The day started great with breakfast at the hotel. I have to say that the crescent served was one of the best I have ever tasted! Who knew you would find a delicious crescent in Japan? After breakfast, we loaded up in our bus and headed to the tea fields. Shizouka is the largest tea growing region in Japan. It grows and produces roughly 60% of the teas for the nation. I was so excited to start exploring the region and tea production.
Our first stop was Shizuoka Tea Experiment Station. It has a small experimental tea farm and processing plant. Almost all tea is machine harvested in Japan. They either use a machine similar to this or a hand held device that is like a rounded hedge trimmer that is held by two workers on either side of the rows of plants. This machine is nice, because it not only cuts the leaf, but also gathers the leaves into large white bags.
Most farmers co-op with a factory to send their leaves for processing. Tea is processed differently in Japan than in Taiwan. Almost all the tea that comes out of Japan is green and is machine cut and processed. It also has a two step processing procedure.
In order to stop the oxidation of the leaves and allow them to stay green, the leaves are steamed. Then the tea leaves are sent to several different rolling machines while some of the moisture is being reduced. It is then sent to a final drying machine. At this point, the tea is a raw form called aracha. The aracha tea is then sent to a separate factory for further final processing. We will visit that on day two of our tea trip.
After a great morning of studying tea harvesting and processing, we got back in the bus and headed for lunch. As we pulled into the parking lot to our restaurant, it looked like we could have been in France. This lovely little cafe was so inviting! The name was Frutta Fresca - Tarte and Quiche.
We knew we were in Japan though because as soon as we sat down, we were brought some green tea! I just loved the pottery that it was served in, don't you?
The chef was apparently trained in France and has tried to bring back a touch of it to her home country. We all thought she had done a fabulous job. Her garden in the back of the restaurant was surrounded by hills with tea gardens on them . Along side the restaurant was a railroad track that had a steam engine train pass by as we ate. The surroundings couldn't have been any more perfect and the day was just beautiful!
Our table ordered 4 things and we ate family style to try all the delicious food. The groups favorite was the salad that was so fresh from her garden. This was truly a farm to table experience for us as we sipped tea grown right in the area and ate the delicious salad that came from her garden out back!
Some of us purchased a dessert to go from her bakery. I got a chocolate torte and had it for dessert that evening in my room with a cup of tea. The chef and her staff were all so friendly. They even came out to wave bye to our bus as we headed to our next stop. Our group had been so well received in Taiwan and now in Japan as well. It was an added bonus to know the people of Taiwan and Japan are so welcoming to foreigners.
Tea is such a universal bridge to new friendships. I am blessed to be in such a wonderful industry. In my next blog, I will take you to the tea fields of Shizouka and introduce you to more lovely people! What's in your cup today?
Lisa Boalt Richardson is the author of the award-winning Tea with a Twist, Entertaining and Cooking with Tea and The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions Near and Far. She is now working on her third tea book due out by Spring 2014 with Chronicle Books. She travels the country speaking at conferences and special events focusing on her culinary arts and specialty tea expertise. As one of the first 15 in the world to graduate from the Specialty Tea Institute in 2008, Lisa holds the title of “Certified Tea Specialist”. She resides in Atlanta with her husband and two children.