Posted on

Shading of tea plants and first tea made by Dirk

In the morning the rest of the Okumidori tea plants get covered with a shading net. Okumidori is a tea plant variety, which has a natural sweetness and is very appropriate to produce high quality teas. In our case the tea plants will be shaded for approximately one week until they will be harvested for the GO EN production. GO EN is a tea produced the old way without the last production step, which make the leaves needle shape. The longer drying in a rotating bamboo cylinder creates especially elegant flavors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As it is Sunday and Haruyo san got a package with special sweets from her sister in Miyazaki, in the afternoon she prepares a pick nick for everybody under the trees close by the house. Of course the cold Matcha is part of the moment… during the ochatsumi (tea picking) Haruyo and Shigeru san drink it all day long.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the evening Haruyo san brings along freshly picked Okumidori and Saki Mirdori tealeaves. In the morning I had asked here to prepare tea leaf tempura with me. We had it two years ago and since then I am dreaming of it. It is not so difficult, but the clue is to use really fresh tea leaves. We also do some tempura with sweet potato grown by Morimotos. Everything is just delicious!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the end of the really nice dinner, Dirk surprises us with a little bit of tea, made by him today. With some tealeaves he just had picked around the house he made and improvised hand made tea in the kitchen of Morimotos. We all are very much surprised by the nice dark green colour of the leaves. Than Dirk prepares the tea for us and we are impressed by the shiny green colour and elegant nose… even the third brewing tastes nice. Haruyo and Shigeru san seem very happy as they always believed in our dream of making a high quality tea in Portugal… today we came a little step closer.

 

 

 

 

Posted on

More tea picking and visit of a very traditional tea producer

In the morning we help finishing the picking of Yutaka Midori. Haruyo san is steering the harvester with knowledge, sometimes stopping when she sees a weed growing out of the tea field to rip it out. In the back of the harvester there is always two people helping to fill in the tea leaves into the bags. I see a lot of ladybirds, which I try to take out, as they are very helpful friends, which eat the lice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For lunch we go to a simple, but good Soba (noodle) Restaurant close by. As in the region there is a lot of tea producers and other farmers, they all come here for a proper meal and gaining strength for the rest of the working day. As it is weekend, the Morimotos have help from their two daughters and ones husband and son. Together they continue to pick Yabukita behind their house. The freshly picked Yabukita have a very intense flowery smell and result in a very delicate Sencha.

We are invited to visit a friend of Shigeru san, who still produces tea in the old fashioned way with machines build by Shigeru sans father. We are very happy to see the relatively small and more simple machines, which produce green tea in the old way. The atmosphere in the relatively small fabric is like we imagine the old times. And we are very much surprised of the fresh and at the same time mild taste of this type of green tea. We start dreaming to hopefully one day to produce a similar tea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted on

Busy day at Morimotos tea plantation

The Morimotos are very, very busy. Today they continue cutting Yutaka Midori, a vey early tea plant variety, from the biggest field approximately 20 minutes away from their house. As soon as the truck loaded with bags of fresh tealeaves arrive, they have to be unloaded as quick as possible to prevent oxidation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the transport belt they get cooled until they enter the steaming machine and in approximately four hours pass through several machines.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Later we go to a field of my very favourite tea bush variety Minami Sayaka, which has an intense flowery smell and a very nice green colour. Minami Sayaka (Sayaka means South) was especially created for the climatic conditions in the south of Japan. All together there is 13 varieties, which were registred by the tea institute close to Miyazaki. In whole Japan there exist four tea institutes and all together over 60 registered tea bushes varieties. Even though over 70% of the tea bushes in Japan are one variety: Yabukita, which is especially famous for Sencha teas.

The tea field with the Minami Sayaka plants was planted last month. As we arrive, I am very much surprised how small the plants are. That gives me hope, that our tea plantation one day will also grow to a reasonable size.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted on

Going South to visit Morimotos

After a last wonderful Japanese breakfast in Kyoto we go by bus to Osaka Itami Airport. Everything is going smoothly and we arrive very relaxed at the airport. But very soon the relaxation is gone… as we come closer to the Check In I realize that I forgot my backpack in the overhead compartment in the bus. Running back I just see the bus fading in the distance. After a glimpse of a shock, when I realize that not just my computer but also my passport is in the backpack, I remember that I am in Japan. So I stay calm and somehow manage to tell the people from the bus company what happened, even they don’t speak a word English. They start passing the information and send me to the Japanese Airline Desk, where they tell me to go to bus stop number 5, where in 10 minutes a bus will stop and bring my backpack. And so it is! I really start loving Japan for it’s organization and friendly helpfulness.

After an hour flight we land in Miyazaki Airport and take a rental car to Morimotos. When we turn around the corner and I see the tea fields I really got happy and than even happier seeing Haruyo san and Shigeru san, their daughters and our colleagues Tobias and Dietmar from Germany. It is a really busy day, as just three days ago the tea picking has started. The first teas are the often shaded, highly priced teas and therefore the Morimotos have to take a lot of attention. They have to hurry even more, as the weather forecast for next week shows some rain again, which means that they have to stop the picking again. Finally we have our first cup of the brand new tea, which has a wonderful green colour and very fresh nose. All over a sudden the nice memories of the tea picking two years ago come back and it seems that it was yesterday.

01 Meeting02 Shigeru

Posted on

Visit of Uji – most famous tea prefecture – and surprising sushi dinner

Today we visited Uji, which is very close by Kyoto. Almost everybody in Japan refers to the famous teas of Uji, which is a relatively small tea plantation area and most famous for it’s high quality Matcha. We are lucky that we go there accompanied by Toshi san, who is importing Niepoort wines to Japan. He is a tea lover and his wife’s family are tea producers. So we go straight to Namakura Tokichi Honten, which he considers the best tea producer and shop in Uji. After trying their house blend, we take some of it and a very nice looking Kabuse Sencha as well as Premium Kukicha Karigane Quality.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As we go more to the centre of Uji, we are getting overwhelmed by the lots and lots of teashops. There many Japanese students around and even more tourists. The only thing that helps us, not getting lost, was to look at the distance, where we see the beautiful Uji mountains, knowing that on the other side there is the tea plantations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After visiting the temple we have lunch in a teahouse. Green Matcha Soba Noodles with vegetables and for desert a very delicate Matcha with a perfect foam and the traditional Matcha sweet, which is not too sweet (cha dango).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the evening we have a very surprising sushi dinner at an almost private house with sushi chef Masashi Ohtani, who also is a sommelier and big burgundy fan. We are more than lucky, as nobody else is there and he spends a lot of time with us explaining every single of the very delicate sushis.

05 Sushi

Besides the excellent quality of the sushi he is able to make the most perfect matches of wine and sushi. The white burgundy (Meursault Genevriere 1995, Francois Jobard) is matching perfectly with the noble white fishes. Also are very happy to see that Ohtani san really likes the Turis 2012 we brought from Douro… even so much that he is opening a wonderful red burgundy for us from his private cellar (G. Roumier Chambolle Musigny 2001). Both are going very well along with the tuna nigiri. At the end we have a Japanese friend more we hope to see again in Portugal.

06 Tomodachi

Posted on

Visit of Katsura Rikyu and tea pottery

Today a dream became true. Since some years ago I have visited a photograph exhibition at the Japan Foundation in Cologne/Germany, I was dreaming of one day visiting Katsura Rikyu (Katsura Imperal Villa). As today we are coming closer to it, I am asking myself if I will get disappointed seeing the buildings in reality as the photographs of Japanese star photographers have been so wonderful. But already walking along the bamboo fence and reaching the entrance gate, I know that this is even getting better than in my dreams.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We are very lucky, right the moment we enter the famous garden the sun comes out and here and than sends a little light on the million details of the garden and constructions. Katsura Rikyu was completed 1615 as a tasteful and simple summer residence for Prince Toshihito. It is the emblematic building of the tea style architecture (Shoin), which just uses natural materials of the surrounding environment. The very simple but at the same time very effective architecture inspired our day star architects like Mies van der Rohe and became the basis of the minimalistic architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At Katsura Rikyu three villas and numerous tea houses in different styles are arranged in a beautiful garden, which stretches around a lake. It was taken a lot of care, with every step you have a new sight on the buildings and the garden is opening up. Through the garden leads a path with big rocks, someone has to walk carefully with the intention to concentrate on the way to the teahouse. The biggest and most important teahouse Shokintei has a very small entrance, visitors must hunch over to pass through the interior. This is very common in traditional teahouses, because in old times samurai that way were forced  to leave there sword outside. Until today the gesture of passing the small entrance on the knees has the intention to show, that every visitor is equal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next teahouse is Shokatei, a mountain teahouse, build on the highest point of elevation of the garden with a view to the Kyoto surrounding mountains.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Than comes Shoiken, a country-style-teahouse and finally Gepparo, which is build above the shore of the pond. It’s intention is to watch the full moon light reflecting on the water. Almost drunk of the beautiful garden and the stunning architectonical details, we walk out the Katsura Rikyu. The whole day I will have backflashs of what I have seen in the morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Later we walk into some potteries close to Shichijo Station and finally we find one which really has very special ceramics from father and son. After buying some nice pieces, they offer us a very delicious Sencha. When we ask to see the leaves, he shows us a copper tin box, which is beautifully aged with a measuring spoon also made out of copper. Asking where to get those, he indicates us the way. Later we arrive at the Kaikado shop, where the different tins, aged for different periods are beautifully arranged. The older they get, the more beautiful they are. This is the secret of japans estetics. Another secret of Kaikado is, that if there is something wrong with the tin, they fix it for free, the whole lifespan of the tin… you have to consider, that Kaikado exists since 1875 and many tines within families are handed over for decades. It does so good to see how handcraft is taken serious in Japan until today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA