The unique ways of growing tea and the interesting art of drinking it have been and will always be a part of the Japanese tradition. According to history, tea was first used as a drink of religious classes in Japan. Originally, tea seeds were imported from China; although much of the cultivation took place in Japan. It were the two Buddhist monks named Kukai and Saicho who returned to Japan carrying young tea trees after studying in China.
Since then until today, many varieties of Japanese tea have come to existence. Along its many types are also several ways of growing and preparing it. Today, we will learn the difference between organic versus conventionally-grown tea trees. We will also talk about the advantages of choosing hand-picked leaves as compared to those trimmed by a machine. Most of all, we will discuss which type of Japanese tea offers the most health benefits. Sounds interesting? Let’s get started!
Two Ways to Grow a Japanese Tea
» Shade-Grown Tea
In this growing method, tea bushes are carefully shaded for 20 to 30 days (or 2-3 weeks to one month) before they are harvested. Shading tea bushes increases the production of chlorophyll as a result of the reduction of photosynthesis. This is why those grown under the shade have bright green leaves.
Furthermore, the longer the time a tea is shaded the more caffeine it will contain. Some examples of shade-grown tea are gyokuro, gyokuro karigane, and the popular matcha. Shade-grown tea trees also have more theanine and thus they have a sweeter flavour.
» Sun-Grown Tea
Tea bushes that are grown under full sun, on the other hand, have leaves rich in Catechin. This nutrient is responsible in creating a refreshing aroma and giving a bitter taste. Brewed sun-grown tea leaves usually have yellow green colour. Sun-grown tea varieties include genmaicha, houjicha, kukicha, sencha, and yanagi.
Organic vs. Conventionally-Grown Tea
Organic tea farming is the process of growing tea without the use of chemical fertilizers but only natural fertilizers and organic pesticides. Japanese tea varieties that are grown through organic farming were abundant before. However today, vast majority of tea, especially those for commercial use, are conventionally-grown. Sadly, only 1 to 2% of all tea produced in Japan are organic.
According to hibiki-an.com, in order for a farm to be issued an ‘organic Japanese tea certification’, it should meet the following requirements:
– No chemical fertilizer or pesticides for at least three years.
– Only use organic fertilizer with no genetic modification (no GMOs).
– The tea must be processed and packaged in separate facilities and lines only for organic tea.
– Documents must be filed which prove all requirements are met throughout the growing, processing, and packaging, and which can be traced.
– All documents, tea farms, processing facilities, and packaging locations are periodically inspected by the organic certification organization.
Watch out for our future posts:
Hand-Picked or Machine-Trimmed
Which Tea has the Most Health Benefits?
Loose Leaf or Tea Bag