July commences with a continuation of the rainy season, called tsuyu 梅雨, that starts in June and gradually builds up to hotter and hotter temperatures. If you are acquainted with Japan’s traditional calendar, you would know that the year is split into 24 major divisions. In July we pass through 小暑 Shōsho (Lesser Heat) and move into 大暑 Taisho (Greater Heat) and the season’s names could not be more apt: with the high humidity and hot temperatures, it surely does feel like ‘Major Heat’ in the last weeks of July.
With the hot temperatures and abundant rain, the landscape yields lush greens everywhere, from tea fields growing new shoots after the summer harvest, to rice fields and forests all contributing to an abundance of green hues all around.
We were happy to welcome many tea lovers to our tea tours this month, giving them a taste of Sonogi’s tea diversity and showing off the gorgeous tea fields overlooking Omura Bay, which is a magical sight in any weather!
Tea farmer Oba-san welcomed us to the tea factory to show us his special patented processing method for his Aomikan koucha (green tangerine black tea).
We gifted a sample of this unique tea to all who placed an order with us this month.
The Tea Promotion Association of Nagasaki Prefecture held their ichibancha 一番茶 (spring) tea evaluation early July and held an open session after the official evaluation for anyone interested to try the different teas.
It was great to see many familiar faces of tea producers joining the open tasting session!
We joined tea farmer Tozaka-san and some local Nihoncha Instructors to handpick a small batch of 5 kg of fresh leaves to create a hand-rolled koucha (black tea) – his very last harvest of the nibancha (summer) season.
Our July monthly online tea session was a lot of fun, chatting about our July news and sharing some of our Ikeda Chaen tamaryokucha selection with tea lovers across the world.
Thank you to those who joined!
Our next online tea session in August we will focus on different cold-brewing techniques. We will highlight some of our teas that we feel are especially great for quenching thirst in the hot summer weather. Sign up here to join our Sunday August 27th tea session.
One of our tea tour groups lucked out last week and were invited as special guests for a ‘kikicha’ tea guessing game hosted by a group of Nagasaki University students who studied Sonogi Cha and developed a tea sample set to promote tamaryokucha from different Sonogi tea farmers.
We each got served four spring season tamaryokucha from different producers (including Ikeda Chaen and Ohyama Seichaen who are included in our tea selection) and one reference cup of tamaryokucha. We then had to guess which of the 4 teas matched the reference cup.
Fun but difficult: out of the 6 participants in our round, only Dutch tea sommelier Anne managed to guess the right tea.
In the countryside hills of neighbouring tea town Ureshino we visited one of Japan’s oldest tea trees. The 嬉野の大チャノキ (Ureshino Big Tea Tree) has been a National Natural Monument since 1926.
The majestic old tree is well taken care of with sturdy crutches under its low-arching branches to support them and a bed of straw around the roots to help regulate the soil’s moisture.
What else have we been up to this month?
When we discovered that Kouraku Kiln in nearby Arita, Japan’s capital of porcelain, offered a ceramic treasure hunt we had to go and check it out for ourselves!
After an hour-and-a-half of pottery browsing we ended up with a pair of dusty gloves and a shopping basket full of beautiful porcelain pieces.
For those travelling in the area, we heartily recommend going if you have enough space left in your luggage!
As summer is in full swing, Japan’s fabulous firework festivals have arrived.
We joined Nagasaki city’s Port Festival with many thousands of locals dressed up in kimono’s and yukata for the festive occasion.
Higashisonogi’s Gion Matsuri brought all the town’s residents out onto the streets to watch the dragon pass through town in the morning, ending in this fiery dragon dance at the Minato park shrine around noon.