14 May 2019 in Food Culture
Head to Japan’s tea-growing capital to become a green tea connoisseur – and sample the seasonal pleasure of shincha.
Some 200km south-west of Tokyo, Shizuoka Prefecture stretches out along the Pacific coast, a varied landscape of towering volcanic mountains and fertile farmland.
The region’s temperate climate, high rainfall and excellent water quality make it ideal for growing green tea, and the local tea, Shizuoka-cha, is prized throughout Japan for its exceptional flavour.
Around 40% of Japan’s tea is produced here. Plantations are dotted around the Prefecture, giving rise to a rich range of flavours. Take your pick from the light, aromatic softness of Shimizu-cha, the rich notes of Kawane-cha, or the famous long-steamed fukamushi-cha of Makinohara City.
Located in the west of the region on the shores of Lake Hamana, Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu is at the heart of Japan’s tea country. If you want to experience green tea in all its facets, this is the place to stay.
How about learning the art of infusing the perfect cup of green tea? Relaxing your body in tea-infused hot spring baths?
Or sampling the crème de la crème of green tea, the first-harvest of the season known as shincha?
At Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu, you can expect authentic ryokan hospitality combined with modern convenience. All rooms come with shoji sliding doors, low beds and lakeside views. Many feature tatami mats and some offer the luxury of a private open-air hot spring bath.
And, of course, you’ll be provided with your own complimentary Japanese tea set.
Tea is a central part of the experience at Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu. The resort has its own tea plantation overlooking the lake, where guests are free to wander. And, every evening, you can take part in organized tea tastings, learning about the local varieties of green tea from local experts.
During the workshop, your host is likely to teach you the perfect way to make green tea by transferring boiling water from cup to cup until it reaches 70°C. You may learn how to combine different teas to make your own original blend.
And you’ll probably get to try your hand at whisking matcha. Keep an open mind if you’re invited to eat used sencha tea leaves with sweet soy sauce: it’s actually a surprisingly tasty treat!
Other activities vary with the seasons. In autumn, you’ll learn to cook genmai tea leaves and blend them with autumn jukusei, a type of sencha. In summer, you’ll discover the art of making Matcha Ice. And in spring, you’ll sample different spring-like sencha teas.
Best of all, from late May until the end of June, you can enjoy a special experience revolving around the prestigious first-harvest tea known as shincha.
Every year, the first harvest from local plantations is eagerly anticipated by sencha connoisseurs. These first sprouts of the year are packed with rich nutrients such as amino acids, stored up by the tea bush over the winter and concentrated in the youngest buds. The resulting tea is sweeter, smoother – and highly sought-after.
Subsequent harvests each have their own personality, from the sweet first-picked icihbancha to the summertime nibancha (second-picked) and the milder end-of-season sanbancha (third-picked). But none are as revered as shincha.
During the shincha period, Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu hosts a number of special events. Every morning, you can sample 3 different types of shincha from Shizuoka Prefecture. Drip-brewed, each shincha is served in a wine glass so you can appreciate the fragrant aroma, vibrant colour and refreshing flavour that is so characteristic of the first-to-cup experience.
For dinner, treat yourself to a Shincha Tasting Set. Different dishes from your multi-course kaiseki menu are paired with different types of shincha using hot and cold water extraction to perfectly complement the food.
And what better way to round off your evening than with a shincha cocktail? The hotel’s bar serves up an original creation combining shincha with a herbal gin, offering a deliciously bitter nightcap.
Relax in tea
For the complete experience, head to the resort’s hot spring baths. There, you’ll find one of the indoor tubs features wicker baskets of green tea leaves floating on the surface. Why? Because the vitamins and antioxidants from the leaves are released in the water, helping to rejuvenate and soften your skin.
At Hoshino Resorts KAI Enshu, you’ll get to know green tea like never before – with new pleasures you may never have expected.