Category : Country : Japan

In Shizuoka, a festival is dedicated to green tea

As you read this, I will be arriving in the Land of the Rising Sun. I am here because every three years, a celebration of green tea is held in the Shizuoka region: the O’Cha Festival. It is an opportunity to meet many farmers who grow tea in the surrounding mountains and who leave their tea plants to come and meet other growers, customers and journalists. At the festival, you can try many teas, or watch a matcha tea being made, or a temomi cha, the tea that is entirely processed by hand.

Drinking green tea, whether a superior quality or an everyday brew, is part of Japanese culture. The Japanese serve green tea throughout the day and even drink it while walking in the street, getting it from the numerous vending machines you see everywhere in the country. The Japanese ceremony of Cha no Yu is deeply rooted in tradition, going back more than 500 years, like the Ikebana art of flower arranging, for example.

At the O’Cha Festival, you can taste some very special teas. Several competitions are held during the fair to select the best green teas of the year.

The farmers are immensely proud of the recognition this brings their tea. Here is one family in the middle of harvesting a sencha. Their plot is not big, but their tea is worth its weight in gold.

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

In Japan, people eat green tea

In Japan, people sometimes eat green tea leaves. In that case, it’s usually exceptional teas whose leaves have been previously used to prepare tea.

You can see how it is prepaped on the picture: after dropping the wet tea leaves into a container, you add skipjack chips and sprinkle a little bit of soy sauce over the top. It gives you a small tea leaves salad that’s absolutely delicious.

Here, in Asahina (Shizuoka prefecture, Japan), the tea used is a great “Kabuse Cha” or “shade tea” manufactured by Mister Maeshima Tohei, one of the most well-known farmers of the area.

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Tea plants under canvas shaded from the sun

With the wonderful weather we’ve had in France over the past few days, we have to remember to protect ourselves from the sun.
Did you know that tea plants also need protection sometimes? Actually, this only happens in Japan, where there are two categories of tea: “light teas” and “shade teas”. “Light teas” (Sencha, Bancha, Tamaryokucha) are harvested and processed from bushes explosed to sunlight, whereas “shade teas” (Gyokuro, Kabuse, Tencha) are made from tea plants growing in he shade, or even in darkness. As a consequence, the plants are under stress and react to it by by taking more nutrients from the soil. This unusual treatment gives a well developed, smooth and full flavour (which the Japanese call umami) without any bitterness. In other words, a delight.
I took this photo near Nara. I was attracted by these neat rows of tea plants covered with a silvery-black canvas, glimmering in the sun. I stopped to watch them, fascinated by their dark brightness, as you might stop in the moonlight to gaze up at the stars.

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Fans for tea fields

Some sights in the tea fields in Japan are strange. The green rows of tea trees are covered with fans stuck up on top of numerous posts and their metal spikes give contrast to the soft aspects of spring. What can they actually be for? Give a little breeze when the sun is too hot? Certainly not! The fans will fully play their part in the middle of winter. They will be switched on in order to give the atmosphere a stir and prevent the layers of cold air to stay above the trees. These layers of cold air could indeed damage the small trees or slow down their growth.

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Tea harvesting is mechanized in Japan

In Japan, tea harvesting is highly mechanized. In the Shizuoka region, which is on the Makinohara plateau and where Sencha teas are produced, you come across some machines that have a very strange way of talking to the tea leaves. And yet these sharp, deft steel fingers don’t harm them. With extreme precision, this strange harvester takes just the most tender parts of the shoots.

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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