Where Does Tea Grow?
Now that we’ve covered what tea is, and what it tastes like, let’s talk a little bit about where it currently grows. While most of the world’s tea is produced outside of Japan by countries like China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka, Japan still manages to produce around 85,000 tons of tea every year! Japan is broken up into different prefectures, and the prefectures in Southern and Central Japan all cultivate tea in some capacity. In the North, it is too cold to grow tea, as the frost can damage the tea plants beyond repair. Luckily, much of Japan has a mild enough winter for tea cultivation. The different tea producing regions are as follows:
Shizuoka 40.3%: Shizuoka is the largest tea producing region in Japan. Located right outside of Tokyo, Shizuoka is famous for its tea fields located right at the foot of mount Fuji. As far as tea cultivation goes, Shizuoka has some of the most northern plantations, which means the winters are longer. Here farmers typically grow the more frost resistant Yabukita cultivar, and they use different techniques to keep the plants warm during the winter. You may notice green fans blowing air onto the tea fields to keep them from getting frostbite.
Kagoshima 19%: Kagoshima is the second largest tea growing region in Japan, located in the far south on the island of Kyushu. In this volcanic, subtropical region, the winters are much milder, allowing farmers to produce a wider variety of tea cultivars. You will tend to find sweeter teas produced in Kagoshima, as the farmers are able to grow more delicate cultivars like Okumidori, Saemidori and Asatsuyu.
Mie 6.9%: Located right by the old capitals of Kyoto and Nara, lies the coastal prefecture of Mie. In addition to producing the common Yabukita cultivar, Mie is also famous for its production of Sayamakaori and Okumidori teas. It is also the largest producer of green tea to be used for desserts!
Kyoto 3.4%: In the cultural heart of Japan, there are still tea farms that grow and process green tea. Although Kyoto is a densely populated city, the areas surrounding it are covered in tea fields. Areas such as Wazuka, Uji and Ujitawara all produce green teas, but they are most famous for their production of matcha tea. As we discussed in the previous chapter, much of the tea history in Japan can be traced back to a handful of spots in the area around Kyoto!
Kumamoto 3.46%: Nestled in the central part of the Island of Kyushu, Kumamoto is well known for producing top not green teas. Within Kumamoto lies the city of Yame, which has become famous for its production of sweeter specialty teas like Gyokuro and Kabusecha. Although the area is small, Yame consistently produces the top Gyokuro in all of Japan.
Miyazaki 3.39%: Located on the Eastern coast of central Kyushu, the mountainous Miyazaki prefecture is home to a rare Japanese green tea called Kamairicha. Kamairicha is made in the Chinese style, which involves turning it in a hot pan to release the warmer flavors from the leaves.