八十八夜 Hachijuhachiya is the 88th night since the beginning of spring, according to the traditional Japanese lunar calendar. It falls in the last days of April or first ones of May and it used to mark the start of harvesting shincha.
Shincha 新茶 in Japanese literally means “new tea” and it refers to the new shoots picked and processed in early spring. Usually known as “First Flush” in English, these tender leaves are considered the best ones for their being delicate, characterized with sweetness and freshness, high in nutrients that the plant has been storing in winter.
Hachijuhachiya is a word still commonly used among tea farmers or tea lovers to mark the beginning of tea season and it is quite an event here.
Nowadays tea is not always picked up on the exact 88th day, as we rely on weather conditions and when the plants are at their best growth. Nevertheless it gets quite close: we had our first harvest of first flush last week, when suddenly on an early nice morning Akki san decided the leaves were ready; right in time before afternoon’s weather change!
Everybody was informed and smiles and excitement took over during the day.
The harvest was done at Somada, where lines of sinuous tea bushes face stunning views of lush green.
120 kilos of leaves were brought to our factory at 1pm and the processing started straight away;
it lasted until shortly after midnight. During the evening we all gathered to admire the fresh tea being made, keep Akki san company, smell the fragrance of this special shincha and celebrate the event.
After long hours, we could finally taste the tea. Everybody agrees this year’s is sweeter: a very good one!
Written by Anna Poian