Mr Kumada, a farmer attached to his land

Mr kumada in Kagoshima

I’d like to introduce you to Mr Kumada. He lives with eight cats and grows tea on seven hectares in the extreme south of Japan, high above the city of Kagoshima, far from anywhere, even the smallest village. Mr Kumada took over from his father, who was also a farmer. But he only grows tea, unlike his father who also grew tobacco, and raised cows, pigs and silkworms. When I asked him what he’d like me to talk about on my blog, Mr Kumada immediately replied that he was proud of his farming methods, and of the organic certification he has obtained. He wants to keep the environment in the best possible condition; he is responsible for it, he says.

Mr Kumada produces green teas, of course, but also a black tea, which I’ve just chosen. It’s the first time I’ve tasted such a good black tea from Japan, an interesting tasting experience. Mr Kumada’s very likeable personality does play a part in my choice: I taste all teas blind, but it increases the pleasure I take in being able to promote his excellent tea.

 


Posted in Country : Japan by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

In Japan, tea is harvested three or four times a year

Tea fields in Kyushu

In Japan, harvesting is often done by machine due to the high cost of labour. So instead of picking the leaves every week, as is the practice in some parts of the world, they are harvested three times a year, in spring, summer and autumn. On the island of Kyushu, which is hotter than the islands further north, tea can be harvested four times a year – in April, June, August and October. The most prized harvest is the first one, known here and elsewhere in Japan as Ichibancha.


Posted in Country : Japan by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

Sakurajima

Sakurajima volcano in Kyushu

Tomorrow I’m leaving Japan and this island of Kyushu I love, this city of Kagoshima, this region of volcanoes, some of the most active on the archipelago. I’m leaving these beautiful and remote tea fields in the mountains, and I’ll show you some photos of them soon. But today I want to share with you my favourite photo, it’s of a volcano called Sakurajima, and I took it while at the Senga-en garden north of Kagoshima. This is one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and here, tea grows inland as well as on some of the islands that lie off the coast. Green tea, of course, but also some black teas that aren’t always necessarily that special but are starting to sell as far away as Tokyo.


Posted in Country : Japan by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : , ,

A volcanic plantation

A volcanic plantation in Kyushu, Japan

In the far south of Japan, the tea fields’ proximity to active volcanoes means the leaves have to be treated in a special way. Several times a year, the volcanoes spew out ash that is deposited on the surrounding land. So once the leaves have been harvested, they are rinsed before the first stage in processing: steaming. The rinsing in cold water lasts for 30 minutes and no longer, to minimise the loss of aromatic compounds.


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In praise of shadows

Eating ramen in the dark

If you want to get to know Japan, I recommend, as well as “The Empire of Signs” by Roland Barthes, “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki. I brought it with me to read here, in Japan. It talks about the relationship we have with light in the West and East: diffuse light versus direct light; a love of shiny things compared with a preference for matt. In the West, we want total light; elsewhere, like in Japan, more of a half-light. Tanizaki also talks about lacquerware, darkness, and Japanese cuisine, which go with shade. He says, about this cuisine, both the food itself and the dishes in which it’s served: “In the glare of harsh light, its aesthetic virtues would disappear in a flash.” He also says something I really like: “We Orientals make things beautiful by creating shadows in places that in themselves are insignificant.”


Posted in Country : Japan by François-Xavier Delmas | Tags : ,

The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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