Japanese Tea Report – May 2024

Japanese tea being more and more popular abroad, several prefectures have been working to encourage exports. Using the change of the upcoming olympics Tokushima Prefecture has set up a corner at a shop for Japanese products in Paris. Among the introduced products from Tokushima, there is of course the local tea – awabancha as well. Shiga Prefecture has also set to expand the export of its agricultural products including tea by establishing the Shiga Export Promotion Council. In recent years Kagoshima Prefecture has taken a lead in matcha production, and because the demand for it is still growing abroad, more factories are opening to produce it.

While tea exports are increasing, domestic consumption remains sluggish. Due to this the average price for spring harvest has fallen below the previous year in most cases. So there is a clear need to find new and innovative ways to sell and promote tea. Recently a new sleep-inducing ice cream was launched in Shizuoka. The ice cream includes tea umami components and is expected to raise demand for tea in a different way. A teashop in Gunma has started selling tea with a Meisen design. Meisen is a traditional pattern for silk kimonos, but the use of it has been fading out. By including the design into tea packages the shop hopes to attract the younger generation. In Nara Prefecture sake brewery has created a new sake with persimmon and local Yamato hojicha.

In Shizuoka Prefecture a new tea beer has been developed to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Fujieda City establishment. It blends the clean and refreshing taste of beer with umami and gentle astringency of tea. In Fukuoka a tea sweet called Cha no Mi has been around for more than 80 years. Not only is it filled with tea taste but it is also shaped to resemble tea seeds. The desert has been a popular choice for a souvenir from the prefecture.

Among other things with a long history, in Shizuoka there is a tea tree that is about 300 years old. On 3rd May the city officials and town people came together to pick tea leaves and harvested about 20kg. The processed tea will be distributed to the elderly in town as a lucky charm. On 1st May many places organized tea picking events to celebrate Hachiju Hachiya – the best day to harvest new tea. Events were held across Japan including Kyoto, Aichi and Saitama.

Hikone Castle Museum in Shiga has been having a tea jar – chatsubo exhibition, that displays 29 historic items. The exhibition will continue until 18th June. Sometimes large clay jars can be used in other ways than storing tea. In Kagoshima there has been a tradition to make hanzucha – tea roasted in a clay jar, but it has been almost forgotten. And a special event was held on 4th May in an effort to popularize the tea.

Idemitsu Museum of arts in Fukuoka is also holding an exhibition of spring and summer tea ceremony utensils. The exhibition is divided into two parts and features about 50 different tea ceremony utensils. Kyoto City Historical Museum has also opened an exhibition showcasing Uji tea through illustrations. The exhibition includes 45 items ranging from historic paintings to modern comic books and will be open until 23rd June.

Japanese tea sometimes makes it into popular culture as well. A new movie, called Kaze no Kanade no Kimi e, features a love story between a pianist and two tea farmer brothers in Okayama. The special screening was held on 12th May ahead of the nation-wide release.

 

The article is bases on Japanese media articles:

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