I proceed now to what relates to the culture of the Tea shrub, beginning from the first planting of the seed. And, in the first place, I must observe, that no particular gardens or fields are allow’d it by the natives, but that it is cultivated only round the edges and borders of their other fields, without any regard had to the soil. Nor are the seeds planted in one continued row, which would make them grow up into hedges, but at some distance from each other, lest the shrubs should come in time, by their shadow, to hurt the growth of the fields, or, by growing too close, prove a hindrance to the plucking of the leaves.
The seeds, as they are contain’d in their seed-vessels, are put into four or five inches deep holes, six at least, and twelve at most, in one hole; which number is requisite, because there is scarce one in four or five, that will germinate, the greatest part being nought, or grown rank, which they do in a very short time.
This, I mean the seeds being so very apt to rot, is the reason, why the planting of this shrub in Europe hath been hitherto attended with so little success. However, in order to raise it, which it would be better to do in Italy, Spain or Sicily, than in the colder parts of Europe, I would advise, to get it planted in the Country, where it naturally grows, and in large pots, fill’d with its native soil, and so to bring it over, it being a matter of no great difficulty afterwards to transplant the young branches and twigs at pleasure: But still it must be consider’d, that Plants brought over after this manner, will not, with equal success, propagate their kind in Europe, because in their passage through the hot Eastern ocean, they are very liable to be attack’d with a sort of consumption, or wasting, which makes them lose their vital strength, insomuch that their seeds will scarce ever come to be ripe and fit for planting.
But to return to the manner of cultivating the Tea in Japan: As the shrub rises, careful and industrious people will fatten the soil, where it grows, once a year, with human dung, mix’d with earth, which is neglected by others.
It must be, at least, of three years growth, before the leaves are fit to be pluck’d, which it then bears in plenty, and very good ones. In seven years time, or thereabouts, the shrub rises to a man’s height; but as it then grows but slowly, and bears but a few leaves, the way is to cut it down quite to the stem, having first gathered what few leaves it did bear.
The next year many young twigs and branches grow out of the remaining stem, which bear such a plenty of leaves, as will abundantly make good the loss of the former shrub. Some deferr the cutting of them down to the stem, till they are of ten years growth.
Japanese Tea: history of Darma
Japanese Tea: manner of cultivating the Tea in Japan
Japanese Tea: gathering of the tea leaves
Japanese Tea: chief different sorts of tea
Japanese Tea: tea for the Emperor’s court
Japanese Tea: use of the tea
Source: Engelbert Kaempfer: The History of Japan, London 1727
Photo: Ukiyo-e print, internet
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