Ishikawa Prefecture is famous as the birthplace of ‘Kaga- bocha’ but it is not an area where tea growing is popular. Although the production volume is extremely small, the fact that Ishikawa has a certain reputation as a tea production area is probably due to strong brand power of “Kaga- bocha”.
History of tea production in Ishikawa Prefecture
Ishikawa has been growing tea since the Edo period. It is said that tea growing was started by the order of the lord of Daishoji Domain in Uchikoshi Town (as of now). The tea culture in Ishikawa was greatly influenced by the fact that MAEDA Toshiie, the founder of the Kaga Domain, learned the tea ceremony directly from SEN no Rikyu. In addition to that, the tea cultivation and production methods were brought to Ishikawa from Uji, Kyoto.
It was in the middle of the Meiji period that “Kaga-bocha”, a well-known brand of tea in Ishikawa, was born. It was triggered by roasting the stems of tea after Sanbancha (third picking) which had been thrown away before.
However, a cold climate with short sunshine hours was not suitable for growing tea, and many tea plantations were lost in the field improvement project in the late 19th century. After that, the Uchikoshi Tea Industry and Agricultural Cooperative Association created a new tea garden to protect tea production, and only a few traditional tea gardens remain today.
Even now, the tea ceremony is popular in Ishikawa which is said to feature one of the best tea ceremonies in Japan.
Tea-growing areas in Ishikawa Prefecture
As I mentioned at the beginning, the amount of tea produced in Ishikawa is small. In the Edo period, Ishikawa was so famous as a tea production area that it offered tea to the lord of Kaga Domain, but tea is hardly produced now.
In addition to Kaga bocha, there are other types of tea such as ‘Nakai tea’ and ‘Wajima tea’ in Ishikawa, but these are also little known due to their small production volume.
Speaking of brand tea in Ishikawa prefecture, it is Kaga bocha.
Kaga-bocha is “Bocha” made in Ishikawa prefecture.
Bocha is the tea made from roasted stems, not tea leaves. Kaga-bocha is especially made by roasting the stems of the first tea. It is a kind of Hojicha (roasted green tea), and it is said to have a unique aromatic scent.
Since the tea production in Ishikawa is very small, it is almost the case that tea wholesalers in Ishikawa purchased tea grown in other prefectures for finishing and roasting.
Kaga-bocha is registered in Ishikawa Prefecture’s certified local food, and it is a specialty of Ishikawa. It was presented to the Emperor Showa, so it deserves to be called Meicha, high-quality Japanese tea.