|Head of the cooperative Mr Takemura |
showing us how to use the curved tea-reaper
During harvest, only the top 1-2 inches of the tea plant are plucked. Currently a tea reaper is the most efficient way to harvest the leaves. A team of three people work together, two people hold each side of the reaper to crop, and the other person stays behind the reaper and catches the cropped tea leaves into bags.
In consideration for environmental and health concerns, slow-release fertilizers are used.
Tea processing takes about 4 hours. First, after tea leaves are harvested they are steamed and then cooled. Steaming tea retains its colour and makes the tea richer and sweeter. The moisture is allowed to evaporate gradually, and the leaves are then rolled, shaped, and dried. At the end of this process “aracha” is produced, which is a raw product mostly exported to
Shizuoka for further processing and blending and eventually sold as tea. 80% of the tea produced here at the Ikegawa Cooperative is sent to Shizuoka , Japan's biggest producer of tea, while 20% remain for other purposes like local consumption as Tosa-cha. To increase consumption, apart from the usual packages of tea for brewing, Tosa-cha is also made into teabags, or powdered to be used in confectionery. Shizuoka
At Ikegawa, the first harvest, or “ichiban-cha” is taken from the end of April to the beginning of May. All of their Tosa-cha are made from ichiban-cha. Niban-cha, or second harvest, is often not used or are mixed with ichiban-cha and sold cheaply, as the taste greatly diminishes with a second harvest.
A really high quality tea that is only produced in small amounts each year is kabuse-cha. To produce this tea, a black tarp (kabuse) is drawn over the new leaves a week before the first harvest. This cover reduces the intake of sunlight and in turn the tannins that are produced in the tea. The tea produced from this (kabuse-cha) has a sweeter taste and aroma.
Taken from vol.42 published in July 2011 Tosa Tea Edition