Today is a special day! 88th Night (Hachiju Hachiya 八十八夜) is a Japanese holiday that celebrates the start of the year’s first tea picking and harvest. This first flush of tea is known as shincha, which directly translates to "new tea."
Hachiju-Hachiya is the 88th night counting from the first day of Spring in the Japanese calendar, and the day is a kickoff for the 2-3 week window that historically is the best time of year to harvest fresh Japanese tea. The day is often marked by fun tea events, like hand-harvesting and hand-rolling — and showcasing new tea! And how is the harvest this year? The teas are tasting quite good thanks to a cold winter, but a warmer spring means that all of the cultivars started to grow very fast — making harvesting a little more challenging.
88 is an auspicious number in Japan, and many claim that even a single cup of fresh Hachiju-Hachiya Shincha can promote health and longevity. (This is mainly because the brand new tea leaves have the highest concentration of stored nutrients from hibernating through the winter, and it's believed these leaves have the most health benefits.) Shincha is generally comprised of sencha-style teas, whereas tencha that's harvested to become matcha occurs later in the month after the leaves have been properly shaded.
We eagerly look forward to this special day to enjoy the year's new teas and celebrate with our amazing tea farmers and producers in Japan.
Natsu mo chikazuku hachi-ju-hachi-ya,
no ni mo yama ni mo wakaba ga shigeru.
Are ni mieru wa cha-tsumi janai-ka.
Akane-dasuki ni suge no kasa.
Hiyori tsuzuki no kyo-kono-goro o,
kokoro nodakani tsumi tsutsu utau.
Tsume yo tsume tsume tsuma-neba-nara-nu.
Tsuma-nya nihon no cha ni nara-nu.
Lyrics provided by the Japanese Ministry of Education
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