Centuries-old tea plants yield first-class tea—but only for those who live nearby

Continuing on our tour of Japan’s tea gardens with Lisa of TeaHaus and Eat More Tea, we pass through beautiful mountains . . .

lake mts_sm

to the Mandokoro tea garden, with tea plants that are 300—and maybe even 400—years old!

Lisa is third from left. (Photo courtesy of https://www.instagram.com/mandocoro.cha/)

This region (in Shiga Prefecture) has many small gardens that supply the garden owners and their families with tea, and runs somewhat like a co-op.

After harvesting their leaves, each landowner will include, with their tea, a wood block with their name on it. As the tea is processed in the blending house, this block stays with the tea so that it returns to the correct owner.

facility mandokoro 1

The processing facility has an older machine that rolls and cuts the leaves to make them more uniform. The motion is circular, unlike more modern equipment that has a back and forth motion.

facility mandokoro 2

You can see the tumbler behind the table in the break area. This does the same thing as that multi-story tumbler at Tsuchiyama (see earlier post).

break room mandokoro

To make white tea, the leaves are spread out (everywhere!) to simply wither.

making white tea

Unfortunately, younger people aren’t much interested in plucking tea, and as of now, nearly all the pickers are in their seventies or older! And perhaps two-thirds of the tea goes unpicked!

Thus, small quantities of tea are produced, making them rare. Added to the general decline of tea consumption in Japan (although 90% of all tea produced in Shiga Prefecture still remains in the country), the future of these teas is uncertain.

Other disadvantages is that, currently, these gardens:

  • accept only cash
  • have no way to accept foreign currancy
  • have no website in English
  • have no distribution channels to make their tea available outside their region

In other words, unless you travel to Mandokoro, you aren’t going to be drinking their tea.

Yet we really want to be drinking their tea!

tasting mandokoro
Enjoying tea that has just been plucked but not processed at all.

This tea is all hand plucked . . . from ancient plants . . . grown high in the mountains (and therefore unlikely to have contaminants). Plus, it’s amazing.

In the meantime, follow Mandokoro on Instagram, and hope that before too long you will have the opportunity to try some for yourself! Because, yes, thankfully, people are working on that.

lisa at mandokoro

Join Lisa on her tour of Japan’s tea industry:
–Eh? Nani? Kore wa nan desu ka? Why does this anime have a stick floating in the tea?
–Pottery and Tea in Shigaraki, Japan
–One Japanese Tea Garden, Many Teas
–Why Are Matcha and Gyokuro So Expensive?
–Touring a Tea Processing Facility in Japan
–A Look at Japan’s Tea Industry in Shiga Prefecture
–Tea in Early Japan: A Poetic Beginning

Photos by Lisa, except where noted

Buy Japanese teas at TeaHaus!

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