In 2018, Saga produced 1,270 tons of tea. It is the prefecture with the 7th share this year. It is also the No. 2 producer in terms of the production volume of Tama-ryokucha (green tea), also known as ‘Guri-cha’.
Cultivated varieties include ‘Yabukita’, ‘Saemidori’, ‘Saeakari’, ‘Sakimidori’, ‘Asatsuyu’, ‘Okuyutaka’, and ‘Okumidori’.
History of green tea production in Saga Prefecture
The green tea growing started in the Ureshino district in the southwestern part of Saga.
In 1440, Ming potters moved to Ureshino and began growing and producing green tea.
In 1504, Hong Lingmin, another Ming potter, brought the Nanjing pot along with the pottery culture and introduced the method of manufacturing Kamairicha.
The method of manufacturing Sencha(steeped green tea) was developed in the Edo period, so Kamairicha of Ureshino had already been produced before Sencha spread in Japan.
Ureshino became a major production area in the early Edo period, when YOSHIMURA Shinbei of the Saga clan cut open the Ureshino forest, improved the method of manufacturing the Nanjing pot, and promoted the green tea industry, which greatly expanded the amount of cultivation.
At the end of the Edo period, Ureshino tea was exported by OURA Kei, a woman trader in Nagasaki.
This is considered to be the first tea trade by the private sector, and it was 100 years before the port of Yokohama was opened and Japanese tea was officially exported.
Tea-growing areas in Saga Prefecture
There are many green tea growing areas in Saga Prefecture, including Takeo City, Imari City, Shioda Town, and Kitahata Village. Ureshino City is the most famous for its tea production.
Ureshino tea is made mainly in Ureshino city in the southwestern part of Saga prefecture.
The Ureshino tea region is located in a gentle mountain area with a thick fog, and is suitable for growing green tea due to its warm climate and the duration of sunlight. The temperature difference in the morning and evening makes the green tea mild and gives it fragrance and richness.
Tama-ryokucha (green tea) is made in Ureshino.
Usually, tea leaves are straightened out, but the tea leaves of Tama-ryokucha have a unique rounded, curved shape (like a comma-shaped bead). It is also called ‘Guri-cha’,
Depending on the manufacturing method, there are ‘Steamed Tama-ryokucha’ and ‘Roasted Tama-ryokucha’. ‘Steamed Tama-ryokucha’ is made by steaming tea leaves and ‘Roasted Tama-ryokucha’ is made by roasting tea leaves.
Most of Ureshino tea is ‘Steamed Tama-ryokucha’.