2023 April round up

Welcome to the April round-up newsletter. A monthly letter about everything that has happened inside and outside the tea nursery.

Welcome to the April round-up newsletter. A monthly letter about everything that has happened inside and outside the tea nursery.

Spring and the Shincha race

It is already the end of April time flies. Seems like just a couple of weeks ago since I wrote the March newsletter. With spring, most tea-producing countries are busy with the spring harvest and processing of new teas. Shincha from Japan is starting to pop up everywhere in what I call the Shincha race. Many farmers and growing regions are seeing earlier harvests this year due to the warmer weather in general.

Are you going to buy shincha? If so, what farms are you buying from this year? I'm curious to know. As for me, I usually do not partake in the Shincha race and prefer to buy later, together with other types of teas from the farms. When I buy Shincha, I usually brew it as soon as it arrives after letting it rest for a couple days after the trip. But I prefer to age it for a couple months before regularly drinking it. In my opinion, by letting it rest, they became more round and a better experience. It is fun to see the two sides of it, nonetheless.

Recent Activity

This month I had an unscheduled trip back home to Spain. Also, it's been extremely busy at both my workplace and University. So with the few pockets of time available, I have been putting the efforts in aggregating the data sources and other interesting blogs, websites, and podcasts I use into a page in the blog for easy access to that info.

The first and perhaps more information-dense is the Public Zotero library. Zotero is a software used to keep, maintain and gather papers and other research documents in a single place. Then you can export the citations or parts of the documents you are working on. This is the tool I use when creating the Notes posts, which are more research-heavy. If you want to read more about a specific topic you found in a Notes post, check the cited bibliography. You will most likely find it in the public Zotero library of the blog.

A more approachable resource is the Oku book collection. Oku is a great app to keep track of books you are reading, similar to Goodreads. I created a collection of books about tea I am reading or planning to read. All these books are also included in the Zotero library.

Lastly, I created a list using Listen Notes, a database for podcasts. This list includes most of the tea podcasts I have found. Some have content but seem to be taking a break from publishing. Nonetheless, it is a great list to listen tea related podcast content.

The plan is to keep these three sources updated regularly. Then for the next step, I would like to have an easier way to share other tea blogs, which is cumbersome with the tools I use.

Hojicha Notes

This month I asked several people what they would like to read next to gather some ideas. It ended up in an interesting triple tie. See the image below. So this is what I have been working on this month. The hojicha post was published last Monday, a short note post with general information. It was fun to write a less research-intensive note post.

About the other two articles, I have been drafting a book review. It will be a book about Baisao. The Old Tea Seller - Life and Zen Poetry in 18th Century Kyoto translated by Norman Waddell. It is a fantastic look at a peculiar figure that shaped and created a whole tea culture in his time.

As for the tea region post, I am unsure how to tackle it and might instead do a quick round-up of the 4-6 better-known regions and work from there or take just one and go for it.

Screen capture of the instagram poll
Screen capture of the instagram poll

Tea events

In the last newsletter, I wrote about a Global Japanese Tea Association event coming up at the end of March. The Meet the Tea Farmer event featured the farm of Yuko Tsuchiya, a female farmer from Shizuoka. Her farm is located in the more mountainous region of Shizuoka, Kawanehoncho. Showcasing quite a different environment from the ones we usually see in the Shizuoka tea gardens in the flatlands like Makinohara.

One thing I really enjoyed about the conversation with the farmer was the high degree of detail on the collection of the leaves and her thought about brewing techniques. The two teas we drank during the event were a handpicked Sencha and a Houjicha made with Sencha leaves. I am working on a post about her teas. It will be posted in the blog sometime this next month, hopefully.

Books and other interesting reads

Following last month's newsletter, I would like to share what tea-related books I have been reading this April. Just a couple days ago, I finished Tea of the Sages - The Art of Sencha by Patricia Jane Graham. A book focused on the Sencha way of tea, a less-known tea ceremony nowadays.

Sencha tea ceremony was a cultural, even political, response to Chanoyu, a way of tea that is easily associated with Japan when we talk about tea culture or Japanese culture. The book is a deep dive into the origins and the complex relationship of the Sencha way of tea with the other Japanese way of tea, Chanoyu. I want to write a review once I am prepared to tackle such an endeavour. It was a fantastic book full of information and insight about Japanese tea culture and the artists, craftspeople and other figures that shaped it.

Other fun stuff

This summer, I will be participating in the summer edition of the GJTA Master Course. I am excited to participate in it and will take the opportunity to visit some places during my stay in the country after the course. For now, the plan is to travel North Kyushu, Kansai and a couple days in Tokyo. Perhaps Some quick stops in Hiroshima and Shizuoka. If you have any recommendations, I welcome suggestions for the trip, both tea and non-tea related.

As a final note, I made some advances in a better system for keeping the notes posts updated and interconnected. It would be a better but similar way to the one I shared in the last newsletter. I will update you on that next month, as it is still an early work in progress.

As always, you can help the blog by sharing this newsletter or any of the blog posts and sharing it with a friend or family member that could enjoy it.

Get letters from this garden into your 📬