Harvest time with Shutaro Hayashi and his family in Kirishima

In Kirishima today we are welcomed by Shutaro’s sister Momoko, while almost all the other family members are busy harvesting or processing tea. When we visited in recent years, there was always a chilly wind blowing up in the tea gardens, which is why we were always quite cold. Today it is scorching hot and we are grateful to find shade under the many cedar trees that grow around the tea garden.

View of the high mountains in Kirishima from Shutaro Hayashi’s tea garden (Takachihonomine)

In Kirishima this year it was unusually warm until mid-April when a cold snap destroyed part of this year’s harvest. We have already described this in more detail in the article from the 10th of April 2023.

Shutaro has set up fans in many places in the tea garden, which ensure that no ground frost forms on cool nights. However, these fans are still missing on some new plots that were supposed to be harvested for the first time this year. Shutaro has already applied for funding, but it will take up to two years to process the application. Without funding, he says, this equipment is practically unaffordable. Even independent of the frost damage, Shutaro reports rather low harvests this year.

Shutaro Hayashi at the tea making 2023

Today we meet Shutaro’s father Osamu in the old tea factory. He is currently taking over the black tea production in the family business. The old tea factory has changed a lot since we were last here. Almost all the green tea production machines are gone, instead everything is very neat and well organised for black tea production.

Osamu Hayashi at the making of black tea

Osamu tells us that they are planning to produce oolong and kamairicha here in the future, in addition to black tea, in order to expand their range bit by bit. But that is still a long way off. In order to have more capacity in the future, they want to buy more containers for wilting and also a machine for Kamairi in the next few years.

Tea leaves wilting for the production of Kirishima Miumori Koucha

The smell in the tea factory is really overwhelming, on one side the scent of the wilted tea leaves, on the other the smell of fresh black tea. As we walk past, Osamu tells us that his grandfather already made black tea. At that time, it was an export product sent to Okinawa when Okinawa had not yet become part of Japan. So he is continuing this tradition, although in the meantime they also drink a lot of black tea in the family, in addition to Sencha or Kabusecha. Overall, black tea is becoming more and more popular in Japan.

finalized Kirishima Miumori Koucha

Walking through the tea garden, we discover two plots with new plants. Kenji and Shutaro planted new cuttings here in February: two new varieties.

New plantation – cuttings freshly set in February

We also want to have a look at the Oku Midori plants. Last year there was already a small amount in advance, which we liked very much. In the Yama Oku Sencha you can already experience this new mild and sweet taste.

This year the plants seem very healthy and full of vigour. Shutaro tells us later that he is quite excited about how well these plants have developed. Tomorrow or the day after, this late variety (oku = late) will be harvested.

Oku Midori bushes shortly before harvesting in the tea garden of Shutaro Hayashi

In addition to the two Shinchas that have been available from Shutaro for some time: Kirishima Aracha Shincha from the Asatsuyu variety and Miumori Shincha from the Asanoka variety, both of which grow very early, there will be another variety this year: Yoru no Ka. Shutaro has a field in his tea garden that is very favoured by the microclimate. Although Yabukita bushes grow here, the harvest coincides with the early varieties such as Asanoka or Asatsuyu. This year, in fact, on the same day, 21st of April. For the Yoru no Ka Shincha, the leaves were harvested in the afternoon and then processed the next morning. For more than 18 hours, Shutaro let the fresh tea leaves wilt slightly under air circulation, so that an intense fragrance developed. The Yoru no Ka Shincha with the Miumori Shincha is still in the shiage – the finalisation. But it should be ready in the next few days and then go on its way. Maybe we can try the new Shincha on site during our next visit in a few days.

Yoru no Ka Shincha 2023 and Miumori Shincha 2023 at Aracha state – before sorting und Hi-ire