The World Is a Tea Party Presents: Your Guide to Japanese Teas – Main Tea Growing Regions in Japan

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There are 4 major tea growing regions. However, tea is grown almost everywhere in Japan for both commercial and private consumption with small, skilled, artisan tea farmers dotting the country. Tea-picking begins from Kagoshima and that warm southern region and gradually moves north to colder regions. The picked leaves are processed the same day so they do not lose freshness and taste.

growingregions2
[Map source.]


Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県)

  • Aka “Tranquil Hills”, “The Kingdom of Green Tea”
  • Tōtōmi, Suruga, and Izu provinces joined
  • Honyama is one of the tea producing regions in the prefecture – many tea gardens, benefitting from the rivers and mountains with a special aroma and taste unlike any other from Japan
  • Produces 40-45% of Japan’s annual commercial tea production
  • Tea from there is considered Japan’s best
  • Has produced tea for more over 800 years (green tea production there dates back to 13th century, when tea was introduced there from China)
  • Varieties: sencha, bancha, hojicha/houjicha, genmaicha, gyokuro, kabusecha, maccha/ matcha
  • 3 harvests (by hand/machine) per year: Spring (middle April to end of May), early Summer (late June), and late Summer (late July to early August)
  • Hand harvested and processed is highest grade, commercial grade is machine harvested/processed
  • Mostly small, family-run operations (in the same family for many generations), growing several varietals of tea

Kagoshima Prefecture (鹿児島県)

  • Made of the Osumi and Satsuma provinces plus the northern part of Ryukyu Islands
  • 20% of Japan’s commercial tea production each year is from here
  • Most variety of green teas – flavor has strength and richness
  • At southwest tip of Kyushu, includes a chain of islands stretching further to southwest a few hundred kilometers
  • Volcanic materials in the soil
  • Has a chain of active and dormant volcanoes, main one is Sakurajima, towers out of the Kagoshima bay opposite Kagoshima city
  • Climate is warm and humid most of the year, ideal for tea growing
  • Five harvests per year – early April thru mid October

Makurazaki Japanese Black Tea

One of the main cultivation regions of high quality black tea in Japan in the 1960s. In 1971 Japan lifted restrictions on black tea imports and most black tea farmers in Japan switched to producing green tea. A few in Makurazaki, though, continued producing these teas with their special flavors. Today, several remain, producing high-quality black teas that have been winning awards and gaining a reputation both in Japan and elsewhere.


Mie (三重県)

  • Made of Ise, Shima, and Iga Provinces plus part of the former Kii Province
  • In central Japan
  • Suzuka Mountains in northwest
  • Ise Plain along the coast where most of the people live
  • “Mie” name was supposed to have come from a comment made by a general returning from war

Uji (宇治市) in Kyoto Prefecture (京都府)

  • On the southern outskirts of the city of Kyoto in Kyoto Prefecture
  • Produces most of the finest teas but makes up only 4% of Japan’s tea production
  • Perfect conditions for cultivating high quality green tea: misty climate, sloping hills, a wide temperature range between day and night
  • By the Uji River flowing from Lake Biwa
  • Varieties: gyokuro (most is grown here, remaining fields are sandwiched between buildings and on hills sur-rounding the city of Kyoto), matcha (made from tencha leaves grown here, best quality), highest quality sencha
  • Tea plants first brought to Japan from China in the 800s but not taken seriously
  • Serious plantings began in 1100s
  • Tsuen tea shop has been selling tea since 1160
  • Cultivation of tea intensified in the late 1300s, promoted by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (ordered the expansion of the tea gardens that had been planted 300 years earlier)
  • Many of the ancient tea gardens are still producing tea today, providing most of Japan’s finest quality gyokuro, sencha, and matcha (made from tencha leaves).
  • In mid 17th century original Sencha rolling method started (by Soen Nagatani, a Uji tea producer), now used throughout Japan
  • In the 1860’s at the end of the Edo period tea masters created two new variations in growing Japanese teas; the sencha sun grown method, and the gyokuro shade grown method
  • Many tea farmers have already sold their tea gardens to make room for fast food restaurant franchises, shopping malls, apartment complexes, and office buildings
  • Just south of Uji’s world famous tea gardens that produce all of Japan’s most exquisite and expensive teas is Kyoto, Japan’s seventh largest city and important cultural center

Yame (八女市) in
Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県)

  • A famous production area for gyokuro
  • Produces the largest amount of quality gyokuro in Japan
  • Well-drained soil, cool temperatures, high-quality tea
  • Taste is rich and sweet and full of aroma

Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本市)

  • Tea gardens are in a mountainous region
  • Varieties: light, aromatic and delicately flavored sencha
  • Climate is humid, subtropical, hot and rainy Summers
    (June and July), cool Winters

Ureshino (嬉野市) in
Saga Prefecture (佐賀県)

  • Known for quality Sencha and Kamairicha
Tea Fields in Yame, Fukuoka, Japan
Tea Fields in Yame, Fukuoka, Japan

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