After spending almost the whole day in the train yesterday, to travel from Kyoto to Kagoshima, we are happy to get some fresh air again in the tea garden today. We have an appointment with Shutaro Hayashi in Kirishima today. His sister Momoko picks us up from the station and drives us up to the tea garden, surrounded by forest at the foot of the Kirishima mountain. Shutaro, his brother Kenji and his father Osamu are just repairing something at the machines because harvest is about to start tomorrow.
Besides the Kirishima Aracha Shincha from the shaded Asatsuyu bushes, there will be a small surprise this year. The previous time when Shutaro visited us, we talked about the idea of a new sort of Shincha. This new Shincha, which will be available for the first time this year in a small amount, will also be shaded. Unlike the Shincha from the varietal Asatsuyu, the Shincha won’t come to Europe as Aracha but as finished finalised tea. Together with Shutaro we planned the tea bush varietal Asanoka for this because Asatsuyu and Asanoka are Shutaro’s two favourite cultivars. Harvest and manufacturing for both is planned for tomorrow. We are really excited.
Last year, we already wrote about the meadow next to the tea garden which Shutaro started leasing a while ago. Last winter, Kenji Hayashi started planting a new tea garden there together with his father. The garden has an area of about 0,7 ha. On 0,5 ha of this area, the two planted 12.000 tiny Asanoka plants. The remaining 0,2 ha will be planted later. In about five years, certainly we can taste the first tea from here, although it will be a very, very small amount. This is the time it takes, until a field can be harvested for the first time. Now, the tea plants first have to built solid roots in the ground and accumulate energy to grow bigger.
On the way back to the town, we ask Shutaro about the weather of the last days and tell him about our visits in Honshu. Early spring was also relatively dry in Honshu, but then about a week ago, strong rain started. It’s raining every three days, as usual in this time of the year. Before this rain, the tea leaves were still a bit pale. But now Shutaro is very satisfied with the color and condition of the leaves and is looking forward to the Shincha 2019.
We go for lunch together before Shutaro says goodbye. Shutaro and his brother Kenji still haven’t finished their harvest preparations, and one can notice a little bit that he is excited and nervous before the first day of harvest. We stay in Kirishima today and go to an old friend – the ceramic master NARIEDA Shinichiro.