Shizuoka is a beautiful province located mid coast of Japan. In Shizuoka city, from a lofty building you
are treated to a panoramic view that stretches from the ocean to the famous Mt.
Fuji. In between, the lush green
mountains reach like fingers to the sea.
After arrival on the Shinkansen bullet train we headed
for the tea gardens. We weaved and
twisted up well maintained but narrow roads, climbing some 3000 feet to arrive
at the gardens that produce our tea. Unlike some other areas, much of the tea is produced in small family
owned gardens that have been passed along from generation to generation. Although, some of this is changing as younger
family members pursue other more glamorous occupations farms are being
purchased by larger companies.
Tea Garden with representation of Mt. Fuji
The 1st flush produced late in the Spring is the
source of the best teas, including Gyokuro, Sincha and high quality
Sencha. The 2nd and the
occasional 3rd flush are considered to be of lesser quality, and go
into the production of lesser quality Sencha, and Bancha. Once the picking is done for the year, the
bushes are severely cut back to prevent the plant from flushing until the next
After the leaves are plucked and withered they are partially
dried, and shipped to the factory. Tea
at this stage, called aracha or raw tea, still contains twigs and debris and is
not suitable for drinking.
From here we wound back down the mountain to visit a large computer
controlled tea factory which is capable of receiving up to 30 tons of leaves
per day from as many as 200 different farms. The leaves are in motion almost all the time in the factory, and as they
enter are constantly aerated to prevent them from starting to oxidize. The factory is a well organized, clean
facility full of specialized machinery that sort, heat, shape and dry the
leaves in a manner that imitates the hand production methods from centuries
past. At the end of the day the 30 tons
of aracha will yield 5-6 tons of leaves.
Still, the highest quality teas are produced in small
require much more attention and processing. To begin with, all of the leaves are produced
by a small number of gardens to assure quality and consistency. Once the aracha is received another important
step is to refrigerate almost to freezing the leaves until they are ready to
Once in the factory, they are sorted by size before roasting
so that each leaf is properly handled. Two different processes are used to sort out the stems, which will be
used for Kukicha, from the leaves. The tea
master then tastes the processed leaves, and blends the various sizes together
to achieve a balance of flavors. The
finished tea is then vacuum packed and placed in cold storage until it is shipped.
At The Tea Smith, we have always been proud of the quality
of our Japanese teas. Having seen the
care and attention with which they are grown, processed and handled it becomes
clear that we are really treated to some of the finest teas that Japan has to
I would encourage you to experiment with the teas and
the unique and relaxing experience that is imparted by a brilliant cup
of Gyokuro, or Sencha Shin Ryoku.