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Early/ Late Ripening Tea Cultivars

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You can enjoy tea at any time of the year. However, do you know that there is a difference in the tea harvest time depending upon the tea cultivar and the growing area?

In this article, I’m going to introduce the tea harvest time.

When is the tea harvest time?

Harvesting of the first tea crop begins in late March in early areas and continues until late May in late regions. However, this picking time varies slightly depending on the variety, latitude, altitude, and hours of sunlight. Among crops, the picking time for tea is short, and tea ready to be picked in the morning will begin to harden by that night. Therefore, to produce delicious tea, plucking must be completed concisely.

One of the purposes for growers to grow multiple cultivars of tea is to ensure this longer plucking time.

If all the teas grown by a producer were of the same cultivar, the short plucking period would be too quick to keep up with the work, and the shoots would overgrow, resulting in a loss of flavor and stiff leaves.

By growing multiple cultivar, the timing of plucking can be staggered slightly, and only by ensuring a long plucking period can all the shoots be plucked in their best condition.

What are “early ripening tea” and “late ripening tea”?

There are more than 100 tea cultivars, and the harvest time varies depending upon the cultivar.

Among them, there are “early ripening tea” and “late ripening tea ”.

Early ripening tea is a cultivar that picking time is early, and tea cultivars classified in this category are called early ripening cultivar.

Late ripening tea, on the other hand, is a cultivar that the picking time is relatively late. Cultivars classified in this category are called late ripening cultivar.

Farmers can extend the harvest time by around 10 days by cultivating a combination of early ripening, medium ripening (a cultivar that is used as a standard for picking such as “Yabukita”) and late ripening cultivars.

That makes it possible to pick all the tea leaves at the best time.

Are there many “ early ripening tea” in Kagoshima?

Taking advantage of the mild climate, tea is picked at the end of March in Kagoshima Prefecture. It is well known as “Hashiri-Shincha (Early-First picked tea),” the earliest tea to hit the market in Japan.

The second most widely grown variety in Japan, “Yutakamidori” is one of the most representative early-ripening cultivars.

Most of them are grown in Kagoshima Prefecture, where many other early-season varieties such as “Yutakamidori”, “Saemidori”, and “Asatsuyu” are also grown. To trade “Hashiri-shincha” as early as possible and at a high price, Kagoshima grows many early varieties in Kagoshima.

Representative cultivars of early ripening tea

There are many cultivars of early ripening tea, such as Sayamakaori, Tsuyuhikari, and Kuritawase, but the representative cultivars are Midoriyutaka and Saemidori.

“Sayamakaori”

It ripens 0-2 days earlier than “Yabukita”. Characterized by its rich aroma, it is grown mainly in Shizuoka, Saitama and Mie Prefectures. Contains a lot of catechin, so it has a relatively bitter taste.

“Tsuyuhikari”

It ripens 2 days earlier than Yabukita. The tea leaves are bright green and beautiful. It is grown especially in Shizuoka. It features a refreshing taste that brings out the flavor and sweetness in the astringency.

“Kuritawase”

This is a cultivar called “very early ripening” and, its picking season is particularly early among the cultivars of early ripening tea. It is grown in warm regions such as Tanegashima (an island of Kagoshima). It has sharp bitter and fresh sweet tastes.

“Yutakamidori”

“Yutakamidori” is fertile and has a high yield. It is the second largest cultivar in Japan. It is especially grown in Kagoshima because it is sensitive to cold. The unique cultivation and processing method produces a rich and sweet taste with less bitterness.

“Saemidori”

This is a premium cultivar that combines “Yabukita” which is easy to grow and has a well-balanced flavor, and “Asatsuyu” which is also called natural Gyokuro and has a strong sweetness and flavor. It has elegant taste with well-balanced taste of “Yabukita” and sweetness and umami of “Asatsuyu”.

Representative cultivars of late ripening tea

Cultivars of late tea ripening include Kanayamidori, Harumidori, and Okuhikari, but the representative cultivars are Okumidori and Benifuki.

“Kanayamidori”

It ripens 4 days later than “Yabukita” and is mainly grown in Kagoshima and Shizuoka. It has a characteristic milky aroma.

“Harumidori”

A cultivar born from Kanayamidori that ripens six days later than “Yabukita”. It is a high-class tea with extremely high quality as Sencha (steeped green tea).

“Okuhikari”

This is a rare cultivar that can be grown in cold regions such as mountainous regions. Its scent is strong and the taste is clear.

“Okumidori”

It has the third largest cropping area in Japan, mainly in Kagoshima, Mie, Kyoto and Shizuoka. “Okudmiori” has a natural sweet and mild taste. Its aftertaste is refreshing.

It also has a good fragrance, so it is recommended for people who want to enjoy the aroma of tea.

“Benifuuki”

It is the cultivar registered in 1993, which is short in history compared to other cultivars, but it is famous not only for green tea but also for Japanese black tea. It contains a lot of methylated catechin, so it has become a hot topic as a green tea with an anti-allergic effect.