In 2017, Nara produced 1,730 tons of tea, making it the 7th largest tea-producing prefecture of the year.
The green tea produced in Nara is collectively called “Yamato tea” and it produces Kabusecha, Sencha(steeped green tea), Bancha and Tencha.
History of tea production in Nara Prefecture
Kobo Daishi (Kukai) was involved in origin of the tea growing in Nara Prefecture.
In 806, Kobo Daishi brought back tea seeds from Tang dynasty and gave them to his disciple Kenne, who is said to have planted those seeds in Butsuryu-ji temple.
It is also said that Kobo Daishi brought back a chausu (stone tea grinding mill) from Tang at that time, and that chausu is still kept at Butsuryu-ji.
After that, the tea culture spread mainly in temples, and in the Muromachi period, “wabicha” was born by MURATA Juko, who was a master of tea ceremony from Nara. “Wabicha” a tea ceremony that values the spirit of “wabi” (traditional Japanese aesthetics) led to the tea ceremony that was later completed by SEN no Rikyu and to the modern tea ceremony.
Nara is not only blessed with natural conditions, but also has a history of spreading and developing green tea due to the relationship with Buddhism as there are many temples, making it a rare tea production area in Japan.
Tea-growing areas in Nara Prefecture
Yamato tea is mainly grown in the Yamato highland area in the northeastern part of Nara Prefecture.
Yamato Plateau is a cool mountain area stretching across Nara City, Tenri City, Sakurai City and Uda City, and is a very suitable area for growing good quality tea because of its short daylight hours and large temperature difference in the morning and evening.
Because of the short hours of sunlight, tea grows slowly, and the leaves are rich in nutrients due to the temperature difference.
Among them, ‘Tsukigase tea’ made in Tsukigase, Nara City, is one of the well-known brands of Japanese tea.
Tsukigase is known not only as a green tea production area but also as a production area of high quality soil and a famous plum blossom spot.
Tsukigase is a mountainous region where green tea is cultivated, and it is said that tea harvest time is one of the latest in Japan.
The Shincha(First picked tea)is usually harvested around May 2nd, but Tsukigase tea grows slowly because it is grown in cool areas, and the first harvest may be in June. There is a big difference from Kagoshima where the harvest starts in early April.
About 80% of tea grown in Tsukigase is Kabuse-cha, which is characterized by its rich umami flavor.