Tea Estates - Japan
Experience the "Unique" World of Japan Tea
The perfect word to describe the world of Japanese teas is "unique." Tea came to Japan from China during the eighth century, and it seems that Japan has spent the following 1,200 years figuring out different ways to do and make tea.
First, almost all Japanese teas are steamed during the processing. This imparts a singular element to the flavor profile of all Japanese teas. Some people call it "the taste of sea."
But the uniqueness doesn't stop there. There is the Japanese tea ceremony. There are many cultivation and processing techniques only used in Japan. Some examples are: controlling the shading over plants to produce different teas, having the most prized tea composed of ground powder of tea leaves, using blending of different teas to create the highest grades, having twigs and stems as part of the tea blends, and elevating mechanization of the growing and manufacture of tea to an art form.
Uniqueness and innovation are the hallmarks of the Japanese tea industry. And these traits lead to tastes, textures, and sensations that can be found nowhere else in the world of tea.
Shincha ("first tea") is the most highly anticipated tea in Japan. Harvested on May 2nd, 88 nights following the traditional Japanese Lunar New Year, these are the first new shoots as the plants come out of dormancy in the spring. Shincha is often pre-sold in Japan with signs everywhere noting its imminence. Legends say that drinking this "first tea" will lead to a long and healthy life. We will begin receiving samples of the 2014 lot in late spring and it is typically available in our retail stores by September.
Volcano makes great tea.
I arrived in Kagoshima, Japan around midnight and was whisked to my hotel. I had early meetings the next day I awoke, stumbled around, flung open my drapes, and was face to face with a smoldering volcano. That'll wake you up!
I was invited to Japan in November 2012 to meet with Japanese tea growers. Over the course of two weeks in Kagoshima and Shizouka (two of the premier tea-growing regions of Japan), I met with more than twenty small tea businesses. We visited tea gardens and factories, spoke with tea researchers, hung out with tea families, and drank lots of amazing tea.
I have a cool job. And I learned so much. In some ways, Japan's tea industry is one of the healthiest of all tea-producing countries. There are passionate, proud, young people coming into the industry, buying small gardens, and making incredible tea. Japan is also unique in their ability to marry hand-processing and modern technology in producing specialty teas. They aren't cheap, but these teas remind you of what it felt like when you fell in love for the first time.
The best part of these kind of trips is the beginning of long-term relationships with other folks who are passionate about tea. We are very proud of the new Japanese teas in our 2014 collection and anticpate many more to come!