Saitama Prefecture’s Japanese tea production is about 1% of the domestic production. Saitama is not a prefecture with a large production volume, but ‘Sayama tea’ is one of the three major teas in Japan along with ‘Shizuoka tea’ and ‘Uji tea’ and is also recognized as one of the top production areas of high-quality Japanese tea.
The production in Saitama is small because of its location.
In areas such as Kagoshima Prefecture, where climate and sunshine are favorable, tea can be harvested up to five times a year, while in Saitama, which is a cold region for producing tea, it can only harvest twice a year.
In addition to this, due to the small cultivation area, the amount of tea production has to be small.
History of green tea production in Saitama Prefecture
It is said that the green tea production in Saitama prefecture started in the Kamakura period.
It was triggered by the tea tree planted by the Priest Myoe in Kawagoe.
During the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the green tea from Saitama was popularly known as ‘Kawagoe Tea’ and from around this time, it was known as the tea production area of the eastern provinces.
It was in the late Edo period that tea cultivation started in earnest in Saitama. YOSHIKAWA Yoshizumi and MURANO Morimasa of Miyadera in Iruma City have succeeded in mass-producing of steamed green tea, adopting methods from Uji, Kyoto. Gradually, tea cultivation became popular as a specialty of Saitama prefecture, and areas where tea was cultivated also expanded.
During the Meiji period, Kawagoe tea was integrated into the ‘Sayama tea’ brand for export, and has become a representative crop of Saitama.
Tea-growing areas in Saitama Prefecture
The green tea growing area of Saitama is scattered all over the prefecture, but the main one is around Iruma City where the Sayama tea is cultivated.
‘Sayama tea’ is made mainly in Sayama City, Iruma City and Tokorozawa City in western part of Saitama Prefecture.
Although it is called Sayama tea, its cultivation is more popular in Iruma than in Sayama, because Iruma has a lot of rain and is well drained, making it suitable for green tea cultivation.
There is a Sayama tea picking song that is said ‘Shizuoka has the finest color, Uji is the finest fragrance, and the tea with the best taste is Sayama’ which is highly evaluated for its deep flavor.
Sayama tea has a unique finishing technique called ‘Sayama Biire’(roasting method). It is a traditional method to heat strongly in the process of finishing green tea. This makes the tea rich and flavorful.