Today was spent in Saga prefecture searching for black tea. Black tea is a rare find in Japan, with annual production less then 1% of the total volume of tea made. While it is a growing market, domestically, Japanese generally prefer the green stuff or foreign bought black tea (India, Sri Lanka, etc).
That being said the quality and variety of black tea in Japan is surprising. Often made from one varietal, mainly yabukita or benifuki, Japan’s black tea offers depth and body while remaing very calm and balanced. The teas are in the “gentle” category and lend themself to being brewed with soft water (much like green tea).
We toured 2 farms in the town of Ureshino, home to the famed kama-iri cha. Kama-iri is a green tea pan fired like Chinese teas, instead of the usual steaming. Black tea production here starts on the second flush in June. If they try to produce black tea with the high quality first flush leaves the tea wont become the proper color black. So interesting,
While there was also tasted a few brisk blends of black tea from Mie prefecture which I hope to be carrying in the next few weeks.
Again, the production of black tea is small and the producers are learning the ins and outs of technique. As it goes in Japan, the commitment to learning and studying the “way” of making good tea is strong. We were inspired by the producers striking out and building a strong market for a new product. Kettl will be happy to support them! Look for black tea at http://shop.teawing.co soon!
Special thanks to Tatsuya san, a very talented young farmer/producer from Ureshino. I dropped my cameras lens cap out the window of our moving car while shooting (lost forever). Within 1 minute of seeing me, he noticed it was missing, went to the back and grabbed an extra he had, and happily gave it to me. The hospitality and thoughtfulness of Japan is beyond inspiring. So grateful to all the kind folks who have been supporting our trip! THANK YOU