The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Where Japan's Tea Grows
Kyushu Island
Kyushu is Japan's southernmost island and its tea gardens thrive in the north-
ern and southern regions.  Kyushu Island was once considered the gateway in-
to Japan from
China and Korea.  To the north of Kyushu lies one of the world's
largest volcanoes, Aso-San, with a huge five peak caldera.   
Kyushu has been growing
tea for centuries and has kept
up with the times (as far as their tea industry
is concerned).  

From the fields, where the tea is planted in
perfect, concise rows allowing for large high
volume mechanical harvesting machines that
give an even pluck, to the shiny bright state-
of-the-art factories that process it, the tea
industry here is one of the most modern and
efficient.

Because Kyushu is the southernmost tea
produc- ing region in
Japan, spring arrives
here first, meaning it provides the
first spring
teas of the season.  Called shincha, this can
be any tea harvested first, from sencha to tencha to matcha.

Kagoshima prefecture lies to the south and is Japan's second largest
tea producing area next to Shizuoka prefecture on Honshu Island.  
The Bay of Kagoshima protects the city from the volatile active vol-
cano, Sakurajima, lying to the west of Kagoshima City.

Kagoshima's climate is ideal for growing tea, with warm air and cool
bay breezes. The rich, purely vegetal tasting tencha leaves used to make brothy, full flavored
matcha are grown here.  Produced from the Sakurajima variety of tea bush, the bushes are
shaded and covered with traditional black
kabuse nets.

Other teas grown in Kagoshima include kam-
airi-cha (or kamairicha), a
green tea that is
pan-fired and hand rolled in large metal pans
or woks over a regulated heat source much
like
Chinese pan fired green teas are, rather
than steamed like most other Japanese teas.

The best matcha is also grown here, coming
in early spring as shincha in the preharvest,
before the main harvest begins.

Because of the large areas of flat terrain,
some of Japan's largest tea farms are on
Kyushu Island.  This means most of the tea
         is able to be planted in rows wide enough to accommodate the girth of the large high
         volume mechanical harvesters.

         Because it can produce large quantities of tea economically, Kagoshima produces the
         cheapest teas in all Japan.  But what it gains in economy, it loses in quality.

         They also grow Kagoshima sencha and a tea that's called "
gyokuro
         sencha," which is an entirely sun grown tea that still produces the
         higher levels of amino acids as that of shade grown teas.  The end
         result has the lemony flavor of a sencha with the mouth filling veg-
         etal flavor and brothiness of a gyokuro.

         Going north you'll find the Kumamoto and Miyazaki prefectures which
         also grow sencha.  In the far north are Fukuoka and Saga prefec-
         tures, contributing flavorful, sweet
sencha and gyokuro teas. Kamairi
         cha is produced in Saga, located in the Ureshino region, and the
         Yame region, located in Fukuoko, is Japan's largest producer of gyokuro.

         Last but not least is bancha which grows in all three tea producing regions,
Uji,
         Shizuoka, and Kyushu.  Bancha is harvested about 15 to 20 days after the younger
         sencha shoots have been harvested.

                                                         Bancha leaves are larger and tougher, but as the season
                                                         goes on the chemical composition of the leaves change.
                                                         By the time harvesting begins the smooth, mild tasting
                                                         polyphenols have been replaced by more harsh astrin-
                                                         gent ones, along with losing the majority of amino acids.

                                                         The end result is a more lemony tasting, lighter tea.  It
                                                         might not have the refinement or smoothness of
         sencha, but it's still a nice everyday sipping tea and is great as an
iced tea.  Enjoy.



      For more information or to learn more about tea, visit our
      other pages:

      Which three teas is India most famous for?



   
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