かぶせ | The Covering Process
Hello there, Ryhan from d:matcha here! The team and I decided to start this little ‘blogging’ segment in which we breakdown and simplify the different aspects of tea farming, as well as life in Wazuka. I’ll try my best to keep these entries short and sweet because I understand that digital fatigue is very real.
All in all, I hope you enjoy reading this series of entries!
Happy reading :-)
While I was still an intern in the Autumn of 2019, I was lucky enough to have been onboard just as the third harvest of the year was starting. While harvesting may look deceivingly easy, there is a significant amount concentration and focus behind the repetitive motions. Working together in pairs, you have to ensure that the tea trees are trimmed to a proper height. The first harvest of the season however, as I have learnt in these past three weeks, while similar in some aspects is a completely different ball game all together. To start, I’ll share more on the covering process that takes place prior to harvesting.
As the weather starts to grow warmer, and the leaves of the cherry blossoms outgrow their shade of pink, the young green tea buds also begin to sprout. On their way to work in the mornings, the d:matcha team members are now on the look out for the progress of growth of our different fields in Wazuka. Different cultivars of tea such as Yabukita, Okumidori, Gokou, and Samidori, all possess different growth rates. Ideally the young shoots should be approximately 4cm before they are covered. Either way if you’re at a distance, or if you haven’t got your measuring tape on you, the easiest way to tell young shoots are growing would be by the difference in colour. Personally I think the fields tend to look like a chapter of a book, with your favourite lines highlighted in bright green.
(Young green tea sprouts! )
The covering process is often done by either directly draping a black gauze cloth on the tea trees, or by hanging the cloth from racks that have been built around the tea fields. The d:matcha team recently built on this year for our tea tress in Yubune! Regardless of which method is used, both serve one main purpose: to block out the amount of sunlight the tea trees receive.
First of all, drastically reducing the amount of sunlight the tea trees receive motivates the leaves to produce more chlorophyl. This reaction is done in an attempt to speed up the process of photosynthesis. More chlorophyl present changes the colour of the young shoots into a deeper shade of green. This is also the reason why high quality Matcha, which is made by grinding Tencha, is the shade it is. The leaves of tea trees that have been shaded arer also slightly wider as compared to trees that have not.
Secondly an amino acid known as “Theanine”, which is found in tea leaves is another important motivating factor. When exposed to high levels of sunlight, Theanine is converted into Catechin, the latter being a form of tannin. Higher levels of Theanine in tea leaves and you get a stronger savoury umami flavour profile. Catechin, on the other hand, is an astringent biomolecule that is responsible for the taste of bitterness found in tea. Thus lowering the levels of sunlight exposure, slows down the conversion process and builds up the amount of Theanine found in the tea leaves.
Last, but definitely not least, in order to produce Gyokuro or Tencha, it is mandatory for the tea trees to be covered for a minimum of twenty days! At d:matcha, we experiment with our different varieties of かぶせ茶 (Kabuse-cha) or covered tea by varying the number of days the leaves are shaded. After all what is farming but a series of trials and errors. Needless to say I’m biased and think that it’s mostly been successful trials for us at d:matcha though! Till next time!
Discover our 2020 flush products: https://www.dmatcha.com/2020-first-flush
[If there is any particular aspect of tea farming that you’d like to learn more about or if you have further questions, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.]