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Japanese Tea Culture

Chashi and Hands Processing of Making Tea

There was a quiz show on TV and the speaker was asking to the guests, " "Seitoury", "Soukairyu", "Houmeiryu" are the names of the schools to teach one of traditions of Japan. Now, what those school teach? How to make : A. Tea, B. Zabuton (Japanese cushion), C. Bamboo crafts, D. Senbei (Japanese cracker) The correct answer was a "A" "how to process tea". Nobody picked the right answer, because many people don't expect that there is a school to teach processing the tea.
Shizuoka prefecture is now well known for the one of the high producing green tea area. However, in Edo era and in Meiji era, Shizuoka was behind on tea processing technique compare to Uji, Oumi(Shiga prefecture), Ise(Mie prefecture). Farmers in Shizuoka invited the specialists and learned the techniques from them. Those specialists were called "Chashi" in Shizuoka.
Needless to say, processing tea at those time was all done by hands. First, steam the tea leaves, and then roast the leaves on the Japanese paper for more than 2 and half hours. Tea was evaluated by its looking, taste, smell, and the color after the extracting; therefore, "Chashi" put a lots of effort on processing perfect tea. All the tea leaves are different depends on where they come from or under what kind of conditions the tea leaves were grown , so chashi needed to have an experience and deep knowledge about tea. It was very important to process tea beautifully. There was a competition for those hands processing for those specialists. And selected specialists started to teach own techniques to the pupils. The specialists who had many pupils to became specialists received kind of certificate of opening the school. End of the Meiji era, the form of Shizuoka style tea processing had finally completed. Those techniques are still practiced by people, and is a fundamental principle of the today's tea processing method in Shizuoka.

(Yoichiro Nakamura)