Tea picking experience in Higashiyamato, Tokyo (Tokyo part of the Sayama region)
Article by Yukiko Fujita (Professional interpreter and tea enthusiast)
Date: Sunday May 11th 2014 13:30～15:00
Place: 杉本園製茶 (Sugimotoen Seicha)
On May 11th, I’ve got a chance to do my very first tea picking at Sugimotoen (杉本園製茶) that is located in the west side of Tokyo near Tama Lake.
Mr. Sugimoto, the owner of tea field explained to us the types of tea, How to pick tea leaves, and what the machines do.
He told us that there were many farmers around the area when his father, the founder of the tea making company first started, but only 3 including them are remaining.
Sugimotoen picks tea leaves 2 times a year, May and June.
They have a heater for making hand dried tea and make a small amount of hand dried tea every year. Most of the hand dried tea are sold to the locals. They were already sold out the day before we wentヽ(´Д`；)ﾉ
Since it takes about 5 hours to dry the tea leaves by hand, so they cannot make a lot.
In the tea processing factory, they have 9 different machines.
- 蒸し機 (mushi-ki) – Steaming machine: Removes the odors of fresh tea leaves and steams the leaves.
- 葉打機 (ha-uchi-ki) – Tea leaf scattering / drying machine: Leaves are kneaded and dried in the heated air.
- 粗揉機 (sojuu-ki) – Rough rolling machine: Same as 2.
- 揉念機 (juunen-ki) – Softening machine: The moisture in the leaves is equalized.
- 中揉機 (chuujuu-ki) – Medium rolling machine: Leaves are dried through kneading. Removes moisture.
- 精揉機 (seimomi-ki) – Fine rolling machine: Leaves are shaped into needle-like form.
- 乾燥機 (kansou-ki) – Drying machine: Leaves are dried in 80 degree heat for 20-25 minutes.
- 総合機 (sougou-ki) – Separator: Leaves are separated (Thick / Thin) by a strainer.
- 火入れ機 (bi-ire-ki) – Specialized roasting machine: Leaves are dried for storage. A stronger aroma is brought out by heating the leaves. This is quite unique to the Sayama region.
- After going through all of the above, the leaves are vacuum-sealed and stored.
I’ve seen many pictures of tea fields in Shizuoka so Sugimotoen’s field was smaller than what I have expected. However, considering the vicinity to the center of Tokyo and the relaxing atmosphere of the area, I would like to recommend my friends to go to Sugimotoen. Sugimotoen’s tea is only available at their store near the field, so this can be another reason to visit them.
If they can hold a event where people can pick the tea leaves and make their own hand-dried tea (and of course bring it back as a souvenir), I think that would be a fun event.
As it is sang in the tea fields in Sayama, Saitama “色は静岡、香りは宇治よ、味は狭山でとどめさす” (“Shizuoka is famous for its color, Uji is famous for its flavor, but the best is Sayama for its taste”) the taste of their shincha (new tea) is very good.
They sell different kinds of tea including oolong tea, black tea, and roasted tea. I would like them to try making gyokuro tea or organic tea or something that would make them unique to attract more tea fans.