The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Where Japan's Tea Grows
Shizuoka Prefecture on Honshu Island
A few hours east of Uji and an hour south of Tokyo, in the shadows of Mount
Fuji, Japan's tallest peak, lies Shizuoka prefecture, Japan's largest tea growing
region.  The Akaishi Mountains which form the southernmost range of the Japan-
ese Alps ends in western Shizuoka prefecture.
With high elevations, rolling
foothills, an abundance of
rivers and cool mountain breezes, it provides
the perfect climate for abundant tea growth.
Over 50% of Japan's tea is grown in this
area.

In the central region of Shizuoka prefecture
lies Shizuoka City.  Suruga Bay protects this
area with a mild climate and frequent coastal
fog that provides abundant moisture, sup-
porting up to four tea harvests per year.

Sencha is the primary tea produced in this
region.  Fukamushi Ichiban Senchas are
some of the most prized teas grown here, as
they are made from the very first leaves
plucked during the beginning days of the First Sencha Harvest, comparable to China's Qing
                                                 Ming Festival, and India's First Flush Darjeelings.  Ichiban
                                                 means "the first," referring to tea that was produced from the
                                                 first most tender leaves plucked during the beginning days of
                                                 the tea harvest in early May.

                                                Ichiban senchas are some of the finest, most exquisite teas
                                                because they contain a concentration of compounds stored over
                                                the winter and released into the first new buds and leaves.

Also nearby, in the shadow of Mount Fuji,
lies Kakegawa, a small wedge of fertile land
on the coastal hills south of Shizuoka City.

Kakegawa has the most sophisticated tea
operations in the world. Huge metal fans
are out-fitted on the hills overlooking the
tea, protecting it from frost (the fans pre-
vent cold air from settling down low near
the plants which could kill the tender young
leaves and buds).

Tea factories are located every few miles
throughout the entire region, ready to pro-
cess the harvest on a moments notice.

It was Kakegawa tea makers that first in-
vented the fukamushi method of deep steaming after WWII.

         Their goal was to improve the quality of mass produced tea made from larger, tougher,
         less desirable and lesser quality tea leaves.  Even though the fukamushi method of
                                                          deep steaming only lasts 30 seconds longer than stan-
                                                          dard, traditonal steaming, it breaks the leaves up into
                                                          much smaller, thinner filaments which brew quicker and
                                                          impart a stronger flavor.

                                                          The Japanese have come to enjoy the flavor of Fukamushi
                                                          sencha so much that nearly all sencha is now deep
                                                          steamed in Japan.  Ichiban senchas have become so pop-
                                                          ular in Japan that they are now mass produced, some-
                                                          times with less quality.

         They have become so popular, in fact, that the demand has be-
         gun to exceed the supply, forcing
Japan to outsource manufactur-
         ing and import Chinese made senchas.  These are most often ex-
         tremely inferior quality, though, due to inferior soil and inexperi-
         ence producing this type and style of tea.

         Tea was first produced in Shizuoka during Japan's
Kamakura
         period (1185-1333).  Sencha is the main tea produced in Shizuoka
         prefecture and today over 40% of Japan's sencha production
         comes from this region.

         Shizuoka prefecture is also the second most famous producer of top quality
gyokuro, as
         well as producing bancha which is also grown in Uji and Kyushu.  
Enjoy.
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     pages:

     Where were Japan's first tea gardens located?

     Which types and styles of tea are
     grown in Japan?
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