At the end of August, Japanese news declared this year’s summer to be the hottest summer in recorded history.
With the sun beating down brightly, a typhoon earlier in the month and a new one gathering south of Japan as we write this post, the work in the tea fields was a little more slow this month.
We’ve been drinking copious amounts of 水出し茶 mizudashi cha (coldbrewed tea) to stay hydrated.
Traditionally, the first half of August is seen as the sanbancha 三番茶 (third) harvesting period, but due to the typically high temperatures there are few farmers who choose to harvest and produce sanbancha teas.
The heat affects the quality of the leaf, fetching very low prices on the market and most farmers consider it not worth the taxing work out in the scorching heat.
So what kind of work has been happening in the tea fields this month?
Towards the middle and end of August we have seen many farmers trimming & fertilising their tea fields in preparation for akibancha 秋番茶 (autumn) harvest.
Through timing of trimming / cutting of the tea trees, farmers can also try and evade the peaks of insects that impact the tea plants. In the photo alongside, tea farmer Tozaka explains how he strategically schedules his trimming to coincide with insect peaks so he can avoid using pesticides and still keep his plants healthy.
Speaking about insects in the tea fields, here are a few we’ve spotted this month:
Tea field safari
Earlier this month, the Higashisonogi Town Hall held a promotion event for Sonogi Cha. The PR team traveled in a beautifully redecorated tea van to different neighbouring cities to let people taste Sonogi tea, and to gather information about awareness and appreciation for Sonogi Cha.
We joined the PR team for a blisteringly hot but very fun day in Saikai city to serve coldbrewed tamaryokucha 玉緑茶 and ask passersby to fill out a questionnaire about Sonogi Cha.
We felt honoured to join a photoshoot of the new PR tea van amongst the tea fields (with the famous Omura Bay ocean view of course)!
This month had a strong theme of Sonogi Cha promotion.
Behind the scenes we have been working on a Sonogi Cha Culture Exchange event for a few months. Collaborating with Higashisonogi Town Hall as well as a brand new Sonogi Cha Ambassador education programme, we have put together a two-part event to educate & inspire Nagasaki Prefecture based ALTs (Alternative Language Teachers) about Sonogi Cha and to facilitate cultural exchange with local townspeople.
It was our utmost joy to host the first part of the event on Saturday August 26th. A group of 16 ALTs enthusiastically show off their well-earned Sonogi Cha Ambassador certificate after a full day deep-dive into Japanese tea.
Higashisonogi tea fields in the tail end of a typhoon. Thankfully the heart of the typhoon passed us by and caused no major damage in our area.
Egrets amongst the lush green rice fields. Harvesting has just started at the end of August, earlier than usual due to the excessive heat.
This photo of a coldbrew of our Ikeda Chaen Superb tamaryokucha at Mt Aso, taken by Katrina Wild who took some of our teas to fuel a mountain hiking adventure this month
Where else have we been in August?
Tea tasting in Ureshino at Soejimaen’s beautiful tea bar at Wataya Besso.
Shoro Nagashi (Spirit Boat) Festival in Nagasaki city.
This festival closes off Obon, the summer festival that honours the dead and spirits of each family’s ancestors. Shoro Nagashi wishes the spirits of the dead well and sends them safely back to heaven.
Another tea tasting hosted by Haruna Nishida, owner of a wonderful tea shop Shuka in Nagasaki. Haruna is a certified Nihoncha Instructor and is also spearheading the Sonogi Cha Ambassador programme.
Haruna put together a diverse tea tasting menu for a special exhibition at 063 Factory in Nagasaki.