MARIMO tea - Manufacture, Import & Wholesale
JAPAN: FUMIAKI'S AND LUNA'S ORGANIC SUIKYO TEA GARDEN IN NARA-PREFECTURE
The Suikyo Tea Garden is deeply connected to historical methods of traditional tea cultivation and tea manufacture. However, at the same time, thanks to the inspiration and dedication of Fumiaki and Luna to exceptional teas that are produced by using also new methods, the qualities of teas made by Suikyo are on a high level while beeing unique. The garden and manufacture of Suikyo is located not far away from the city of Nara, which is well-known for its old Buddhist temples. The gardens of Suikyo are intergrated in a very beautiful and green landscape with many small hills. The different sorts of soil from different ages opens a huge potential of divers characteristics of tastes, thanks to their influence on the tea bushes.
Photo: The Suikyo Tea Garden - a parcel on the top of a hill surrounded by trees
Suikyo's "tea gardens" versus "tea mountains" in Nara
One important key in order to understand the concept of Suikyo is the differentation between "tea gardens" and "tea mountains": Suikyo is structered in parcels, which are reffered to as "tea garden" (ocha-batake) and those which are marked as "tea moutains" (ocha-yama). An interesting point is, that the words used by different generation changed in the course of time: While Fumiaki's grandfather usually said "I go to work in our tea mountain" (ocha-yama), already Fumiaki's father said "I go to work in our tea garden" (ocha-batake). In the categorization used by Suikyo, "tea gardens" are tea parcels, which have been planed and straightened by humans. From the mid until the end of 20th centurly, agriculture was mechanized step by step. In order to by able to do the fertilization and harvest with machines, tea gardens where arranged to be plane.
Photo: Fumiaki (right) and Luna (left) in a parcel of their tea company Suikyo, which is reffered to as "tea mountain"
On the plane parcel of the Suikyo gardens, there are only tea plants grown from cuttings. The roots of them are quite flat, so that they fit well to the structure of the ground made by humans. The surface of the ground was mixed with soil rich in humus, when the tea garden was established. Thanks to this, the roots of the cuttings can reach the soil with a lot of nutrients easily. Because the tea bushes grown from cuttings have roots that are not able to reach the deeper layers of the ground, the plane tea garden parcel of Suikyo are not only fertilized with grasses, but also with leaves and pomace. Therefore, the tea bushes grown from cuttings in the plane parcels of Suikyo are able to get enough nutrients to grow well and create tea leaves with a flavorful taste.
Photo: Suikyo uses self grown grasses for the fertilization of their tea bushes
In the tea mountains, the situation is different to the plane tea garden parcels. Because here, humans have not planed the ground, the structure of the ground is mostly still like it has feen formed by nature. In the tea parcels reffered to as "tea mountain" there are only tea plants that have been grown by seeds. But, this does not mean that all of this plants can by categorized as zairai. No, in many tea mountain parcels, there are sead grown tea bushes, which have been grown from seeds of a certain tea bush variety, which means the plants have to be categorized as "mishou", for example "Mishou Sae Midori". These tea bushes have a long root which goes very deep into the ground. Therefore these plants can reach nutrients located deep in the soil very well. There are some tea mountains of Suikyo with zairai, but most of them have mishou-plants. Some tea mountain parcels have tea bushes older than 50 years, and one zairai-parcel is already older than 100 years.
Some teas from Suikyo
SUIKYO ASAMIDORI SENCHA (organic)
The Asamidori Sencha is a composition of Sencha leaves from the tea bush cultivars Oku Midori and Yabukita. Fumiaki and Luna do not do a final heating (hi-ire) of the tea leaves for the Asamidori Sencha, in contrast to most other tea producers. Luna and Fumiaki dry the leaves only in a tea dryer, like it is usually used for Aracha (raw green tea) production. The result is, that Luna and Fumiaki's drying process is much softer, and therefore the taste of the Asamidori Sencha leaves is very light and fresh. Another effect is, that the leaves stay comparably stable, so that they can be infused very well even with quite high water temperatures.
Thanks to the fertilization with grasses, the Asamiodir Sencha has not a strong Umami, but a very well integrated and elegant sweetness.
SUIKYO MIZUCHA (organic)
The Suikyo Mizucha only contains very fine and light green tea leaves,which were seperated from the bigger and heavier leaves by a wind sorting process. The very fine and light green tea leaves are perfect for infusions with cold water, since even with cold water the infusion needs only one or two minutes. During the steaming process, which is fundamental for Sencha production, the steam gets very into into these fine leaves, which is the reason why the leaves are finally so easy to be infused with cold water.
Because the Suikyo Mizucha is therefore the ideal tea for hot days in summer as well as the perfect tea for travels, it is packed in 5g-pyramid-bags. So it is easy to infuse it even without a tea pot. The taste of the Suikyo Mizucha has a elegant and light sweetness and a lot of freshness.
The influence of different sorts of soil on the taste of the tea
Suikyo cares for the differentiation mainly between clayey, sandy soils and volcanic soils. Comparing green teas made from the same tea bush variety but grown on different soils is really astonishing, because the taste differences are as strong as the differences coming from the different tea bush cultivars. Like it is also known from wine, the taste of tea grown on clayey soils is comparably intensive, while the taste of volcanic soils tends to be lighter and more mineral.
Some years ago Luna and Fumiaki received a set of different sorts of wine as a present from friends. The different sorts of wine were grwon on different sorts of soil. Luna and Fumiaki only tasted the wines without knowing from which sorts of soil they came. Even without beeing wine experts, Luna and Fumiaki found out which wine came from which soil, because the similarities to their experience with tea were so clear. Naturally, as it is with wine, also the altitude of the place where it was grown is very important for the taste, as well as the orientation of the garden in regard to the sunlight, meaning the cardinal direction and the angle of the insolation. The result of caring for all this factors, is that Suikyo has a very differentiated assortment of extraordinary and exclusively fine teas.
Photo: Volcanic stones found in the Suikyo tea garden in Nara
Old tea mountains for the future
Suikyo currently contains an area of around 9 hectare. Of this 9 hectare, around 2 hectare are newly planted tea bushes on tea moutains. Therefore, only 7 hectare of the total area are ready to be harvested. Suikyo sees it as their challange to buy old tea mountains from their former owner. For example, if the former owners are not able to care for the tea mountains any more because of their personal age, or if they just do not like to go on to operate the hilly tea plantations, Suikyo takes this as their chance. Doing so, Suikyo preserves these cultural landscapes. The cultivation of the hilly tea plantations if quite laborious and also a bit dangerous. Therefore, less and less tea makers are willing to work in the tea mountains. Plain tea gardens a much simpler to operate and less people are necessary. This is the reason, why Suikyo is not a family business, but a team with Luna and Fumiaki in the centre, but also other people who are deeple convinced of the philosophie and strategies. 2010 are company was founded, which 5 person as the core-team of Suikyo, who all are repsonsible for important decisions together. From spring to autumn, when the tea harvest has to be done and all the preparations for it, there are more than the 5 people of the core-team, because it is a lot of work to care for the many little tea mountain and tea garden parcels of Suikyo.
All of the team really care for observing the tea plants and to talk about their abservations. So they get to understand the interrelation between location, tea bush variety, kind of fertilization, style of processing the leaves and the resulting aromas of the final tea. For the manufacture of extraordinary sorts of tea which very unique aromas, they use this knowledge. It inspires the Suikyo team always to create new sorts and to further elaborate the sorts they already produce. We are happy and greatful to be able to count Suikyo to our Marimo-partners and are already looking forward to all the new sorts of tea which will be created by Suikyo in the near future.