Introduction to Japanese Tea: Part 1

In Japan, tea is produced just about everywhere. Shizuoka, Kagoshima and Uji are three of the major tea- growing regions throughout Japan. Tea came to Japan from China in the 800s to Kyoto, just north of Uji by Buddhist Monks. Japan didn’t think tea was important and it wasn’t planted in the country until 1100s after another Buddhist monk popularized the health benefits of tea drinking. Today, the tea gardens that were planted in the 1100s are still producing today. They provide a variety of green teas most famously including gyokuro, sencha, and matcha (tencha leaves). Green tea has since then been a very important part of Japanese society and culture.

Shizuoka Tea Region

The Shizuoka growing region is also known as ‘The Kingdom of Green Tea’. Producing the largest amount of tea in Japan, this region lives up to its nickname. Shizuoka is responsible for producing almost half of Japan’s tea production between 40-45%. This region is located on the central coast of Japan, 150 km away from Tokyo, with a view of Mt. Fuji from the tea fields. Tea from the Shizuoka region is often referred to as the best tea in Japan. This region is mostly made up of small, family run operations growing a wide variety of tea. However, sencha tea is the region’s most famous variety, as they are the leaders of its production.

Kagoshima Tea Region

The Kagoshima region comes in second to Shizuoka for production rate. Kagoshima is responsible for 20% of Japan’s Tea. While other regions are leaders in a specific type of green tea, Kagoshima is the region that has the most variety of green teas grown. This region is in a volcanic region. There are many active volcanos nearby often leaving ash on the tea leaves to be washed off! Originally this region was insignificant to Japan’s tea production and only after WWII did they grow. Due to this, Kagoshima was seen more for its cheap price in tea rather than its quality. However, after WWII this all changed and Kagoshima is now comparable to the quality of teas of that from Uji and Shizuoka.

Uji Tea Region

The Uji region is famous not for their size of production but rather their high quality. Only 4% of this region makes up Japan’s tea production. Known around the world for their high quality of green tea, gyokuro and matcha are two of the most famous teas from this region. Located in this region is the oldest tea house in Japan, Tsuen Tea. This tea house has been in the same location since its opening in 1160. Today, the Tseun Tea house is still open and in operation for visitors to enjoy a cup of tea overlooking the Uji river.

Sencha, matcha, gyokuro, and other Japanese teas are available at the Short and Stout Tea Lounge or our online store. Check back next time when we’ll discuss what the differences in these green teas are and what makes them so different!

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