Tag Archives: Gokou

Uji Tencha Report 2012!

Last week our artisan tencha grower in Kyoto sent us a progress update from his farm along with a few images that we thought you might like to see.

By the way, these are genuine images of present day artisan tencha production tea gardens in Kyoto! We know it’s possible to find quite a few tea companies showing customers out-dated 20th century covered tea garden images or videos of Uji tea plantations, or using stock images, or even getting somebody who lives in Kyoto to snap a few images of one of these type of rare tea gardens to give the impression their matcha comes from one of them. However, the truth is there is very little tencha still being cultivated in tea gardens like as follows in Kyoto, and pretty much all tencha that is produced at these tea gardens is already reserved each year within Japan.

What you see in the following images are known as “Oishita Chaen” in Japanese, which are tea gardens that are covered from above by what is known as Tana which is black sheet coverage suspended above the tea bushes. There is not just one black sheet by the way. In artisan tencha production there are a number of black sheets that are used to cover the tea bushes in stages over a prolonged period of time. Second, what you see are “Shizen Shitate (sometimes written jitate)” style tea bushes. Shizen Shitate style tea bushes grow upright in the traditional style and the leaves are 100% handpicked.

For your information, this grower’s Oishita Chaen with Shizen Shitate style tea bushes are the only 100% certified organic ones known in Japan! They are totally authentic tea gardens and he is growing tencha to what is considered the highest standard in present day Kyoto.

The following image shows the Oishita Chaen where the goko (sometimes written gokou or gokoh) cultivar is growing. This is the tea garden that Tenkei Hana comes from (photo taken on the 24th of April 2012):

Goko Tea Garden 2012

Goko Tea Garden 2012

A close up of the goko leaves growing on the 24th of April 2012:

Goko Cultivar Close Up

Goko Cultivar Close Up

The following image shows the Oishita Chaen where the samidori (not to be confused with saEmidori) cultivar is growing. This is the tea garden that Tenkei Tori comes from (photo taken on the 24th of April 2012):

Samidori Tea Garden 2012

Samidori Tea Garden 2012

A close up of the samidori leaves growing on the 24th of April 2012:

Samidori Cultivar Close Up

Samidori Cultivar Close Up

The grower tells us this year he has already had his annual inspection of his Oishita Chaen and once again gained JAS certification. We therefore will most certainly continue to offer his Tenkei Hana and Tenkei Tori, and hope that our customers will continue to support him because what he is producing is true authentic artisan matcha for his customers. That is something really worth supporting!

Uji Report 2011 Part 3

This is the final part of our 3 part series of reports from our grower’s organic tencha plantation in Uji!

For this report we have put together a film strip of the six most important weeks of growth of Gokou and Samidori (AKA Tenkei Hana & Tenkei Tori). The same branch for both breeds was monitored for the six weeks!

First up, we have the filmstrip of the precious Gokou growth. In Uji Report 2011 Part 2 we told you that this year’s harvest of Gokou might be slightly less than normal. However, it turned out that the yield was actually slightly more than usual and the taste of Gokou is expected to be excellent! The filmstrip of Gokou growth 2011:

The Gokou filmstrip of growth 2011

The Gokou filmstrip of growth 2011

Next, the Samidori filmstrip of growth! From week five (14th May 2011) you can see that the main branch wilted while the new growth was determined to remain upright. This wilting was caused by a number of days of excessive rainfall during that week. Tea bushes growing in well-drained soil can recover from this fairly rapidly, so by week six (20th May 2011) you can see that the branch is back in its upright position and has revitalized itself once again! This year’s Samidori will surely be revitalizing to say the least! The filmstrip of Samidori growth 2011:

The Samidori filmstrip of growth 2011

The Samidori filmstrip of growth 2011

By week six the tea gardens are under full shade of 95-97% and are just about ready for handpicking. The following two images are very good representations of what a genuine oishita-chaen (covered tea garden) looks like under full shade.

Here is the Gokou tea garden:

Organic Gokou Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Organic Gokou Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Here is the Samidori tea garden:

Organic Samidori Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

Organic Samidori Oishita-Chaen under full shade 2011!

If you have read all three of our Uji blog reports from 2011 you would have probably realized by now that genuine high quality matcha is shade cultivated in stages over a prolonged period of time (e.g. 6+ weeks, not just 2-3 weeks at 90% shade). It’s cultivated under what is known as Tana (almost always black sheeting these days, very rarely straw etc.). Tana is coverage suspended above the tea bushes (not coverage directly on top of the tea bushes). Lastly, genuine high quality matcha is always handpicked (not machine harvested or scissor cut).

If it’s genuine high quality matcha you desire that conforms to all of the above outlined high standards and you want to know, and actually care about, where and how your matcha was cultivated, and most importantly want to support a genuine product, Tenkei Hana & Tenkei Tori are as genuine and as honest as they come!

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…