The Kagoshima region of Kyushu Island is stunningly beautiful. I am in Chiran, the premiere growing area of Kagoshima. Here, the tea fields lie flat and straight, from a high vantage point one can see small tea gardens of various sizes laid out in a grid pattern. The deep, rich color of the tea bushes is accentuated by a matte finish that the tea bushes have acquired from the final clipping that they have been given in October and from the deep green color stage that they are in this time of year.
The final clipping is not turned into tea but is done to simply trim the bushes and ready them for their upcoming rest period. Tea harvesting will begin again next year in April or May, depending on the location of the tea farm and how quickly the warm air and heat buildup in the soil stimulates the plants to send out new growth.
As in most regions of Japan, tea harvesting is carried out by machine clipping, and the Kagoshima region is no exception. Some small farmers with only 30 or so hectares of land ( approx.. 74 acres ) have invested in the ownership of a massive leaf cutting machine that they use to obtain their fresh leaf in four different plucking times throughout the spring and summer months from June thru August. For me, it is a completely different sight to see these machines out in the fields as compared to the hand-plucking that goes on in Chinese tea gardens, or in a high-mountain Taiwan tea garden where the land is seriously sloped and sometimes almost vertical.
Differences in the contours of the land and the various approaches to tea harvesting and production are just one part what makes tea so interesting. It did not take too many days of meeting these people and listening to their stories and tasting their teas for me to become a big fan. We are excited about the future prospect of having some of these teas in our shop and on our website.