2011/06/02

Japanese black tea "Wakocha"

The history of Japanese black tea dates back to 1870’s. Tea was one of the most important exported items, then. Since black tea was much more popular than green tea in the world, the government wanted to boost its production. At that time, Japanese knew how to produce green tea, but not black tea. Therefore, then the Japanese government sent Mr.Tada to India and China during 1875-77. He learned "the know-how" of black tea, and brought back tea seeds/seedlings of the Assam variety, tea-related machines, and books. After coming back to Japan, he moved to the Mariko area in Shizuoka and started tea cultivation. At the same time, he made a great effort to spread the black tea industry in Japan and teach how to make it to tea farmers throughout the nation.

Mr.Tada's momument in Mariko


In due course, new varieties of Japanese black tea were created, and 8,525 tons of the tea were produced at peak periods, in 1955. (During the wartime, production went down, though.) However, the tea had gradually lost competitiveness on an international scale in terms of price and quality. Production dropped sharply. To make it worse, since the restriction on foreign trade of tea was relaxed in 1971, the situation became worse. The production reduced to only three tons in 1975, and the tea fell into obscurity.

But, the time of "The Japanese black tea Renaissance" has come. About 20 years ago, a tea farmer in Mariko, Mr.Muramatsu, started to revitalize black tea production. Being in Mariko, the birthplace of Japanese black tea, he believes that he should keep and revitalize forerunners’ wishes. Mr.Muramatsu plays a leading role in the current trend of the tea production. Thanks to his effort, the tea has been revived as “wakocha”, and has been paid greater attention to recently. As the trailblazer, Mr. Tada, did, Mr.Muramatsu also gives advice generously to tea farmers throughout the country in order to aim for improvement in quality.