Where Does Japanese Tea Grow? This is a question we get asked a lot, so we thought we’d put together a list to talk about all the different locations where tea grows.
In this list, we will cover the major tea growing regions of Shizuoka, Kagoshima, Mie, Kyoto, Kumamoto and Miyazaki. 🇯🇵🏯🍵
Where Does Japanese Tea Grow?
The question where does Japanese tea grow has a lot of different answers. To sum up, there are 6 main regions where Japanese tea grow: Shizuoka, Kagoshima, Kyoto, Kumamoto, Miyazaki and Mie Tea. Rather than try to explain all of these locations in one section, we decided to break down each of the tea producing regions and rank them by how much tea they produce. Let's learn about where does Japanese tea grow with this complete guide!
Shizuoka tea farm - 40.3%
Shizuoka is the largest tea producing region in Japan with over 40% of green tea produced in Japan coming from a Shizuoka tea farm. 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.
What are the different kinds of Shizuoka green tea?
The Osada family have the perfect example of a Shizuoka tea farm. They produce the tea in a small town where the landscape is much flatter and more people live. This makes it easy for them to provide jobs to people in the towns nearby, without them having to commute too far for work. They still end up sourcing their tea from up in the mountains, from a collections of organic tea fields they refer to as “the organic village of isagawa”. Tea farmers have all agreed not to use pesticides or chemicals on their fields, and they all work together to form one large Shizuoka tea farm.
The tea produced on this Shizuoka tea farm is of great quality, and it really benefits from the mineral-rich mountain soil. This minerality is clear to see in a tea like the sencha isagawa or kukicha osada, which are both grown on this farm. You can feel the minerality of these teas as a tingling sensation on the palate. The flavor is slightly on the drier side with a hint of astringency.
If you are interested in trying other types of Shizuoka green tea, you can check out the bancha masudaen, genmaicha hagiricha or the gokou matcha kauai. Shizuoka green tea doesn’t follow one specific taste characteristic, but a higher percentage of them are made from the yabukita cultivar, making these teas have a little bit more of dryness to them.
Shizuoka tea museum
The shizuoka tea museum is an entire museum dedicated to shizuoka green tea. In one section of the Shizuoka tea museum, you will be able to see and smell 50 different types of tea from all over the world, and see how they compare to shizuoka green tea. You even have the opportunity to take part in tea tasting sessions, matcha grinding demonstrations and much more! If you are planning a trip to Japan soon and you are interested in green tea, this can be a really fun and educational experience to take part in.
If you need help getting to the Shizuoka tea museum, it is located in Shimada and is accessible by car. It’s only a 10 minute drive from the Sagara Makinohara IC. The parking is free so it is very convenient if you decide to rent a car in Shizuoka for the day.
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:
Kagoshima Farms 19%
Kagoshima farms are responsible for 19% of the tea produced in Japan, making Kagoshima the second largest tea growing region in Japan. The Kagoshima farms we work with are 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.
Some of the Kagoshima farms we work with include Mr. Sakamoto’s tea farm, Mr. Kawaji’s tea farm, Mr. Nuruki’s tea farm as well as Mr. Henta’s tea farm.
Mie Tea Farms 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 Tea Farms 3.4%
Kyoto tea farms are among the most legendary in all of Japan.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 ceremonial matcha. As we discussed in other articles, much of the tea history in Japan can be traced back to a handful of spots in the area around Kyoto, making some kyoto tea farms the oldest in Japan!
Kumamoto Tea Farms 3.46%
Kumamoto tea has a reputation that far exceeds it’s size. Although kumamoto tea makes up only around 3% of the total tea produced in Japan, it is very well known for its production of Gyokuro and Tamarykucha. Of the farmers we work with, only one of them lives in Kumamoto and that is Mr. Fujisako. Mr. Fujisako focuses almost exclusively on the production of Tamaryokucha, a specialty kumamoto tea. This tea is called “curled tea” because the leaves are turned into a comma shape, rather than the needle shape that is common for other types of Japanese green teas.
Nestled in the central part of the Island of Kyushu, Kumamoto is well known for producing top-notch 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 Tea Farms 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. While a typical Japanese green tea like sencha is really strong on these grassy or steamed vegetable taste profiles, Kamairicha takes on more of these flavors of cashews, toasted almonds and caramel.
The flavor of Kamairicha is somewhere in between a sencha (unroasted tea) and a hojicha or fully roasted tea. If you like the flavors of your tea to be more in the warmer direction,
The Uniqueness of Miyazaki Tea
When you look at Miyazaki tea, you will find a lot of teas that are rare in the rest of Japan. Of course Kamairicha is a type that is pretty unique to this area, but there are also others to explore. Miyazaki tea can also include black tea and oolong tea, types you will rarely find in Japan.
To learn more about Miyazaki tea, we met with the farmer Mr. Issin in the small town of Takachiho. Here he not only produces the most famous Miyazaki tea kamairicha, but also a black tea and an oolong tea as well. Oolong is a partially oxidized tea and black tea is fully oxidized. This means the tea leaves are not heated immediately after harvest like they would be if the farmer were producing a green tea. Instead, Mr. Issin will wither the leaves by putting them on these bamboo mats and then accelerate the oxidation process. If he is producing oolong tea, he will later stop the oxidation process with heat.
Miyazaki tea can be made from a variety of different tea cultivars, including one named after Mr. Issin’s hometown of Takachiho. To produce the oolong and black teas, special tea cultivars are used like the Benifuuki. These cultivars show a little bit more bitterness so they do not work well for green tea, but during the oxidation process, the catechins are converted into Theaflavins, which smoothes out the taste of the tea.
Which is the most reputable japanese green tea farm?
After traveling around Japan for the past few years, we have visited dozens of different tea farms and sampled hundreds of different teas. It’s not enough to simply work with farmers that have a strong reputation, we like to visit them in person to see how they produce the teas and make sure that best practices are being used in terms of quality control and sustainability. As a result, every japanese green tea farm we work with has impeccable standards when it comes to their tea, and the final product speaks for itself. It is hard to say which japanese green tea farm is our favorite because they all emply different strengths and strategies. If you are interested in learning more about a particular Japanese green tea farm, you can find that information on the product page of each of the teas we sell.
Apart from Japan, where does green tea grow?
You may be wondering where does green tea grow other than Japan? Japan is actually not the largest producer of green tea, and it's not particularly close. China and India are the largest producers of tea in the world, by a pretty significant margin. While India mostly focuses on black tea, a majority of the tea production in China is green tea. Japan ranks tenth on the list of tea producing countries, but it likely has the largest percentage of its total output devoted to green tea. So finally, the answer to the question where does green tea grow can be answered by looking at countries like China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia etc.