About Tea Picking
Two types of tea fields: Roten-en (Exposed to sunlight / Open-air fields) and the Ooishita-en (Shaded from sunlight / Covered fields)
1. Roten-en (Exposed to sunlight / Open-air fields)
This type of open-air field is fully exposed to sunlight; leaves from these plants are usually processed to make Sencha. In Kyoto prefecture, this type of fields are seen most frequently in Wazuka-town and Minamiyamashiro-village. Most tea fields in Japan are of this type.
Because roten-en receives abundant sunlight, tea produced from this type of field has increased astringency, and possesses a brisk/refreshing flavor.
◎ Exposed to sunlight → strong astringency
2. Ooishita-en (Shaded from sunlight / Covered fields)
Ooishita-en are veiled as new shoots begin to sprout in mid-April. The gyokuro and tencha (used to make matcha) are produced from these fields. They are seen throughout Uji City and Kyotanabe City in Kyoto prefecture. Throughout the country, this type of field is not very commonly seen.
Cultivated under protection from sunlight, tea produced from this type of field has limited astringency and increased mellowness.
◎ Protected from direct sunlight → weak astringency, mellow taste
Which leaves are for picking?
Which leaves of the plant are for picking?
Taking a good look at a tea plant you will recognize that there are two types of leaves: the harder leaves, left from last year and the softer leaves, which are the new shoots to be picked.
Recently, machines have replaced manual labor in most areas of Japan; however, many tea plantations in the southern parts of Kyoto Prefecture, known for the highest quality tea, still choose to carefully select and pick each tea leaf (one by one) by hand, cherishing the value of genuine tea quality.
1. Niyouzumi (Isshin Niyou):Two-leaf plucking
The two younger leaves and the bud are plucked for the highest grade of Gyokuro and Sencha.
Three leaves and the bud are plucked for high quality tea (Gyokuro and Sencha).
Regular teas are made from the top four to five leaves and the bud of the tea plant.
Tea plucking only once a year?
Commonly, tea plucking is carried out two to three times per year, as new shoots continue to sprout even after a crop is harvested. However, on most tea plantations across southern Kyoto prefecture, tea plucking is done only once a year.
These are the times tea is generally plucked:
Tea plucking in Kyotanabe, Japans leading Gyokuro region
In Kyotanabe, a city esteemed for the highest quality of Gyokuro, the traditional method of hand-plucked tea has been practiced and preserved until today. One leaf is carefully selected at a time.
From one kilogram of freshly picked tea shoots, merely 150 g of Gyokuro is produced. Even the most experienced tea pickers can only harvest about 10 kg of fresh leaves in one day which calculates to approximately 1.5 kg of the final product.
Hand plucking tea is a truly time-consuming and costly tedious work. Therefore, only the finest quality teas are made from hand-plucked shoots.