What is Konacha? (Limited / This Month’s Tea)What is Konacha? (Limited / This Month’s Tea)

Hand picked harvest for Kuradashi Tea

Today most tea leaves are trimmed by machine and traditional hand picked Gyokuro, Sencha, and Matcha are rarely grown and is therefore very precious. The flavor and aroma of hand picked tea is much more mellow and smooth than tea trimmed by machine.

Tea trees for hand picked and for machine trimmed are grown in different ways, and tea sprouts of both types of trees grow differently. In the case of tea trees trimmed by machine, tea sprouts grow from the previously trimmed stubble. In contrast, in the case of tea trees picked by hand, tea sprouts shoot from the natural forks in the branches. The difference in sprout growth is the main reason why teas picked by hand vs. trimmed by machine have distinctly unique flavors. The flavor and aroma of hand picked tea is much more mellow and smooth than tea trimmed by machine and the leaves are of higher quality.

Even a skilled tea harvester can hand pick just up to 6 to 8kg of fresh tea leaves all through the day. The picked fresh tea leaves are processed and finished, at which point the total weight of the tea leaves is only about 18% of the fresh tea leaves. Even if about 20 skilled tea harvesters pick all through the day, we can only gather around 25 kg of finished precious hand picked tea.

From the time the sprouts appear to the time the leaves become too large to harvest is just a few days. So tea leaves must be harvested as quickly as possible in one long stretch. Therefore it is never easy to pick large amounts of tea leaves by skilled hands in just a few days.
Top grade tea, hand picked tea is grown only in quite a small amount. So, hand picked tea is very precious.

Our Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle, Super Premium, Kuradashi Matcha Pinnacle and Super Premium are carefully picked by hand.

This tea farm is for tea trimmed by machine under the "Tana" canopy.

When tea is picked by hand, tea sprouts shoot from the natural forks in the branches. The sprouts create an excellent mellow and smooth flavor.

Hand-picked tea is harvested by 10 to 30 people. In contrast, machine-trimmed tea is harvested by only 2 or 3 people.

Hand-picked tea harvest scene



"Honzu" the traditional reed and straw canopy

Tea leaves for Gyokuro and Matcha are grown in the shade for 20 to 30 days before harvest. There are two ways of creating shade for growing tea trees. One of them is "Tana" and the other is "Jikagise". With the "Jikagise" method, the tea plants are directly covered with a type of black fabric. "Tana" is not covering the tea tree directly but building a canopy-like structure at the height of about 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1m) covering the whole tea growing area as in the below picture. It requires skillful technique and great care, and is managed only in the Uji region. Excellent noble aroma and elegant sweetness are created by the "Tana" technique.

"Tana" is superior to "Jikagise" for a few reasons. "Tana" is much less of a burden for tea leaves and tea trees than "Jikagise" because "Jikagise" is placed directly over the tea leaves. "Tana" is a superior way to provide protection from the heat and intense sunlight. It is not completely understood why "Tana" produces such an excellent flavor in Gyokuro and Matcha, but tea producers in Japan are currently conducting research to find an answer to this question.
If you visit a tea farm in Japan and step under the "Tana" canopy, you are immediately aware that the air under the "Tana" is quite brisk and invigorating, which refreshes your mind and body. This is due to the "breath" of the tea leaves under the canopy.

"Honzu" is a very special way of building "Tana". It is the traditional way of diffusing sunlight from long ago, and these days it is very rare to see, even in the Uji region. In the "Honzu" method, tea farmers build a structure to provide shade to the tea trees using only reeds and straw. Old-style reeds and straw provide the ideal shade for tea trees. And it is said that the constituents exuded from the straw through the rainwater exercise good effects on the tea leaves.
However, it is not easy to build this structure of reeds and straw, to gather so much reeds and straw, and to manage to keep the "Honzu" in good condition throughout the growing season. For example, if a strong wind blew just after placement of the straw, the straw would be blown away and ruined. If it rains once after the placement of the straw, the rainwater firms the structure.
As above, "Honzu" requires skillful technique and much great care, so that only less than 10 farmers in all of Japan manage "Honzu" (only in Ogura and a few other areas in the Uji region). However, the shading with reeds and straw of "Honzu" provide tea leaves with the very ideal conditions.

Our Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle and Kuradashi Matcha Pinnacle are grown in diffused sunlight under the reed and straw "Honzu" which provides an ideal growing environment for top-grade Gyokuro. If you are a Japanese Tea lover, would you once enjoy the excellent and subtle flavor grown with the traditional technique and much great care?

"Jikagise" shading from sunlight

"Tana" made with modern building materials

"Honzu" made with reeds and straw is a traditional style of "Tana"

Building "Honzu". Placing straws on the reed frame



Kuradashi Tea

We are planning to sell three limited edition Kuradashi Gyokuro, one Kuradashi Sencha, and three Kuradashi Matcha only available mid-autumn. Please wait and see!

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