Japan is an important producer of speciality tea in the world. Much of Japan’s production is green tea and machine-harvested. Tea is grown in the mountainous areas in two Southern islands of Kyushu and Shikoku in the Southern part of the main island Honshu, between 310 and 360 N latitudes. Notable growing regions, ranked by tea production, include:
i) Shizuoka Prefecture
ii) Kagoshima Prefecture
iii) Mie Prefecture
iv) Kyoto Prefecture
v) Miyazaki Prefecture
vi) Fukuoka Prefecture
Only the China type bushes are cultivated in Japan. However, a number of frost tolerant hybrid clones with bigger leaves have been developed and these are becoming popular. Yabukita is the most popular clone, possessing a very high level of quality. Tea in Japan is peasant cultivation, the average size of holdings being less than a hectare. Those having more than a hectare of tea generally do not cultivate other crops but those having less, grow other agricultural crops like rice.
In Japan, tea plants flushes four times in a year, and two or three of them are utilised for plucking. Green leaves plucked and collected by the growers are carried by cargo lorries to the factory. There are three kinds of factories-a farmer’s own factory, a co-operative factory run by several farmers together and a factory which buys tea leaves (bought leaf factory).Now co-operative factories manufacture the bulk of the leaves. These co-operative societies are members of a co-operative association of a prefecture, which, in turn, are members of a central association located in Tokyo. Tea thus processed and dried in the co-operative factories are put in bags as crude tea. These crude teas are sold to the processing factories where firing, sifting, grading, blending and packaging are done for the market.
Green tea is the main product. Japanese green tea is classified into six groups viz., Gyokura, Kabusencha, Tencha, Sencha, Tamaryokucha and Bancha.