Category Archives: Tea Posts

Uji Report 2011 Part 2

Week 3 & 4 at the organic tencha gardens of Uji! (For week 1 & 2 please see Uji Report 2011 Part 1).

From week three you can start to see the precious young leaves of gokou tea bushes sprouting out. It is also the time of year when both beneficial and pest insects start to become active around the organic tea gardens. A close up of the gokou tea bush (below) you can see spider webs. There are literally hundreds of spiders living in organic tea gardens and also many ladybirds, lacewings and frogs busying around at this time of year. These are all beneficial insects which help keep deadly pest insects like thrips under control which can be detrimental to tea bush growth. Living in harmony with insects, birds, and living creatures is a traditional farming principle in Japan and is really special to see especially when considering most Japanese tea gardens these days, especially shaded tea gardens, now rely heavily upon chemical pesticides to wipe out insects.

Here’s week three and four growth of gokou tea bushes 2011. Our grower told us gokou tea bushes will produce a slightly smaller yield this year:

Gokou - Week 3 & 4 Growth

Gokou - Week 3 & 4 Growth

Week 3 & 4 in the samidori tea garden you can see how vibrant and lustrous the growth has already become compared to the more methodically growing gokou tea bushes:

Samidori - Week 3 & 4 Growth

Samidori - Week 3 & 4 Growth

Week 4 shading of both tea gardens is considered to be stage 3 which is around 90% shading. A thicker black sheet is now pulled over the tea bushes as opposed to the thinner sheet we showed in the Uji Report 2011 Part 1. Correctly shading tea bushes for tencha requires incredible expertise and is not something any regular tea grower can do. One of the most difficult aspects of the shading process is to maintain steady growth and at the same time grow the leaves big enough without them hardening. They must remain thin and tender, yet big enough to produce tencha from the mesophyll part of the leaf. Here’s week four at the gokou and samidori tea gardens under around 90% shading:

6th May 2011 - Organic Gokou Tea Garden in Uji

6th May 2011 - Organic Gokou Tea Garden in Uji

6th May 2011 - Organic Samidori Tea Garden in Uji

6th May 2011 - Organic Samidori Tea Garden in Uji

Since 13th May handpicking of leaves begun at the plantation and continues all through May as an when each breed is ready. Our grower in Uji has a number of small organic gardens at his tencha plantation, the most precious and prized of them all is the asahi varietal which grows at a really tiny plantation. We hope to reserve a small amount of tencha from this plantation in the not too distant future:

6th May 2011 - Organic Asahi Tea Garden in Uji

6th May 2011 - Organic Asahi Tea Garden in Uji

 

Uji Report 2011 Part 1

At the prestigious organic tea gardens in Uji, where our precious organic koicha matcha Tenkei Hana and our top-tier Tenkei Tori are cultivated, tea bushes have been showing bud growth for around two weeks now. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the growth of the buds on Gokou tea bushes on the 15th and 22nd of April:

Gokou - 2 weeks of bud growth

Gokou - 2 weeks of bud growth

And Samidori (not to be confused with Sa*e*midori):

Samidori - 2 weeks growth

Samidori - 2 weeks growth

Below you can see Gokou and Samidori tea gardens on the 22nd of April. The tea bushes are currently under stage one coverage which mainly protects the tea bushes from frost. As you can see the tea bushes are kept in the traditional standing up style (and will be handpicked only).

Pretty much all organic tencha, which is produced at these tea gardens by artisan growers, is reserved by tea masters and buyers in Kyoto. At present, we are able to reserve from the grower around 10kg of organic tencha per year from each tea garden:

Organic Gokou Tea Garden in Uji

22nd April 2011 - Organic Gokou Tea Garden in Uji

Organic Samidori Tea Garden in Uji

22nd April 2011 - Organic Samidori Tea Garden in Uji

Stay tuned for part two…

Organic Spring Bancha

The first taste of Spring 2011 arrived earlier this week! However, not a Shincha, it’s Organic Miyazaki Haru Bancha. It’s made from mature winter leaves (not Spring buds) that are harvested at the end of March. A pan-fired tea, not steamed, with a very distinctive fresh Spring aroma:

Organic Miyazaki Haru Bancha

Organic Miyazaki Haru Bancha

An easy brewer that steeps well at any temperature between 80°C/176°F – 95°C/203°F. To bring out more of that wonderful fresh Spring aroma use a higher water temperature!

Japanese Black Tea From Kakegawa

Japanese Black Tea

Kakegawa black tea brewed in a Tochiri Banko-Yaki Teapot.

Coming to the end of October and creeping into the winter months, the good people at Yuuki-Cha are happy to introduce three all new organic Japanese Black Tea from Kakegawa!

Currently, we have the specialized organic black teas from Makurazaki that are handpicked only once a year in Spring from tea varietals that were bred in Japan specifically for black tea such as Hatsumomiji, Benihikari, and the award winning Benifuki, but also in Japan organic tea growers will often utilizing Spring or Summer harvest leaf of Japanese tea varietals that are commonly used to make green tea for making black tea, too, and when done with good intentions, the results can be excellent!

One organic tea grower we came across in Kakegawa which is a famous tea region of Shizuoka has been very successful at the above mentioned method, so much so, that he has been awarded gold prizes for all three of his Summer harvest black teas in the Japanese world tea competition 2010. That on top of the fact that after tasting them and finding them all delicious we couldn’t really resist to not release them!

The three tea varietals the grower uses to make these are the famous Yabukita breed, the well-revered Saemidori breed, and Yama No Ibuki (meaning mountain breath, life and vitality). Genuine 100% non-blended, direct from the grower, and sincere with your taste buds means you can enjoy and savor the unique taste and aroma of each varietal without any confusion!

Available individually or in a 3 pack over in our Japanese Black Tea category. Buy the 3 pack and save $2:

Organic Kakegawa Black Tea Saemidori

Organic Kakegawa Black Tea Saemidori

Organic Kakegawa Black Tea Yama No Ibuki

Organic Kakegawa Black Tea Yama No Ibuki

Organic Kakegawa Black Tea Yabukita

Organic Kakegawa Black Tea Yabukita

Organic Kakegawa Black Tea 3 Pack

Organic Kakegawa Black Tea 3 Pack

Tomobako Japanese Wooden Box

A tomobako, if you didn’t already know, is the wooden box that Japanese ceramics are sometimes presented in, usually the more expensive pieces. For example, some of our more expensive Matcha Bowls are presented in a tomobako.

A tomobako is actually quite precious. A potter puts quite a bit of time & effort into making the box, choosing the style of ribbon, not to mention the calligraphy which is actually an art form in Japan. So don’t discard the tomobako what ever you do!

Anyhow, the purpose of this blog has been brought about by some customers asking how to tie the tomobako ribbon back up once undone because, believe it or not, it can be a real brain teaser!

Yuuki-Cha to the rescue!

How to tie your tomobako…..

If you left the ribbon fed through the box that would be helpful, but if you didn’t, you’ll need to do that first making sure that the ribbon lengths are equal in length once you have fed it through. You might also notice the original folds still in the ribbon from when the potter tied it up. If you can find those, it’s likely they will be helpful at lining things up.

STEP 1:

Tomobako Step One

Pull the ribbon into the middle of the box at a 45 degree angle.

STEP 2:

Tomobako Step Two

Feed the bottom ribbon over and then under the middle ribbon.

STEP 3:

Tomobako Step Three

Feed the side ribbon over and then under the middle ribbon. Pull both ends of the ribbon tightly.

STEP 4:

Tomobako Step Four

Now fold the side ribbon over about half way.

STEP 5:

Tomobako Step Five

Place the bottom ribbon over the side ribbon.....

STEP 6:

Tomobako Step Six

.....and then feed it through the side ribbon.

STEP 7 :

Tomobako Step Seven

Pull the ribbon tightly, and make sure that the bow is neat and tidy. Job done!