May 5, 2018
Ever since I heard about the new tea picking tradition in the next town from our city, I was interested to try it out. There are new tea picking experiences which range from a short time on your own to a full day including lunch and learning the process of how green tea is made. 'New tea plucking' is 新茶摘み (shin cha tsumi) in Japanese.
We don't have a car and most of the tea farms are in the mountains and far from any public transportation. We found one shop in Yame City offering a new tea festival and inexpensive tea plucking experience. It's about two kilometers from the closest bus stop, but still not bad compared with taking a taxi into the mountains.
The tea farm is called simply Ocha Mura or Tea Village. Beside it is a little shop called Ocha Mura Hon Ten or Tea Village Original Location.
When we arrived, we paid just 100 yen for the tea plucking experience. We walked over the bridge into the tea farms, then were given small plastic bags to collect the tea in and a super quick demo on how to pick the proper leaves. The new leaf buds or shinme and the next two leaves are the best part for high quality tea making, although for tempura, we use the top four or five leaves. The tea bushes were already well picked as we arrived in the afternoon.
The tea bushes are quite close together, but still I could fit my big buns into the walkway and collect the tea. It was quite peaceful and they constantly played a song about picking tea that sounded like it was sung by elementary school students. Some of the bushes were still covered by black tarps to protect them from the sun.
After collecting enough in our bags, we went back to the tents near the shop and gave them one of the bags of tea. That was enough for two servings of tea leaf tempura, fried in coconut oil, included with the experience cost! We got to take home the other bag for roasting our own tea or using the fresh leaves for tempura or sauce. We were also given samples of cold and hot new tea, which was so refreshing. They offered a tempura lunch set for only 400 yen, but it was sold out before we arrived.
I recommend this experience if you live in an area with a tea farm. We had fun as a couple and there were a lot of families with young kids enjoying themselves as well.