Japanese Tea Report – April 2023

This year the weather has been warm and the spring harvest has started early. Almost every tea growing region from Nagaski to Saitama is reporting that the start of the season was about 5-7 days earlier than usual. The tea auction in Shizuoka opened on 13th April – earliest opening date in history. The hand-picked and hand-rolled tea at the Shizuoka auction sold for 1,111,111yen/kg (about 8,320usd/kg)

In other news from the Shizuoka Prefecture – Kikugawa Fukamushicha along with 4 other products from different regions was registered as the Geographic Indication (GI) this year. A Geographical Indication is a name of agricultural product, from which a specific geographical origin and established characteristics linked to that origin can be identified. The registration of 5 new products this year brings the total number of products with the Geographic Indication to 139.

The Tea Research Center in Shizuoka has also just registered a new tea cultivar name. Last year the research center invited the public to submit name suggestions and out of 164 submissions, the selected name was Shizu Yutaka. The main characteristics of this new cultivar is resistance to diseases and high yield (about twice as much as Yabukita). It is expected that the seedlings of this new cultivar will be available for 2024.

In Kyoto, the Tea Research Institute has just welcomed two new trainees on a year-long program to study about tea industry technology and management practices. One of the new trainees is a wholesaler from Uji, the other is the heir to the tea farming family in Mimaniyamashiro. So far 201 trainees have graduated from the program.

Uji City has also appointed two young men to the Ujicha Promotion Team. Until now the team was called Ujicha Ladies and accepted only women. To promote gender equality and break the stereotype that women are the ones making tea, the group was renamed and male members started to be accepted as well. A team of 6 people will participate in various events this year to promote Ujicha throughout the prefecture.

In a bit more shocking news, it was recently discovered that a black tea sold by a company in Osaka contained steroids. The tea imported from Indonesia was promoted for its effect against hay fever. Steroids, however are a regulated medical substance that can have serious side effects. So immediately after the discovery the company was ordered to halt the sales. The story is still developing.

Among the new products, a collaboration between a tea factory in Shizuoka and a sake brewery in Aomori has led to a new product – a craft sake from fermented rice and fukamushicha. In Tokushima a sake brewery has also created a nigori sake that uses lactic acid bacteria from awabancha in its fermentation.

In Kyoto a crowdfunding campaign was started for a new kind of teapot, called Chapod. The teapot is made out of resin, and is simply comprised of a body and a lid – like a modern version of a gaiwan. In Kyoto a tea utensils shop – Nishikawa Teisaburo Shoten, that has been running since 1917, has recently created a showroom for tea utensils. At the moment it is only for business negotiations, but in the future it will be open to the public on a reservation basis.

As some tea of this year has already been made, the Tea Hand-rolling Preservation Society in Mie went to dedicate fresh tea to Ise Jingu Shrine on 21st April and prayed for the prosperity of the tea industry in the prefecture. As the tea season goes forward many other tea events will be held in the coming days too. In Uji City, Kyoto Prefecture a tea picking event will be held on 2nd May. In Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture a tea picking event will also be held on 4th May. What a great way to experience Japanese tea!

The article is based on the Japanese media articles:

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