leaves and 2.0 +/- 0.3 ng per 100 mL of tea drink). A corrinoid compound was partially purified and characterized from the tea leaves. The patterns of the purified compound by the silica gel 60 thin-layer chromatography and C18 reversed phased high-performance liquid chromatography were identical to those of authentic vitamin B(12).
When 20 week old vitamin B(12) deficient rats, which excreted substantial amounts (about 250 mg/day) of methylmalonic acid in urine as an index of vitamin B(12) deficiency, were fed the tea drink (50 mL/day, 1 ng of vitamin B(12)) for 6 weeks, urinary methylmalonic acid excretion (169 +/- 29 mg/day) of the tea drink-supplemented 26 week old rats decreased significantly relative to that (250 +/- 32 mg/day) of the deficient rats.
The results indicate that the vitamin B(12) found in the fermented black tea is bioavailable in mammals.
I find it somewhat confusing that the research identifies Batabata-cha as a black tea from Toyoma, Japan, but when I search Toyoma for tea, I find Yunomi which sells specialty Japanese teas, to include Batabata-cha, which it says is a green tea.
This seeming contradiction could arise from the fact that the name, Batabata-cha, derives from the sound made by a whisk when the tea is frothed. Apparently some teas are whisked to froth before drinking.
Yunomi was founded by Ian Chun, originally from Hawaii, educated at Brown University.
Yunomi’s goal is bridging “the language and cultural borders that separates Japanese tea farmers with tea enthusiasts worldwide. More than “farm-to-table”, we believe in “people-to-people”—at Yunomi, you can read about the farmers who grow your tea, while we translate your feedback into Japanese so they can learn about you! Join us in a life steeped in tea!”
Indeed, they list all the farms they do business with, and you can learn about any one of them through pictures and description. It’s pretty neat.
I chose to order the Batabata-cha from Yunomi in Japan, but it’s also available through Amazon.
Organic Tea vs Organic Japanese Tea
At first I thought that the Organic Black Tea, Irish Breakfast to be exact, that I ordered from Frontier on Amazon, was likely to have B12 in it, because of the research quoted above. But, I’m no longer so sure that’s true.
Some organic fertilizer other than fish meal could be used, and that would likely mean less vitamin B12.
I’m reminded of elderly South Koreans who eat primarily grain and vegetables, and typically don’t use vitamin supplements, who have vitamin B12 levels similar to those of elderly Americans who eat meat and use supplements.
Researchers explained that South Koreans ferment a lot of things, like their favorite, Kimchi, using fermented fish sauce or fermented small fish. Discovery of Novel Sources of Vitamin B12 in Traditional Korean Foods from Nutritional Surveys of Centenarians, Chung Shil Kwak, Mee Sook Lee, Se In Oh, and Sang Chul Park, 2010.
While I believe that the Batabata-cha that I ordered has viable B12 making bacteria in it, I don’t know for a fact that it does.
One article I read on Batabata-cha was eager to explain that the mold that contributes to the fermentation is killed by the heating process that comes later. But, when I was reading about the B12 making bacteria responsible for the holes in Swiss cheese, it’s able to survive really high temperatures in commercial production of B12.
Also, the bacteria used in culturing yogurt happily survive the initial hot water.
Black Dragon Image Credits – Image copied from http://www.hanamichiflowerpath.com/2016/05/japanese-dark-tea-tasting.html by Heather Porter, a Certified Tea Specialist living in the Pacific Northwest, studying tea as well as studying and performing Japanese dance (nihonbuyo).