The Hayashi Family’s Kirishima Tea Garden

Shutaro Hyashi is part of the fifth generation of the Hayashi family. Together with his father and his uncle he is currently running the family’s tea garden, which was founded in 1897 by Shutaro’s great-great-grandfather on top of a plateau at the foot of the Kirishima Mountains. Most of the family’s tea garden plots are situated on a vast area which is almost completely surrounded by forest. The family’s small building, in which the tea is processed, was built in a central spot amongst the relatively small teagarden plots. This creates very short routes of transportation for the freshly harvested tea leaves, which can then be processed without any traces of oxidation. A variety of different tea cultivars, e.g. Asatsuyu, Yabukita, Kanaya Midori and Zairaishu (seed grown tea bushes) are the foundation of a very facetted range of teas.

Map of Japan showing KagoshimaShutaro’s father Osamu began with pesticide free cultivation in 1993 after his discomfort with the use of pesticides in tea cultivation grew each year. Shutaro’s father decided to switch to organic cultivation step by step. On the one hand the anxiety about negative health effects of spraying pesticides, which would linger for several days, and on the other hand the observation that the pesticides kept losing their intended effects with each application.

The teagarden’s fifth generation – Shutaro’s generation – grew up with organic cultivation methods in the teagarden and got used to the ecological way of cultivation and the challenges that are caused by these methods every day. Compared to the previous generation, which had to put many efforts into the transition to pesticide free cultivation, the fifth generation is in a situation in which organic cultivation methods are self-evident. This situation is also the potential for the creation of first class teas:

After graduating in tea studies (the focus of his agricultural sciences degree), Shutaro Hayashi returned to his family’s business. He became the person in charge of certain teas, including the Kirishima Tennen Gyokuro Asatsuyu, while his uncle is still in charge of most of the other tea sorts. Meanwhile, Shutaro’s father is focused on the implementation of an elaborate system for dealing with pests in an environmentally sound way. This gives Shutaro the freedom to make use of the knowledge he gained during his studies in aiming for the perfect tea. It is hardly surprising that he is mainly using the tea bush variety Asatsuyu in this ambition, since Asatsuyu is known for its natural sweetness and its fantastically green colour when infused.

Shutaro is able to make use of the rare tea variety Asatsuyu thanks to his father’s knowledge of organic cultivation and the vast pool of experience the family was able to amass in five generations. In addition, he is also able to work with his family’s own processing site, which would not be available to a young tea farmer because of the high investment costs that would be necessary for such an undertaking. This is the ideal basis for Shutaro’s way of working, as he is able to think outside the box by re-evaluating the usual methods of processing and modifying the time periods and the temperature during steaming, rolling and drying the tea leaves.