In the Asahina Valley of Shizuoka, Japan, the Miyazaki family have been producing Gyokuro green tea for more than fifty years. Together Mr and Mrs Miyazaki hold centuries of family know-how on how best to tend to their tea bushes and importantly when to shade them and how long for.
A few months ago in early March we caught up with the Miyazaki’s via video call to see how they were preparing for the up-coming spring harvest. As they prepared the garden, we were able to learn a lot about how they produce their Gyokuro and especially the traditional method they use to shade the tea bushes using a hand-crafted straw canopy which Mrs. Miyazaki was weaving at the time. This canopy shading is the defining step in farming tea bushes for Gyokuro as the lack of light means extra chlorophyll and so a richer umami taste is generated in the leaves.
The Miyazakis do most of the hard work in their garden by hand and they even grow their own rice, which provides the straw used to build the shading canopy for the tea bushes. This traditional approach is extremely rare to see in Japan as the majority of producers tend to use heavy machinery in the tea fields and synthetic netting materials for shading. However the Miyazaki’s maintain their approach as they believe the modern way would only slow them down and they certainly know how to get the best taste from their tea bushes.
Let’s take a look at the traditional shading method as the Miyazaki’s begin work early April a month before the tea will be hand-picked…
Uniquely spring fresh, this tea undergoes a traditional shading process for 30 days, creating an unmistakable and umami-rich infusion that earns Gyokuro the title of Japan’s finest green tea.