Phew, what a weekend – glad to get back to the guesthouse for a rest! And I survived a weekend in Kyoto on my own!
The second week of the course started with some proper study! The Science of Tea!
The first session started with a brand new tea – Sun Rouge – which is a purple tea where the green chlorophyll has a red component, like seaweed – lovely made into jelly!
Tea of course is 99.4% water, and 0.6% tea, so the water also is significant.
We talked at length about the catechins, theanine, vitamins, caffeine, and their health benefits, with some crazy experiments!
We visited some other tea farms, with a focus on traditional and modern farming methods, particularly organic and natural farming, and these photos below are of a tea field belonging to Ryo-san, who left a job in Tokyo as a computer programmer, to buy a tea farm in Wazuka, growing organic teas. He is developing new teas for Japan, all organic, and he gave us all a sample of the most delicious white tea – when you drink it, you can taste the way the field smells! You can really taste the freshness of the tea, the smell of the leaf, and you can feel the heat and the humidity! We have a very small amount in the shop, not for sale as yet, but we will be tasting it at the July tea tasting session at the end of the month. I don’t think he’s shipping outside of Japan at the moment, but I’m desperate to get some more of that for you to try.
Machine picked and hand picked bushes
Everywhere you go in this area of Japan, you smell this lovely toasty smell – which turns out to be Houjicha, a roasted green tea which is regarded as a Welcome Tea – so you get it free with meals in lots of places, you get samples of it in shops, and we had it constantly throughout each of our classes! Cold brew most of the time, but hot when it was raining. It made me realise that the quality of the houjicha in the shop isn’t particularly great, and as soon as I tasted the Natural Houjicha, I had to get some for the shop. Natural growing methods mean no fertilizers, pesticides, and the whole process actually goes beyond organic in many ways. This particular one is also ‘sand-roasted’ which keeps the leaf flatter. We actually had the opportunity to roast some of our own, using the same method as people use in their own homes – one day we’ll get this for the shop!
Slo-mo Houjicha roasting!
Wednesday was a long day out – in the rain – we were catching some of that typhoon which caused all the damage in Japan. We visited a tea auction, then a very high spec matcha factory which saw us all dress up in white PPE – hats and masks and lab coats, and covers for our shoes – not sure if this was for our benefit or for the matcha. I think this visit brought it home how big the matcha business is in Japan, they buy most of the tencha in the area, and produce huge quantities of cooking and ceremonial matcha – sadly no free samples of matcha here. After this we went to the opposite extreme – a bamboo garden and museum where we met a man who makes chasen, the bamboo whisks which are used for matcha. You could feel the stillness and serenity of this place.
There are very few chasen makers left, and most of the time they pass the knowledge to their children, but this man is 62, and has no children.
From this evening, there were warnings about the weather, and I think we were impressed by the way the Japanese deal with these natural crises – loudspeaker messages keeping people updated, the whole built area is designed to take water away as quickly as possible … in this video clip, the part with water isn’t usually filled with water, but this was the run-off from the hillside, and the pond for when it overflowed.