Chiran: Best Green Tea Region in Kagoshima
Next to Kirishima, Chiran (jap .: 知 覧) is the most prestigious region for green tea from the Kagoshima Prefecture and is one of the best terroirs in Japan.
The famous Chiran tea comes from around Chiran Town (知 覧 町) in Minami Kyusyu City (南 九 州市), at the southern tip of the Satsuma Peninsula (薩摩 半島), in southwestern Kagoshima (鹿 児 島).
Colder Rainier Climate
The average temperature is 62 F and due to the mountainous landscape two degrees cooler than the average (median) in Kagoshima. Correspondingly the average rainfall is 2.527mm which is higher than the normal 2.266mm in the main prefecture.
Chiran Cha Tea
The “Chiran cha” (cha = tea) is Kagoshima leading tea brand and registered as a trademark since 2006. The region grows primarily the early harvested tea seed variety Yutakamidori, but also numerous other seed types. Additionally increasing effort is being placed on the cultivar Asatsuyu, also an early harvested variety. The first tea of the year (Shincha) can be already harvested at the beginning of April in the mild south-Chiran.
Famous for Sencha & Fukamushi Tea
The region produces mainly Sencha (incl. Yonbancha (4th harvest)), Fukamushi (deep steamed Sencha) and Bancha and highly regarded throughout Japan. It also grows though in smaller amounts Kabusecha and Gyokuro.
Since 1996 and for 6 consecutive years, the area has received the prize for the “best producing region” in the Sencha category at the Japanese National Tea Fair. In 2007, the Kagoshima Prefecture won a special award at the 61 National Competition in the 30kg category with two Senchas from the Chiran region.
Special Taste of Chiran Tea
Chiran Tea is characterized by a very special highly prized taste. The tea is is identified by its very aromatic full-bodied taste, emphasized by volcanic minerals with a slight astringency and great power. The tea combines the different, rather rare seed varieties of the region (Saemidori, Okumidori, Asatsuyu, Yutakamidori) and highlights its particularity. The deep steamed Sencha (Fukamushi) highlights these special characteristics even more uniquely.
The Chiran region can be divided into the sub-regions of North and Central / South Chiran:
North Chiran Top Terroir for Japanese Sencha
The northern part of Chiran is very mountainous and features the outstanding Hahagatake (母 ヶ 岳) and Ushirodake peaks (後 岳). It has a relatively cool and fresh climate with large temperature differences between day and night. The landscape is extremely picturesque. The tea farms are mainly located in the foothills, about 400m above sea level, but can also extend partially into the mountains themselves.
Here the highest quality Sencha from Chiran is grown. It is considered along with the Sencha from Kirishima (Makizono) as the best in all Japan. However, due to the difficult landscape and arable situation the ensuing tea cultivation is very costly leading to correspondingly expensive prices at the market.
The first tea of the year, the Shincha, can be harvested in this colder region towards late April. The widespread seed variety normally grown in Kagoshima, Yutakamidori, is rarely produced here due to its low frost resistance.
According to tradition, the cultivation of green tea in this region can be traced back to the 12th century AD, originating with the Taira family (平 家), who fled to the mountains of north Chiran’s from their enemies, the Minamoto (源 家). More extensive green tea cultivation started in Chiran after 1872, when the fields and hills were cultivated in larger sizes and more green tea seed varieties were applied.
Central and South Chiran: Prestigious Yet Affordable Teas
Unlike North Chiran the remaining flat plains of Chiran benefit from a very mild climate and border the East China Sea in the south. Agriculture has been practiced successfully here for centuries and the land is extremely fertile. Today the area is mainly used for the cultivation of tea and increasingly dedicated to organic farming.
The advantageous climate, the fertile and flat land and the high degree of mechanization enable this area to produce Chiran’s prestigious, yet affordable green tea. Productivity, when compared throughout Japan at its highest with the best price/ quality ratio. It must also be emphasized that the region produces an excellent organic quality.
|Conclusion: For green tea connoisseurs the Chiran region is a must. The strong character, full-bodied aromatic Senchas from South Chiran are particularly well priced (one should absolutely try the special Fukamushi Sencha) and have the highest organic quality. For gourmets, the mountainous northern Chiran together with the region Kirishima (Makizono) has the best growing terroirs throughout Japan and Kagoshima.|
Shirasu Plateau Fresh spring water
Chiran lies on the Minami Satsuma Plateau (Minami Satsuma Daichi, jap .: 南薩摩 台地) in South Satsuma, which is part of the Shirasu Plateau (シ ラ ス 台地). The region and tea farmers benefit from the fresh spring water that comes from below the Shirasu cliff.
Fertile Soils of Volcanic Ash
The main ingredient of Chiran earth is volcanic ash with silica, alumina, plagioclase and quartz. The top layer of soil on the Minami Satsuma plateau is covered by a thin layer of this soil. Between these is a thick, dense layer of tuff.