Japanese tea has cultivars like coffee and wine. Different cultivars have different tastes and aromas. If matcha, the color will also make a big difference. Some cultivars have a osmanthus fragrance and others have a taste like edamame. In general, Japanese tea wholesaler (called 茶商 - Chasho) sources various cultivar of green teas from multiple tea farmers, and then blend them to make retail products. This blending process is called Gogumi (合組). The process of gogumi is aimed to make flavour more stable and enhanced. So almost all green tea selling on the market is blended. However, it has been brought to attention that single origin teas of single tea farmer is getting available.
Currently, more than 50 Japanese tea cultivars are registered with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. It is said that there are over 100 cultivars, including so-called hybrid cultivars, which are not officially registered, such as "Zairai (在来)" and "Misho (実生)".
This chart shows the percentage of tea cultivation area in Japan by cultivar. More than 70% of the tea currently grown in Japan boasts an overwhelming share with Yabukita cultivar. Why does overwhelmingly the one cultivar have large amount of share? It has been said that the quality of Yabukita is excellent, easy to grow and easy to breed.
As “Yabukita” spread throughout the country, the cultivation and processing methods of “Yabukita” were established, and its quality became the standard for Japanese green tea. Eventually, the so-called “Yabukita myth” in the tea industry appeared, saying that nothing better than “Yabukita”
It is wonderful that the cultivation and processing techniques have rapidly advanced and advanced as one cultivar has swept across the country. The fact that the quality of Japanese green tea has been boosted is a major achievement that “Yabukita” contributed in the Japanese tea history.
In recent years, however, Japanese tea has become more diverse, and the culture of enjoying cultivars other than Yabukita is getting popular. In the future, more single-origin Japanese tea will be available in the market. Like wine and coffee, we want you to enjoy the taste, aroma and umami that each cultivar has.