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Tea Fit For Samurai: Miyazaki Prefecture

Posted on 07/14/2023

Miyazaki prefecture, known for its mountains and picturesque coastal climate, is located on the island of Kyushu. Mountainous areas are perfect for camellia sinensis “terraced,” sloping upward on steep hillsides. The rocky soil and elevation contribute to the tea’s terroir, ultimately producing a more ideal crop to be transformed into the perfect cup of tea. Miyazaki ranks 4th in the tea producing regions of Japan, producing up to 3800 tons of tea per year for domestic and international consumption. In Japan, everyday life is steeped in tea, and Miyazaki is no exception. Tea has been a part of life in the region for a long time, with tea gardens that have been passed through generations of tea farmers for hundreds of years. Its most famous landmark, Obi Castle, has a secret connection to the famed relationship between tea and samurai.

Obi Castle was founded by the Shimazu clan in the 1500s. The Shimazu were the feudal lords that ruled over the Satsuma domain, which spread over the ancient provinces of Satsuma, Ōsumi and Hyūga, modern day Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures. The ruins of the castle have been preserved and upheld for centuries, and they serve as a cultural icon and popular sightseeing destination. Its sprawling grounds are beautifully maintained, with luxurious gardens and a wealth of scattered buildings that have been converted into museums. Obi castle offers a snapshot of what it was like to live in the time of the Samurai, when tea was a symbol of status.

Obi is one of the many castles built in this era that had a dedicated tea room. Aristocratic lords of the period and the elite Samurai warrior class held lavish tea parties, but they were very different from the types of tea parties held by European aristocracy. Tea parties were occasions of merrymaking, where participants would feast before tea. After tea was enjoyed, a game called tōcha was played where the men gambled on guessing the differences between different teas in a taste test. While tōcha was enjoyed by samurai of varying rank, only the most wealthy and powerful had entire rooms dedicated to entertaining guests with tea. In some cases, lords would show off hundreds of pieces of fine imported art and artisan teaware to their guests.

At the time, it may have felt like the pinnacle of opulence indulging the tea fad. But in retrospect, we know that Japan was just getting started with tea. Over time, Japanese green tea would become renowned all over the world.

Miyazaki is known for its premium sencha, but it boasts a number of other tea varieties. We carry a number of teas from this region, including the selections listed below.

 

TJ06: BANCHA FIRST GRADE ORGANIC

Bancha is a traditional green tea. When it is processed, the leaves are steamed, rolled and dried. The leaves used to produce Bancha are larger and more mature than the leaves used to produce sencha, found lower down on each branch than the tender young buds. Their coarser texture stands up well to the steaming process, and the finished leaves brew a heartier cup.

TJ18: SENCHA YABUKITA ORGANIC

Sencha Yabukita is made from the famous Yabukita cultivar, which was first bred around the turn of the century in 1908. It was designed to be ideal for producing sencha. The plant takes root easily, is resistant to cold weather, and can thrive in the varying climates of different areas of Japan. Its tenacity makes it resistant to obstacles that would reduce the yield of less formidable cultivars. Because it is reliable and consistent, it is a tea that you can depend on to taste exceptional each harvest season.

TJ88: TAMARYOKUCHA ORGANIC

Tamaryokucha is known as “coiled” or “curly” tea for its carefully rolled and shaped leaves. Its distinctive fruit and berry notes differentiate it from other Japanese green teas, and it is desired for its attractive dark shade of green. This premium tea is likely not available at your local grocery store, because outside of Japan it is primarily sold by specialty tea retailers. If you are looking for a tea to enjoy that can withstand multiple infusions, this is an excellent choice.

 

These three selections are unique from one another. Why not sample them so you can try a game of tōcha at home? Impress your friends and family with your knowledge of Miyazaki prefecture while you sip teas like a samurai.

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