Kyushu is the southernmost island in Japan and a great place to visit if you are looking to enjoy city life, nature, and delicious food. The climate is relatively mild all year round, and the culture of hospitality abounds.
Kyushu consists of seven prefectures, and each of these prefectures is famous for its tea production:
Did you know that Kyushu is one of the leading tea producers in Japan?
The chart below shows the top 10 prefectures that produced the most Aracha (荒茶, unrefined tea that will later undergo final processing) as of 2019.
The five prefectures in green letters are in Kyushu. The others are on the island of Honshu.
Japan's Top 10 Aracha (unrefined tea) Producers
As you can see, the chart above shows that Kyushu is a major part of Japan's tea production. (FYI: There are two more important tea-producing prefectures in Kyushu. Nagasaki ranks at 12th with 578 tons, and Oita prefecture ranks at 13th with 549 tons.)
In fact, 2019 was a huge year in the tea industry, as Kagoshima Prefecture's tea production amounted to 25.2 billion yen, surpassing Shizuoka Prefecture by 1 million yen for the first time in 50 years.
Kyushu could shape the future of Japanese green tea.
<CHARACTERISTICS OF KYUSHU TEAS>
Teas from Kyushu are known to have sweeter notes compared to other regions. People from Kyushu have a sweet tooth, so tea farmers and producers from this region cater to their taste.
Let's take the shading process as an example of Kyushu’s specular cultivation methods. Shading, or kabuse, is a process in which farmers drape a black cover —or, more traditionally, a straw cover over the young leaves. The leaves become sweeter, softer, and richer in umami when shaded for an appropriate period of time. The colour of leaves also gets darker, as they contain higher levels of chlorophyll.
Here is a comparison between Kyoto and Fukuoka.
|Gyokuro shading period||over 20 days||over 16 days|
|Kabusecha shading period||14-19 days||over 7 days|
|Sencha shading period||0-13 days||0-6 days|
Fukuoka's shading period before picking is much shorter compared to Kyoto. This results in leaves that are younger and softer, and that have fewer bitter or astringent compounds.
Another difference in tea production is in the cultivars. (A cultivar is a plant variety that results from breeding and selection.)
One of the most common cultivars in Japan is Yabukita (やぶきた). It is a variety that produces excellent tea leaves having a balance of sweetness, umami, bitterness, and astringency. In fact, it accounts for over 90% of production in Japan's largest tea-producing prefecture, Shizuoka, on Honshu island.
Yabukita is also a popular cultivar in Kyushu, accounting for approximately 77% of production in Fukuoka, and 35% in Kagoshima.
However, many other cultivars are grown as well. Some of the most popular cultivars in Kyushu are:
- Saemidori (さえみどり)
- Tsuyuhikari (つゆひかり)
- Okuyutaka (おくゆたか)
- Okumidori (おくみどり)
These cultivars are all known for their robust umami and sweetness.
We hope this short guide gives you a basic understanding of teas from Kyushu.
We especially hope that people who are new to Japanese green teas, as well as experienced tea-drinkers seeking sweeter varieties, will enjoy our carefully-selected teas from Kyushu.