It’s that time of year again – the season for the first flush tea. This time, let me introduce you to the tea from Kagoshima Prefecture, one of the major tea-producing regions in Japan.
Kagoshima is located in Kyushu – one of the four main islands of Japan, located in the southwestern part of the country. The prefecture is long and narrow from north to south and includes several small islands such as Yakushima and Tanegashima in the southern part. Kagoshima Prefecture is known for its rich nature, warm climate, historical sites, and hot spring resorts, making it a popular tourist destination.
The Tea Industry in Kagoshima
Kagoshima takes advantage of vast farmland and warm weather conditions, and its production volume has been increasing year by year. It accounts for about 38% of the national production, and according to data from 2022, it was the second largest producer in Japan after Shizuoka.
When does the first flush tea harvest begin?
Kagoshima, located in the southern part of Japan, has a warm climate and is a pioneer in tea production nationwide. While the first flush harvest in Japan’s largest tea-producing region, Shizuoka, begins around mid-April, many areas in Kagoshima start the harvest around early April. In the remote islands of Kagoshima, such as Tokunoshima and Tanegashima located further south of the mainland, the harvest begins in late March.
What are the characteristics of the flavor of Kagoshima tea?
Kagoshima has many tea farms located on flat land without high mountains like Shizuoka and other prefectures. As a result, the tea leaves receive plenty of strong sunlight in southern regions and then become shiny with a deep green color.
Before harvesting, the tea leaves are covered with black materials in many farms to promote an increase in the umami – amino acid component. This results in a flavor that is rich and full-bodied with a harmonious balance of sweetness and astringency.
On the other hand, Kirishima is an exception, which is one of the few mountainous areas in Kagoshima, the tea has a pure aroma and refreshing taste that is characteristic of the area.
A Wide variety of tea cultivars grow in Kagoshima
You may have heard of “Yabukita,” a popular tea cultivar that is the most widely grown in Japan due to its fast growth and resistance to disease and cold weather. In fact, Yabukita accounts for 75% of all tea cultivation in Japan. On the other hand, in Kagoshima, various cultivars are grown, including Yutaka Midori, Saemidori, Okumidori, Kanayamidori, and many others. Each cultivar has its own unique flavor, aroma, and color, and the cultivation methods also contribute to the individual characteristics of each tea farm.
Yutakamidori and Saemidori are particularly representative varieties of tea in Kagoshima, known for their rich flavor with a strong umami taste.
Fukamushi – Deep steamed tea is the mainstream in Kagoshima
With warm weather and plenty of flat land, tea leaves grow faster and thicker in Kagoshima. The green tea produced in the mountainous regions is steamed for only about 30 seconds after being harvested, while deep-steamed tea is steamed for 60 to 180 seconds. By steaming it longer, the astringency and fresh scent of the tea leaves are reduced, resulting in a mellow and full-bodied flavor. So if you don’t like the astringency of green tea and prefer a smoother taste, then Kagoshima’s fukamushi (deep-steamed) tea might be just your cup of tea!
How to brew delicious fukamushi (deep-steamed) green tea
With long steaming time, fukamushi tea leaves become smaller pieces than regular Japanese sencha green tea. While the recommended brewing method for regular sencha green tea is 70°C (158°F) for 1 minute, fukamushi tea is best brewed at a slightly higher temperature of 80-85°C (176 – 185°F) and a shorter brewing time of 30-45 seconds.
Also, since the tea leaves are smaller, it is recommended to use a teapot with a fine mesh filter, so even tiny tea leaves will not come out from the kyusu. If you don’t have such a type of kyusu, you can use a strainer before pouring the tea from the teapot into the cup.
Minami kyushu city in Kagoshima © K．P．V．B
See my past article for more about kyusu: Choose the Best Japanese Kyusu For You – Teaware T Ching
LILIKU TEA is now offering a 2023 Kagoshima first flush tea tasting set. If you’re interested, please try enjoying the diverse range of teas from Kagoshima!
Editor’s Note: Akiko Ono will be speaking at the 2023 Midwest Tea Festival and will have a booth sampling Liliku’s Japanese teas.