New tea leaf buds are just starting to appear at the kinezuka’s tea farm. Ayumi-san writes (loosely translated by Ian): “The leaves are starting to grow day by day. Rain due tomorrow so it should jump in growth. In recent years we have had late frost that threatened to damage the tea leaves, but the weather seems to be cooperating this year. I hope we’ll have a shincha harvest without any problems!”
Houjicha is technically a green tea but is roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal instead of being steamed. This changes the color to a reddish-brown and gives it a mild, nutty, caramel-like flavor with none of the bitterness associated with green tea. Due to the roasting process, which originated in Kyoto during the 1920′s, the caffeine level in Houjicha is greatly reduced. Therefore, it is commonly drunk at night before going to sleep. It is also a popular tea to serve during or after an evening meal due to it’s easy drinkability. You too can make your own Houjicha! It is fairly easy and is simply done by taking old or stale Sencha and roasting it in a pan until brown.
We don’t publicize it too actively, but the Kinezuka family does take requests for visits…if you are willing to work hard on the farm, experiencing real farm life. It’s not a vacation (you may have to see animals go from squawking to stew pot), but it is a truly one-of-a-kind wonderful experience as writer Tynan can attest to.
Read his blog post about staying with Ayumi and her family: “Visiting a Japanese Tea Farm”
Ayumi picks me up at the Fujieda station. She’s wearing ninja-toed boots and work pants, and is driving a tiny Japanese pickup truck with a dog in the back. I immediately realize that this family isn’t just marketing or selling the tea– it’s their life.
I hop in the truck and chat with Ayumi as we head to the tea fields. Fujieda is part of the famous Shizuoka region, known for producing some of the best green tea in the world. Unlike areas like Kagoshima, in the south, Shizuoka farmers grow their tea on the mountains, bordered by forests.
So we wind through tightly coiled mountain roads with terrifying speed until we arrive to a steep tea field rooted into the side of the mountain. Ayumi’s brother and sister in law are holding the gas powered tea harvester, waiting for me. I watch them harvest a couple rows of tea, and then I’m handed control of the machine and I get to harvest a couple rows with Ayumi’s brother. I’m grateful to get to experience a tiny sliver of what it’s like to be a tea farmer.
Hi Everyone, I want to thank you for your patience! The new site for NaturaliTea.com, the English language online store and brand for the Kinezuka family and their partners in the agricultural adventure of tea, is now open!!
We’d love to know what you think!!
While all orders are complete in Japanese yen, we have a currency converter (go to the bottom of the page to switch to USD or EURO) that will give you an idea of about how much you will expect to pay.
Shipping to Europe will be available by the end of the week (import regulations are getting a bit strict in Europe it seems).
Finally, if you comment below with your thoughts, opinions, suggestions, and reports of bugs (can’t avoid bugs when you grow organically v(^^)v ), you just may find a 20% off coupon code in your mailbox!
Ian Chun, website manager
Along with Masanori (Den) Shirakata of Den’s Tea, we participated in a short dialog interview on Walker Tea Review: Dialog: Teas of Shizuoka, Japan