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MIYAZAKI PREFECTURE, KYUSHU: THE ORGANIC KAMAIRI-CHA TEA GARDEN IN MIYAZAKI

The Kamairi-cha tea garden is located in Miyazaki Prefecture on Kyushu, the southernmost of the four main islands of Japan. It is far away from the sea, up in the mountains, in a very remote area.

photo: Kamairi-cha Tea Garden with a great view on the volcanic landscape of South Kyushu

High in the mountains the temperature is much lower as for instance, than in the part of Miyazaki Prefecture near the coast, where the Morimoto family’s tea garden is located. While the Morimotos begin their first harvest already in mid-April, the harvest in the Kamairi-cha tea garden up in the mountains starts about six weeks later, at the end of May.

Since a majority of the tea garden parcels of the Kamairi-cha tea garden are located on steep mountainsides, the use of harvesting vehicles is not possible because of the risk of overturning. Instead, they use machines, which are held by two helpers walking forward very slowly, while a third person is holding a big bag, in which the tea leaves are put in – up to 30 kg!

For tea competitions and teas of very limited quantity they also pick the leaves by hand. Their handpicked teas are very precious and the amounts are so small, that they cannot be offered for sale regularly. The tea quality, which the organic Kamairi-cha tea garden produces, is so unique, that it already has been awarded many prizes, including the very notable “Tenno-Prize”.

Shortly after the Japanese organic certification system “yuki-JAS” was established, the tea garden started to be certified by an organic certification body.


The tea garden is only specialized in the production of organic Kamairi-cha (tea, subjected to dry heating) – a tradition that is almost lost these days. Kamairi-cha was produced mainly during the early 20th century in Japan while Sencha (steamed tea) was manufactured in a very small quantity.The production ratio in the middle of the 20th century was 50% Sencha and 50% Kamairi-cha. Currently, the quantity of Kamairi-cha production is only about 1% of the total green tea production in Japan.

Our tea gardener preserves this tradition until today and produces the probably best Kamairi-cha in Japan. Usually, the tea leaves do not keep their intensive green colour after the dry heating in the Kama and develop a more roasted flavour when compared with the processing by steam (not to be confused with Houjicha, which is steamed first, before getting roasted in the last step). However, thanks to the tea gardener's long years of experience, he manages to produce Kamairi-cha with leaves that remain brightly green and develop wonderfully soft and round taste notes.

The tea qualities of the organic Kamairi-cha tea garden

SAE MIDORI KAMA IRI CHA


With a total of 18 varieties for organic Kamairi-cha, this tea factory has an incredible diversity of different bush varieties in their garden. For Sae Midori Kamairi-cha they only use the cultivar Sae Midori.
Sae Midori is known for its intensely green colour, its softness and sweetness. It belongs to the varieties which are often used for the production of Gyokuro.

The Sae Midori’s mild and sweet nature characterizes this tea. It is produced by dry heating in a Kama, but still impresses with its intensely green leaves without any nuances of roasting. Instead, it receives a special softness and roundness, thanks to the skilfully done heating process.