Bunji and Asami Itoh! 伊藤文治さん,麻実さん！
This year’s green tea in Shizuoka, although of high quality, grew very slowly due to an unusually cold winter and spring, but I finally had the pleasure to experience my first ichiban (first of the year) green tea picking!
We drove all the way along off the beaten tracks thoroughfares just wide enough for a mini car up to an altitude of 8oo meters in Hirano along the Abe River and not far from the famous wasabi fields of Utogi.
Some tea fields can be found on steeper slopes, but this was already pretty steep!
Mr. Bunji Itoh has been growing exclusively organic green tea on these particular slopes for some time and plans to expand these fields. You know that no chemicals are used when you discover the luxuriant moss on the path!
The first leaves were just long enough to be picked!
These are the most valuable tea leaves of the year!
When you pick them by hand you twist off the stems just under the second leaf. If it does not snap between your thumb and index, cut the stem just under the first leaves!
This was my personal harvest in my hip tea basket with some wild mountain vegetables found around the rows!
These leaves are exceptionally delicious as tempura (Pissenlit Restaurant in Shizuoka City!)!
While I was picking some of the best leaves by hand Mr. Itoh’s employees were “shaving” the rows with curved cutting machines like this one. That is the reason behind the peculiar shape of Japanese tea tree rows!
You have to work in teams of three as one has to hold the bag for the leaves being cut by the other two holding the cutter walking between the rows!
Tea trees rows have to be “shaved” in two steps, along the left and then back along the right!
They let me help with (only) one row. Not easy work as you have to walk backwards. I didn’t too badly as they let me do it until the end of the (long) row!
On the way back Mr. Itoh showed me the house of Oomura Family which has been growing tea there since the Edo Era!
They have grown green tea in this same spot for hundreds of years!
Finding ourselves brought back in time!
Very valuable carps up in the mountains!
The whole (privately-owned) property has been registered as Cultural Asset!
Mr. Itoh finally took me to a local tea-processing factory he is contracted with to show me how these organic leaves are treated, not so much as for tea, but as edible organic tea leaves.
The fresh leaves are first steamed.
They are then dried.
And next they will be frozen to be sold to restaurants!
Mr. Itoh also has a field of organic of Japanese plum trees. I will go there soon to pick ume/plums to make umeshu!
Marufuku Seishya Co. Ltd. (Mr. Bunji Itoh)
Shizuoka Shi, Aoi Ku, Wakamatsu Cho, 25
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