The tea leaves are hand picked, generally by women and girls, after the manner seen in Fig. 194, where they are gathering the tender, newly-formed leaves into baskets to be weighed fresh, as seen in Fig. 195.
Three crops of leaves are usually gathered each season, the first yielding in Japan one hundred kan per tan, the second fifty kan and the third eighty kan per tan. This is at the rate of 3307 pounds, 1653 pounds, and 2645 pounds per acre, making a total of 7605 pounds for the season, from which the grower realizes from a little more than 2.2 to a little more than 3 cents per pound of the green leaves, or a gross earning of $167 to $209.50 per acre.
We were informed that the usual cost for fertilizers for the tea orchards was 15 to 20 yen per tan, or $30 to $40 per acre per annum, the fertilizer being applied in the fall, in the early spring and again after the first picking of the leaves. While the tea plants are yet small one winter crop and one summer crop of vegetables, beans or barley are grown between the rows, these giving a return of some forty dollars per acre. Where the plantations are given good care and ample fertilization the life of a plantation may be prolonged continuously, it is said, through one hundred or more years.
During our walk from Joji to Kowata, along a country road in one of the tea districts, we passed a tea-curing house. This was a long rectangular, one-story building with twenty furnaces arranged, each under an open window, around the sides. In front of each heated furnace with its tray of leaves, a Japanese man, wearing only a breech cloth, and in a state of profuse perspiration, was busy rolling the tea leaves between the palms of his hands.
At another place we witnessed the making of the low grade dust tea, which is prepared from the leaves of bushes which must be removed or from those of the prunings. In this case the dried bushes with their leaves were being beaten with flails on a threshing floor. The dust tea thus produced is consumed by the poorer people.
On the 6th of June we left central China for Tientsin and further north, sailing by coastwise steamer from Shanghai, again plowing through the turbid waters which give literal exactness to the name Yellow Sea. Our steamer touched at Tsingtao, taking on board a body of German troops, and again at Chefoo, and it was only between these two points that the sea was not strongly turbid. Nor was this all. From early morning of the 10th until we anchored at Tientsin, 2:30 P. M., our course up the winding Pei ho was against a strong dust-laden wind which left those who had kept to the deck as grey as though they had ridden by automobile through the Colorado desert; so the soils of high interior Asia are still spreading eastward by flood and by wind into the valleys and far over the coastal plains. Over large areas between Tientsin and Peking and at other points northward toward Mukden trees and shrubs have been systematically planted in rectangular hedgerow lines, to check the force of the winds and reduce the drifting of soils, planted fields occupying the spaces between.