by M. Watanabe
The women are talking cheerfully. “Irashai! Come in, welcome!” they say when we enter the roadside station (道の駅) named Osugi (大杉).
It’s a very humid day in June, and it has rained violently in Otoyo town, about one hour from Kochi. Beautiful river, green forest…and a little lonely roadside…along the road from Otoyo interchange, we can find roadside station, Osugi. Half of the place is a restaurant, the other half is shop. It is a little smaller than other roadside stations, but like other stations, some products were sold as usual..
Among the various products, something caught our eye because they have been advertized on TV recently. The prices of the products are about 1000-3000 yen! The name of the product is goishi tea (碁石茶)!
Goishi tea leaves are square, and the color is black, so it looks like “goishi” (the stone when we use on the game, igo (囲碁), Chinese game.) The taste and smell of goishi tea are similar to green tea in Japan(緑茶), but there are also a little sour taste and smell.
Kochi is suitable place for growing tea leaves. According Kochi prefecture’s website, tea trees called sancha (山茶) are growing naturally in Kochi and lands in Kochi are suitable for their growing. Almost all their growing areas are close to the upper reaches of big river. Fog appearing there make the quality of tea better. Tea made in Kochi are valued and are popular in Japan. About 80% of them are shipped to Shizuoka!. Green tea(煎茶), coarse tea(番茶), roasted tea(ほうじ茶), and etc…are made in Kochi. Otoyo is one of the famous place producing tea in Kochi.
According to the woman who is working at ticket counter Osugi and looks about 60 years old, surprisingly, it was not such a popular drink locally.
“Goishi tea was not drunk so much in Otoyo in the past” says the old woman at the ticket counter. “It was produced in Otoyo to sell to other town in the past. Goishi tea goes well with water that has a little salt, so it is sold the region where is able to get enough water including salt.”
“It is sold to Okubo to Tokushima or sold to Tajikawa to Ehime.” She explained, “I drank goishi tea with hot salty water”,like the past.
Goishi teas’ hometown is China or Myanmar and have long history.
According to the Otoyo town’s website and goishi cha museum’s (碁石茶博物館) website, goishi tea were exchanged for salt. The origin of goishi tea is said to be Otoyo from Unnan in China and Myanmar, and the history of goishi tea is very old. We can find it on the document in Edo period.
The number of farm producing goishi tea is only seven to eight now. This is one reason why goishi tea are so expensive and called phantom tea.
The old woman also told us how to produce goishi tea.
“At first, when the season is nearly now, in summer, farmers cut down tree-use hard leaves. Next, they steam the tea leaves. After that, farmers tear off them into the kouji (麹、malted rice) and ferment them. Fermented leaves are cut to square, the figure of goishi tea leaves, at last, leaves are dried completely by sun. The works are much influenced by the weather and are needed a lot of works. So it is necessary to employ some people. Farms employ local people in Otoyo. A lot of works and employments makes the price of goishi tea higher, this is also the reason why goishi tea is expensive.”
Goishi tea is good for our health? A man told us his interesting episode about goishi tea.
The clerk working a mountain villa, Kajigamori, is about 30-40 years old, and wearing spectacles gave us some cup of goishi tea kindly. In there, some cheerful women are about 50-70 years old were working with him. He said ”I challenged to go on diet, so I drank goishi tea. When I drunk it, I felt hungrier. So I went to doctor to know the truth. I found the answer then. Goishi tea can make our bowel movement lively. By that, it promote my appetite. That is why I missed diet is that.”
If we always take goishi tea, won’t we catch flu?
Goishi tea is said to be prevent from flu. According to one article by Kochi-shinbun (March 14th 2012), Kochi university and Otoyo town having investigated to reveal that, by having had students in Otoyo junior high school drinking goishi tea since 2009. From this investigation, students who are taking goishi tea tend to be harder to be flu. Goishi tea have the possibility of prevention of flu.
From these, we can know the power of goishi tea to our healthy and there are possibilities of promotion our life more.
The man working at a mountain villa, Kajigamori hopes goishi tea will be more famous for Otoyo.
Goishi tea has been introduced on TV lately. There are also some products related to goishi tea sold, for example, goishi udon, goishi tea yokan, goishi tea ice cream…and so on. Moreover, we can buy goishi tea on the internet, or Kochi city, Sunday market and Saenba town, and also we can drink it canned. It has drawn public attention as a healthier tea. Goishi tea has the role of attracting many people to the special character of Otoyo.