Interview with a tea producer : Hitoshi Noda
Experience, time and effort to create the ideal tea
Mr. Hitoshi Noda by Noda Koukien
Mr. Hitoshi Noda produces tea in Otsu Town, Kikuchi Rural District, Kumamoto Prefecture. He has been involved in tea making since the age of 18, and in recent years has won the trust of other young producers as their representative of tea farmers in the Kikuchi region. He continues to make flavorful steamed green tea with his experience gained through trial and error.
Shaping the soil to make nature an ally
Noda: The first thing I do when growing my tea is to shape my field. Here, during the second tea, tea leaves are laid on the ground to bind to microorganisms to provide nutrients. When the leaves fall into the ground, the soil microorganisms break them down and the waste forms lumps and then clumps. Small spaces are naturally created between them, and when the fertilizer, air and water are sent into the soil, they spread easily thanks to this. This is called an “aggregate structure”. This is very important for the good performance of my field.
A year with new shoots in mind
Noda: The tea leaves are harvested from April to May. After that, at the end of June, I start preparing next year’s shoots. Around July, the remaining leaves on the tea trees are removed, fertilizer, air and water are sent to the ground. The preliminary branches are shaped towards the beginning of October, and the main branches towards the end of October. Temperature has to be monitored. Indeed, the temperature from winter to spring determines the formation of buds. The condition for good plants to grow is that it is very cold around February and the temperature rises suddenly from March to April. Then, in April, new shoots appear and the leaves open.
Thoughts on the 1st tea
Noda: Tea is called 1st, 2nd or 3rd, depending on when it was picked. Ichibancha (1st tea) is tea picked for the first time in the second half of April of a given year. Nibancha (2nd tea) is the tea that sprouts about 40-45 days after the first tea is picked, and sanbancha (3rd tea) is the tea that sprouts even after the second. The tastes of 1st tea and 2nd tea are completely different, and the bitterness and astringency become stronger as you go from 1st tea, 2nd tea to 3rd tea. Also, if the sanbancha is picked, the taste of the next year’s first tea will be diluted. By doing so, we can continue to produce first-class tea that has a rich aroma, sweetness, depth, and smoothness when you put it in your mouth.
How to find the “tea of the year”
Noda: First, 400-500 kg of premium tea is harvested and steamed in several patterns to check the quality. In addition, I ask my friends to drink them, and to tell me which is the most delicious according to them. It will then become the “tea of the year”. I am confident every year in my expertise to design tea, but I am always aware that others are always better than me, so I continually try to improve myself. If you are satisfied with yourself, you are no longer advancing. Many people in the world have excellent technique. My daily duty is to aim high and think about what I need to do next to get even better tea.