Since 2016 Japanese people have been observing a new public holiday every August: Yama no hi or Mountain Day. It was inaugurated to encourage an appreciation of the many benefits of mountains. Getting to a mountain and going for a hike is the obvious – and wonderful – way to spend the day, but other ways to celebrate could include painting a picture of a mountain, perhaps setting up your paints outside, seeking out mountain food, or even taking the time to have a conversation about how mountains make you feel, and which are your favourite.
Chatting to some of our Japanese tea producers, they explained how the geography and nature of Japan – a series of islands full of mountains and surrounded by the sea – has had a big impact on their culture and history. It’s this impact which has embedded their cultural appreciation for nature, which is why they have public holidays dedicated to things like mountains. We discussed too that it’s not all about beauty though. Just as important is an understanding of the power and unpredictability of nature which brings with it an awe and respect.
This rooted awe and respect for mountains and nature is something we’ve seen not only in Japan, but across the single garden tea growing world. It’s an understanding which enables tea producers to work in harmony with nature and allows them to produce some of the very best tasting teas while protecting their environment. We see it all over, from places like Ai Lao Mountain in Yunnan, where 2,000m up Mrs Feng lets her trees grow free, tall and wild; to Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas where farmers are welcoming back butterflies and even leopards into their organic gardens; and we see it in Ali Shan in the centre of the mountainous island of Taiwan, where our friends the Chens freely share the benefits of working organically with their neighbours.
As well as the culture and ways of life of mountain communities affecting the natural approach to tea production and protection of the environment, the mountains themselves also play a big role in how a tea tastes – yet another reason to celebrate them. Their atmosphere at altitude produces mists which protect tea bushes from harsh sunlight which would otherwise make the leaves taste bitter. It lets the leaves grow slowly so they can develop rich flavours and it creates a unique ecosystem in which the plants are looked after and shielded from pests, and so can grow naturally, without chemical intervention.
Tea makers won’t have a hard time observing this mountain day today, most likely they’ll already be spending the day in the mountains coaxing out life, leaves and flavour from their tea bushes. We’ll be joining the Japanese in celebrating mountain day this year. The simplest way to do it if you can’t get out for a hike is to take your tea outside and take a moment to appreciate the power of man and nature working together.
Taste the Mountains:
With its deep green, refreshing character and marine-like umami, transport yourself to the lush mountainous coastal prefecture of Shizuoka in the south of Japan.
- Green TeaGyokuroUmami, Sweet Pea, FloralFrom Asahina Valley, Shizuoka, JapanOut of stock
On a different green mountain in Shizuoka, the Miyazakis are still using traditional techniques to make their rich and floral gyokuro green tea, with its characteristic savoury, buttery notes and sweet finish.
- Black TeaOrganic Darjeeling Second FlushGrape, Alpine Flowers, MaltFrom Okayti & Pussimbing Gardens, Darjeeling, India£16.50100g
Organic Darjeeling 2nd Flush
Celebrate the balmy warmth of summer in the foothills of the Himalayas with this black tea – full of fruitiness, grassy notes and even wildflowers.
- Oolong TeaWuyi OolongCacao, Stone Fruit, RoseFrom Huangcun Garden, Fujian, China£19.0050g
Taste the rocky red mountains of Wuyishan – here’s a tea with a mountain minerality, as well as baked fruit and dark chocolate. One of our most energising teas – perfect ahead of a hike.