There are five main activities you will be involved in during your time at Obubu as an Intern. How many hours you will do of each will be determined by the season and weather.
Days with Akky-san: these will most likely be your most memorable days at Obubu; Akky is a character – his knowledge of tea is second-to-none, but trying to get a straight answer out of him will take some perseverance.
These days usually start early; sometime between 07:30 and 09:00. You will be picked up from the house and driven to a tea field. Your role will vary on the day and time of year; weeding, shading, un-shading, harvesting, or fertilizing.
Weeding simply involves removing weeds from and around the tea plants. Simple work, however I would encourage you to wear some form of insect repellent!
Shading is a very important part of tea production. Originally implemented in the 16th century to prevent frost damage over winter, farmers found that tea that was covered produced a more umami-flavoured or sweet tea. Shading involves rolling a long sheet of nylon over the entire tea bush and clipping it down with pegs.
Un-shading is simply removing the nylon sheets so the tea is able to be harvested. Un-clipping and rolling the sheets back up.
Harvesting is probably the most labour-intensive of all the field tasks. During these days you will have a few tasks; placing empty tea bags at the ends of the rows, harvesting with Akky, carrying the filled teaags to a shaded area and loading them onto the truck.
Deep Cutting is done by Akky; but your job will be to move the removed leaves from top of the bush and place them in the path – stomping them down with your feet. Wear gloves, thick pants, and strong shoes.
Field days are some of the best days; fresh air, sunshine, and hanging with Akky. Pointers: bring sunscreen, insect repellent, and water.
Days in the factory; these days or nights start at different times. You may start at 09:00, 13:00 or 18:00 – it all depends on the time of year and harvest. Your job here is to load the steaming machine; pouring the tea leaves onto a conveyor belt that feeds into the steaming machine (and packing down and cleaning the steamer). This is a great opportunity to see how the tea is processed from simple harvested leaves into delicious tea.
Packing takes form in three different ways: weighing out and packaging tea, labeling tea packages, and packaging tea packages. This is a good time spent with your fellow interns or some self-reflective (often meditative) solo work. I recommend having some playlists ready.
Depending on the season, this may take up a large amount of your time, or very little. Office work consists of responding and drafting emails, making tea, cleaning, conducting interviews, and working on your project. A good opportunity to spend some time with the Obubu staff.
Depending on the time of year, Tea Tours may occur once a week, six times a week, or not at all. Tea tours are a fun experience where you get to meet new people and share your knowledge and enthusiasm for tea! They generally run from 11:00 – 15:00; involve tea-making, tea-tasting, tours of the fields and factory, as well as lunch. You also get to wear a Samue; traditional clothing worn by Buddhist monks during their farm work.
This is a very general overview of the work you will do at Obubu. However, everyone will have their own unique experience. I encourage you to become involved in as many ways as you can and ask a lot of questions.