It is relatively unknown that Kagoshima Prefecture’s tea production is the second most in Japan. Its volume is increasing year after year and getting close to the production of Shizuoka Prefecture. In 2017, it produced 26,600 tons, about 32% of the domestic production.
On top “Yabukita,” the prefecture’s main cultivar, others such as “Yutakamidori, “Saemidori,” “Asatsuyu,” and “Okumidori” are also common there. In particular, Kagoshima Prefecture is the largest producer of “Yutakamidori,” the second most popular cultivar in Japan after “Yabukita.”
This article helps you discover Kagoshima Prefecture’s history of tea production and tea-growing areas
Does Kagoshima Prefecture’s Sincha (first flush green tea) come the first in Japan?
Kagoshima Prefecture, as the southernmost tea-growing region of the Japan’s mainland, has a mild climate and long sunshine duration, which permits the earliest shipment of Shincha in Japan.
While Shizuoka or Kyōto’s usual picking season is from mid-April to early May, Kagoshima and Tanegashima start picking tea in early April and late March respectively. Their Shincha is called “Hashiri-shincha” or “Ōhashiri-shincha,” and shipped the earliest to the market.
A long shipping period also features Kagoshima Prefecture. It produces Sencha (steeped green tea) and many other teas from Ichi-Bancha (first tea) in April to Shuto-Bancha (autumn-winter tea) in October.
History of tea production in Kagoshima Prefecture
There are several views on the origin of tea cultivation in Kagoshima Prefecture.
One of them explains that some fleeing Heike warriors brought tea to Kimpō-chō-Ata-Shirakawa at the beginning of the Kamakura Period. Other says that they ordered tea seeds from Uji and planted them in Yoshimatsu-chō (currently merged into Yūsui-chō) during the Muromachi Period.
In the aftermath, the Shimazu Domain encouraged tea plantation. However, tea cultivation and production began in full scale only after the Second World War.
The late-comer advantage of Kagoshima Prefecture enabled early installment of equipment for a low-cost and mass production through mechanization, which pumped up output. The flat cultivation land also helped mechanization at a large extent.
The advanced incorporation of agriculture and the high number of large-scale farmers are also characteristics of tea plantation in Kagoshima Prefecture. Farms are well-managed municipally so that there are less abandoned farm lands. Its average farm acreage is very large thanks to mechanization.
Tea-growing areas in Kagoshima Prefecture
Located in the southernmost tip of Kyūshū, Kagoshima’s warm climate and long sunshine duration make tea cultivation easier in many areas of the prefecture. Minamikyūshū City, in particular, is the nation’s top municipality in tea production, even beyond any municipality in Shizuoka Prefecture, and the largest tea producer.
Teas grown in Kagoshima Prefecture are called Kagoshima tea collectively. Among them, Chiran tea is a well-known tea brand.
Chiran tea originally refers to a tea produced in Chiran-chō of Minamikyūshū City. However, three different brands of Chiran, Ei, and Kawanabe teas fell together in the category of Chiran tea due to the municipality merger in 2017
Kagoshima Prefecture’s long sunshine duration makes thick tea leaves with bitterness and astringency. To ease these flavors, preharvest cover culture was introduced and Fukamushi-Sencha (deep-steamed steep green tea) with prolonged steaming yielding a mild flavor became common. As a result, the liquid comes in its most characteristic dark green color.