The (not so) Secret Life of An Intern – May 2023

Hello desu! This is Jia En and Sarah reporting live from Obubu. You might have seen us trotting around Obubu’s instagram account over the last three months, from March till June. We had such a fun time preparing and helping out in this year’s Spring harvest. But it is almost time for us to say our goodbyes to Obubu (for now), and we can’t go without sharing some highlights of our tea adventures here! 

What were you up to in Obubu? / What did you contribute to Obubu?
Sarah: *Goes to google calendar to check our fun-packed schedule*

Jia En: We spent our first half of our internship preparing for the spring harvest, like helping with the trimming of the tea trees and putting on the shades. We also spent a lot of time cleaning a newly acquired Houjicha factory that was left vacant for a while. 

Sarah: After bringing the house and factory back to their original splendor, we broke some walls and replaced some floors, then, following the guidance of our favorite carpenter, Kitazawa-san, we placed new walls for new rooms on the upper floor. 

Jia En: We now fondly call it the Houmicha (Houjicha House), and it is where new interns will be staying in the future. If you’re interested to know how all of that went down, Sarah made a video sharing all about it and I’ll highly recommend you to watch it to see the state of it before, after and everything in between. 

Sarah: Also, we have been welcoming many wonderful guests. As Japan’s borders had recently reopened and with the Sakura trees blooming, many tourists from all over the world came to Wazuka to enjoy our tea tours. 

What has been your favourite memory here?

Jia En: It is hard to just pick one memory!!

Sarah: EVERYTHING! From coming back from the tea fields on the truck, to spending the evenings in the factory following the process of the Black Gyokuro, and being surrounded by a great tea community. Some moments I will really cherish looking back at were the travels around Kansai, following Jia En in her adventures to discover more about pottery. We went to Asahiyaki’s exhibition in Uji, and lost our way in the picturesque and narrow streets of Tokoname. We even met Kato-san, a third generation potter that hosted us in his family studio and taught us how to paint chawans.

Jia En: I really enjoyed processing the Black Gyokuro with Sarah and Hiro-san. We were soooo tired by the end of it, but being able to experience first-hand and learn how tea is grown, harvested and processed really satisfies my curious heart. I find my interest and love for tea only growing through such intimate experiences with tea. Also, I love the drives to the tea fields, especially sitting or lying on the tea bags with tea leaves we’ve just harvested. The foliage view and scenery of Wazuka is so euphoric for me, I don’t want to forget it!!! 

Sarah: Jia En, who, as you may or may not know, is very good at asking great questions, (Jia En: Okay…..thank you) also conducted a great interview with Kato-san, and managed to learn more about him, his history, his passion and his views for the future. I really recommend having a look at her article, in which she collected the most salient points of her interview.  (Jia En: This is sounding like a PPL, but please, enjoy the fruits of our intern projects).
Do you have a favourite Wazuka experience?
Jia En: Outside of Obubu, it’ll be Ikebana! Together with our senpais, Andri, Tran and Yanis, we went for a short Ikebana (Rikka style) workshop, which is the Japanese art of flower arrangement. It was conducted by Nakai sensei, who’s a tea ceremony (urasenke) instructor in Wazuka and comes from a family of tea farmers. Every step of the arrangement has a meaning. For instance, the form of the arrangement reflects a symbolic triangle of heaven, man and earth, and the highest point of the arrangement represents heaven.

Picture (from left to right) : Andri, Tran, Yanis, Nakai Sensei, Sarah, Jia En

I made that under Nakai sensei’s guidance. By the way, the flowers we used were butterfly flowers from Nakai sensei’s home garden! How cool was that. 

Sarah: One evening Akky-san invited us to a tea hand processing with Wazuka farmers and explained to us the steps to make hand-made tea. We also got to try shaping the leaves into needle shapes on the Hoiro (the heated table for hand processing), and it was very interesting feeling the leaves changing characteristics in our hands. We made tea!

Where is your favourite place to drink a cup of tea? 

Jia En: For me, without a doubt,  it will be anywhere in Obubu’s tea fields, especially right after working there! There’s something special about drinking a cup of tea at the field where it was produced, and even more special when you drink it with the people who made them.Sarah: I agree, tea breaks in the tea field are the best! But also, on rainy days, I enjoyed brewing tea in front of our window in Obubu House, looking in silence at the rain on the tea field.

What would be your favourite Obubu tea? 

Sarah: I will have to pick more than one… I enjoy Hiro-san’s oolong tea, which keeps the needle shape of Japanese sencha, but its withering and oxidation creates a unique fruity and floral aroma. I also like Sencha of the Earth, an unshaded spring sencha from zairai plants, that we harvested on the 9th of May. 

Jia En: My favourite Obubu tea changes all the time…and I attach different memories to the teas. I mention Tencha a lot because of its story, Sencha of the Gushing Brook and Sencha of the Wind because of the blind tasting competition we had during our hachiju hachiya 88th day event we had with the tea club members. 

Finally, what will you miss about Obubu? 

Sarah: Well, there is nothing that I will not miss. But above all I will miss being surrounded by the wonderful community that grows around Obubu, the staff, the interns I shared my time with, and the many interns that came back to visit, and who made me realize that somehow tea will keep connecting us all.

Jia En: I can’t agree with Sarah more here. My experience at Obubu would not be what it is if not for the current and previous staff who have created and built this welcoming space for learning and community. I will miss everything about Obubu (Marie, intern #129 calls this the Obublues).

Pictured (from left to right): Justin, Miwako, Sophie, Jack, Jia En, Sarah, Marie, Kayo-san, Paula, George

Jia En: Thank you Sarah for baking this amazing chocolate banana, strawberry shortcake for my birthday :,) I’m going to miss you when I go back home. 

The time to say goodbye has finally come, and we would like to thank all the people we have encountered and contributed to making our internship so great! It’s not goodbye forever, we know in our hearts that we will definitely be back. 

And, to you all, have a brew-tea-full time!

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