Let us talk a little about our favourite tea-producing region of Japan - Yame city of Fukuoka Prefecture - a mountainous land in south-west Japan. Northern part of Fukuoka, especially Hakata port, has been a gateway to China in medieval Japan, and no wonder that first seeds of tea trees were brought back from China by Buddhist monks to this particular region, with first record of tea being planted in Seburi-yama mountain near Hakata by zen-monk Eisai in 12th century,
Yame, being situated in the southernmost part of Fukuoka, off the beaten track, didn't get it's tea history started until 1430, when another zen monk Eirin founded REIGAN-JI temple after coming back from China. Eirin, as did Eisai in 1100s, brought with him seeds of tea trees and distributed them among local farmers. At Reigan-ji, one can still find a tea tree planted originally by Eiirin.
Yame tea started to attain popularity in majour cities of Japan in 16th century. Later, in 19th century, production of red tea began to satisfy growing demand in the US and Europe. But with the introduction of tea tree to India and Sri Lanka, demand for Japanese red quickly vanished, and while it was still sold to alternative makets like Russia and Middle East, production of red tea decreased.
Nowadays, Yame contributes to only 3% of Japan's total tea production. But when it comes to GYOKURO - a premium shaded green tea, Yame accounts to more than 50% of all real Gyokuro produced (we will discuss the matter of real/fake gyokuros later).
Our YAME GREEN & YAME RED are sourced from gardens of family-run Harashima Estate in Yabe village - the most distant part of Yame city. Tea gardens are situated at the altitude of 500-600 meters above sea level (which is almost as high as You can get in Japan). Trees are covered in snow during winters; abundant mists and crystal clear spring water ensure great leaf quality, while moderate (for south-west Japan) climate enables organic farming (now under converison officially).
What we love about Harashima-san, the owner of estate in 4th generation, is his true love for tea and spirit of constant learning.
Each year he travels to top producing regions arounf the world to develop his skills, and it shows up in quality, for sure!
Stay tuned to our FB page and web site for upcoming collaborations between FAR EAST GROCERY DEPT. and Harashima estate!