We were up in Yame today helping to harvest some gyokuro.
Gyokuro is a very high grade of tea that is meticulously shaded for 20 days prior to harvest. In the photos above you can see the hut built around the tea. Poles are draped with blue plastic and then covered with straw cut to specific lengths. The sides are then draped with a rattan. This allows between 80%-90% light blockage. The doppling of light underneath is otherworldly and the stillness of the air and aroma of the tea are very peaceful. I could live under there…
We were picking Asahi varietal for a special hand rolled gyokuro that would be made the next day. The key to picking is to be gentle and only take the new spring leaves. The large waxy dark green leaves are the parent leaves. Damaging them will result in weak production of tea the next year or worse, harm to the plants health. We got the hang of it (I have done this before and was not particularly adept) quickly and we all ended picking about 8 kilograms in an hour. Our group was about 15 strong and just a few of the older ladies that do this professionally buried us. They pick 1.5 kilo grams each. After steaming and production, the finished tea will be about 30% the volume of what we picked or roughly 2.4 kilos of tea.
There is a hypnotic rhythm to picking. Bend the branch, and pick from the bottom up taking all the new green leaves. Next, throw in the basket. Repeat. The chit chat faded as well all got into it. I have to say the roof was a little low for my 5’11”. My back was stiff after but the average height of a tea picker is probably 5’2”, so I understand the reasoning.
After our tea went to factory to be steamed in preparation for hand rolling. That post comes tomorrow!
Thanks for reading.