Kagoshima Japan Tea Fields

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.

Good Morning Mr. Volcano

This is a 6 AM photograph of Sakurajima from my room. Brooding clouds hover over the top of the volcano and present an onerous appearance. I can detect a little whiff of charred/burning smell in the air from outside on my balcony. It is windy and very chilly….and a dramatic wake-up scene!

According to someone on my team who grew up on the island where the volcano is located in the bay, this smell is always there and only a cause for worry when it intensifies.

The entire panorama of the bay is ringed with mountains as far on the horizon as I can see and it is very peaceful and serene in that early morning blue silhouette-light.

7 Am…the light is changing and the sky brightening.

Breakfast is calling and so are the tea fields…………

Goodbye Boston; Hello Japan

It’s 5 Am and I am looking out of my hotel window awaiting sunrise. I am in Kagoshima city, located in southern Kyushu Island and having my first taste of the local green tea.

Kagoshima is situated at the top of a lovely  bay, and has an active stratovolcano named Sakurijima which can be seen from several vantage points in the city.  When the sun comes up, maybe I will be lucky and catch a view of it. As I wait I am listening on my iphone to the music of Porcelain by Helen Jane Long – the perfect ‘waiting’ music

I had the good fortune to fly directly from Boston to Toyko on Japan Airlines new B787-800 Dreamliner aircraft which was inaugurated at Logan Airport in March. My traveling companion for this flight was the left engine of the aircraft – a massive beast that dwarfed other jet engines I have seen up close.

I am traveling to Japan as a guest of a Japanese business group that is hoping to sell more Japanese tea in the USA. I am thrilled to be invited, and equally excited to be back in Japan. As a true Virgo personality, I see Japan as a land of infinite Virgos, and love not only their tea and tea culture, but their drive and commitment to society. Japan is polite, orderly and runs like clockwork.  We are happy to do our part as much as possible to add Kagoshima tea to our Tea Trekker selection of Japanese tea.

My hosts sent me business class, which was wonderful. I chose the Japanese lunch, which is a set of small kobachi bowls of lovely little portions of fish, veggies, tofu, etc. Look at this beautifully presented ( and delicious) food…who would think that airline food could be this good?

What was all this? Well,some of it was:

  • grilled mackerel with nuts
  • braised duck breast with duck meat ball
  • squid julienne with fermented soybeans
  • egg tofu with salmon roe and grated radish

After lunch, I noticed that a film was playing on the monitors in the front row of my section of the cabin. I realized that it was about the highly skilled men who maintain the working condition of the granite millstones that are used to grind tencha leaves for making matcha powder. These stones have to be finely chiseled, clean, and operate smoothly in order for them to do a proper job of grinding the tea to powder fineness.

And lastly, at the end of the film, came this picture of an adorable puppy, perhaps a Japanese Shiba Inu. I had to add it to this blog post!  So, altogether now….AWWWWAAAAAAA……

Tomorrow, off to the tea gardens of Kagoshima, and perhaps a peek at that volcano!