In the very beginning of the new week, our journey leads us to Kirishima, where we meet Shutaro, Kenji and their father Osamu Hayashi treffen. Shutaro Hayashi welcomes us at the train station. He has come directly from the tea garden, fully prepared: farmer‘s shoes, garden trousers, hat, and a shirt for working in the tea garden. So, in the first moments of our reunion we already know that he is thinking about the harvest time, which will start soon. We also that he is completely in his element. He also tells us that this year’s harvest will probably be very stressful, with very long work days. The early varieties are getting closer to the late varieties. So some varieties might be ready for harvest at the same time. However, harvest has not begun yet. Only in the last days it has been getting warmer, and the young sprouts are still very small.
First, we drive to the smaller one of the two tea gardens of the Hayashi family. It has been more than 10 years ago, that the family took over this piece of land of around one hectare. Before it was also used for ecological tea, but at some point the owner was to old to continue with the garden. Moreover he had no successors who wanted to continue the garden. We noticed this phenomenon in many parts of Japan. Less and less young people want to do the hard work in the tea garden, and prefer to move to the large cities, in the hope of finding an office job. Fortunately, there is also young people like Shutaro and Kenji Hayashi, who really enjoy the work in the tea field and tea production, even have plans for expanding their garden and production step by step, and are full of energy to create new and special tea qualities.
Next to the tea garden with about one hectare, there is a small pasture, about 0,4 hectare. It is now used for organic pasture grass. But within the next year, a new organic tea garden will be planted here. The Hayashis will exchange fields with the farmer who owns this parcel. They will get this piece of land next to their tea garden, and in exchange the farmer gets a piece of land from the Hayashis, which is not in use at the moment but even closer to the barn. Shutaro is thinking about growing Tsuyu Hikari here, if he can get cuttings from this variety. Directly next to it, he shows us a field, which seems to have greenish patches at the moment. All bushes started sprouting at around the same time, but the leaf color is not completely homogeneous. We guess right away what it is: Mishou, plants grown from the seeds of a mother variety, and not Zairai bushes because they would be much more different from each other. In this case, it is the Mishou descendants of Asatsuyu cultivar. Therefore the bushes are very similar to Asatsuyu cultivar, but not 100% the same. Some leaves are still a bit reddish, which is typical for Asatsuyu cultivar when it is not shaded. As soon as it is shaded, which Shutaro Hayashi is planning for the next days, the plant develops an intense, almost neon-like bright green leaf colour. On the next day, Tuesday, indeed the shading of this parcel starts, so that in the beginning of May it will be possible to harvest a wonderful Shincha.
By the way, the Kirishima Tennen Gyokuro is not from this field, it is produced from a completely single variety Asatsuyu. At the other location, Shutaro planted Asatsuyu grown from cuttings. This is where the Tennen Gyokuro comes from. It is a few minutes journey to the other tea garden. Here we meet Shutaro’s brother Kenji and their father Osamu. We continue the topic of bush varieties. Shutaro’s father Osamu Hayashi shows us a parcel where they want keep Zairaishu also in the future. Shutaro‘s and his father’s preferences are quite different. Osamu rather likes the flowery-scented Kanaya Midori and the rounded Zairaishu. In contrast, Shutaro is enthusiastic about the fine-elegant and extravagant varieties as Asatsuyu, Oku Yutaka and Asanoka. In some parts of the tea garden the old Zairai bushes will be taken out, so that other, rare varieties can grow there in, each in small parcels. But this one parcel should stay a Zairai parcel. We are very happy about this: we personally appreciate the Zairai of Shutaro Hayashi’s tea garden very much. Also because it reaches an excellent quality in the second harvest, while the other varieties rather have their best time in the first harvest.