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Spring Tea Farm

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MARCH

New Planting                      
This is the time when new young tea plants are planted. Planting is usually done by propagating cuttings taken from existing tea plants. Several months before the new planting starts, culverts are installed underground, compost is applied to the soil and deep plowing is conducted to provide the new young plants with soil in good condition. These preparations will not be possible after the plants are planted.


Frost Prevention                
New buds are extremely vulnerable to low temperature and can be destroyed within a night by late spring frost. Our farmer and his workers keep vigilant watch over the plants from freezing on nights when the expected lows are predicted to be below freezing point. They will take turns to go out into the 80 hectares wide farm to check that the water sprinklers and fans are functioning well the whole night, without sleeping a wink.




APRIL

Shading Preparation          
Preparation for shading of tea plants takes place at this time of the year. Tea leaves for making Kabuse Sencha are shaded for ten days while tea leaves for making Gyokuro and Matcha are shaded for twenty-one days before harvest.

Shading is a cultivation method which prevents tea leaves from direct exposure to sunlight. Without sunlight, there is no photosynthesis, hence, the L-Theanine component, an amino acid that is responsible for the 'umami' or natural sweet taste found in green teas, is not converted into Catechins, a polyphenol that gives green teas the astringent and bitter taste. This explains why Gyokuro and Matcha are rich in 'umami' taste, with almost no astringency and bitterness. This is similar for our Kabuse Sencha, which is shaded before harvest.

There are a few contemporary shading methods. Our organic uses the 'direct-covering' method of shading. This is done by covering the tea bushes directly with a shade made of breathable textile, black on the underside and silver on the top. It is a known fact that teas produced by using direct covering tend to have profound green color and strong umami. To get the best shading result, our organic farm invested in shades made from high technology synthetic fiber which are able to cut out 100% sunlight.


First Harvest - Sencha       
Generally, first harvest in spring for our organic Kabuse Sencha takes place from around the second week of April and ends in the second week of May. Weather conditions may affect the harvest time a little each year. Depending on the breed of the tea plants, some cultivars sprout earlier and have to be harvested earlier while some do so later and harvest is conducted at a later timing. First harvest is the busiest time of the year.

Determining the timing of picking is extremely important as it affects the volume of yield directly. Hence, this is the time when our farmer plans his harvest schedule for all his different cultivars of tea plants on his 80 hectares wide farm, based closely on the weather forecast and growth condition of the plants.

Our farmer has to be sure that he picks leaves of the right size, not too large and not too small. Picking leaves too early means that the leaves are too small to make up for volume; leaves that are picked a little too late will be oversize and the quality will be affected. Hence, the beginning of spring signifies the beginning of a few weeks of sleepless nights, where every move of the thermometer could mean the growth of another tea leaf. Left unattended, it will grow out of size in just one or two days and our farmer will have lesser yield.


Processing - Aracha          
After harvest, fresh tea leaves undergo two stages of processing - primary processing carried out at the farm by our farmer and secondary processing, which is done at our facility by us, the tea wholesaler. Primary processing produces Aracha, which is crude tea or half-finishing tea for making into Sencha. It involves steaming the freshly harvested leaves to halt oxidation to maintain the color and quality of the leaves and at the same time, balance the flavor by removing the 'grassy' smell. After steaming, the leaves are kneaded, rolled and dried to form Aracha. This Aracha is then delivered to our facility for the secondary processing, which involves mainly blending, drying, sorting and cutting of the Aracha to produce Sencha, the finishing tea.....(read more)                        

Skiffing                               
Skiffing is conducted ten to fifteen days after harvest. Skiffing is a process where extended branches are trimmed off to even out the surface for plucking for the following harvest season. The main purpose of skiffing is to ensure that stems or old leaves do not get mixed with the new young leaves during harvest. This is also a way of ensuring evenness in the quality of leaves picked at the time of harvest.




MAY

Hachiju-Hachiya Tea          
In the Japanese traditional calendar, May 2nd, is the eighty-eighth day after the sun reaches three hundred and fifteen degrees from the spring equinox. New teas picked on this day are known as Hachiju-Hachiya Tea and are said to be the best tasting teas of the year, bringing good fortune and longevity.


First Harvest - Matcha       
Immediately after the first harvest for Sencha around the 10th of May each year (timing differs according to weather conditions), the first harvest for Matcha and Gyokuro takes place. Matcha and Gyokuro are made from leaves of the same cultivars and are shaded for the same period of time. Hence, harvest for leaves for both Matcha and Gyokuro takes place at the same time.


Processing - Tencha          
After harvest, fresh tea leaves undergo two stages of processing - primary processing carried out at the farm by our farmer and second processing, which is done at our facility by us, the tea wholesaler. Primary processing produces Tencha, which is crude tea or half-finishing tea for making into Matcha. It involves steaming the freshly harvested leaves to halt oxidation to maintain the color and quality of the leaves and at the same time, balance the flavor by removing the 'grassy' smell. After steaming, the leaves are dried in a special furnace called 'Tencha-Ro', sorted and de-veined to form Tencha. This Tencha is then delivered to our facility for the secondary processing, which involves mainly blending and milling to produce Matcha, the finishing tea...(read more)                                                                                                                                                                                                


Skiffing                               
Skiffing is conducted ten to fifteen days after harvest. Skiffing is a process where extended branches are trimmed off to even out the surface for plucking for the following harvest season. The main purpose of skiffing is to ensure that stems or old leaves do not get mixed with the new young leaves during harvest. This is also a way of ensuring evenness in the quality of leaves picked at the time of harvest.



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