An experienced guide to the world of tea
Sencha, genmaicha, bancha, matcha—Japan’s legendary green teas are known for their refined flavor and impeccable production. Tea farms are privately owned, with recipes and manufacturing secrets passed down through the generations.
Interestingly, Japan’s tea farms are some of the northernmost in the world. This is made possible by warm ocean currents that produce a microclimate perfect for growing high-quality green teas.
Where we buy from: Saga Prefecture
Prior to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, Metropolitan Group purchased primarily from farms in the Shizuoka Prefecture of Japan. Following the accident, food safety was a key concern, so we shifted our focus to Saga Prefecture on the island of Kyushu, a region that wasn’t hit by the disaster.
In addition to being located considerably farther south than Japan’s northern tea districts, Saga’s farms also sit at much higher elevations. Here, tea is grown at around 2000 feet about sea level. Why is this important?
• Elevated levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants
• The higher tea is grown, the higher the polyphenol concentration
How Japanese green tea is produced
A hallmark of Japanese tea production is machine-harvesting. In most tea-growing regions, machine-harvest usually equates to inferior quality. In Japan, however, precision machine-harvesting results in a raw leaf quality that is almost unmatched in the world of tea.
Once harvested, the raw leaf is steamed to halt oxidization, then dried and sorted by grade. The finer the grade, the higher the price.
Another key aspect of Japanese tea production is the county’s three key harvest periods. Known as the “flush”, each period produces teas of varying prices. These are:
• 1st flush: April – May (Most expensive)
• 2nd flush: July (Mid-range)
• 3rd flush: Sept – Oct (Lowest price)
Metropolitan typically seeks out blends of 1st and 2nd flush, as the premium 1st flush reserves typically fetch prices that are so high, they are often sold to private collectors, or reserved for royalty.
What we buy:
What to look for in Japanese tea
High quality Japanese green teas are said to have a waxy appearance, with an almost silky smooth texture. In the cup, they should exhibit a deep grassy green color, with a smooth sweetness that deepens, the longer it is steeped.