May 7, 2019
This year I got nine full days off for Golden Week - or one week plus a normal weekend. We easily decided not to venture too far because of the expense and crowds. Staycations are our usual during the Japanese holidays, while everyone else is out adventuring.
Last year, we enjoyed a day trip into the town next door, Yame, for picking new spring tea. That was on my short list of day trips for the week, along with maybe venturing into the city for an art museum and bookstores and art supplies.
It turns out we were both recovering from colds and resting at home sounded perfect. We don't own a TV or streaming subscriptions. We both went to the library to borrow a bunch of books (mine were mostly the type with a lot of pictures or in English). Other than resting at home - laying around reading (perfect for the first rainy weekend), all we did during our holiday was tea picking!
Shincha Tsumi (new tea picking) 100 yen experience was three days long this year, starting on the Friday of the week off and lasting for the weekend. This time we planned to go to 'tea village' a lot earlier so we could get in on the 400 yen set lunch that was sold out last year. It included tea, carrot, and chikuwa tempura, yaki-onigiri, cucumbers, tea dashi soup, special kohaku mochi, and a tiny green tea ice cream. So yummy, plus of course there were both hot and cold tea available for free.
Then we went and picked tea! Because we had arrived earlier in the day than last year, the availability of the perfect new leaves was a lot more abundant. This year there were lots of little white flies on the tea bushes, but also other critters helping out by eating them. I don't recommend tea picking if your fear of bugs is severe.
Baby mantis, thank you.
In the store we bought some tea salt just to be fancy.
This year Ocha Mura didn't offer free tea tempura, but they also weren't out of the limited lunches while we were there. We collected more tea leaves than last year (and didn't use half for tempura) so I wasn't sure what to do with all of them.
Last year I made a tea sauce (recipe provided by Ocha Mura) which is a lot like pesto but using tea instead of basil. It was really nice on veggies and fish. Again, I made a big portion of that the next day. I'm planning to use it to make a spaghetti sauce.
There was still so much tea left. We didn't feel like roasting tea - the recipe said to use a hot plate which we don't have. It just seemed like too much trouble - steaming, rolling, and roasting the leaves. The other day I had picked some fresh mint and poured hot water over it for mint tea, so my husband thought we should make green tea like that. I guess we had just enjoyed a glass of wine with our dinner, so I thought it wasn't a bad idea and tried it.
Spoiler: it doesn't work.
With part of the remaining tea, after washing it and letting it air dry a little, I dried it better on the frying pan. Until it was dry like fall leaves. Then I added just a little coconut oil and fried up the leaves, similar to making kale chips I guess. When the leaves were nice and crunchy, I broke them up a little and put them in a jar with salt and sesame to use as furikake on my onigiri for work this week. There is still a little tea left that I think I'll fry the same way to eat as a sort of topping on eggs and rice for breakfast.
In short, Golden week was spent resting and reading, an outing to do tea picking, and then making tea related recipes. (And then I caught another cold!)
So glad we made it again - Ocha Mura has become our annual tradition for a super affordable Golden Week outing.
is Ocha-Mura in Fukuoka area then? I just moved to Yokkaichi, Mie where tea is grown too, so likely there is tea harvest experiences here too. Would you do it again? I am doing rice-planting experience for a second time next weekend because it was so much fun the first time. Whales fart out of their blow hole? We can see whales from the coast here supposedly. I hope I do! I moved from years in land-locked Tochigi Prefecture. Cheers!