Shibushi Green Tea (Kagoshima)

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Shibushi Green Tea (Kagoshima)

The region of Shibushi & its top terroirs of Matsuyama & Ariake is one the leading green tea regions in Kagoshima for Tamaryokucha, Shincha & organic Gyokuro.

Shibushi in East Kagoshima

The Shibushi region (志布志) with Shibushi City lies to the east of Kagoshima, in the southernmost prefecture of Japan. The climate is subtropical and mild. Its roughly only about 22km by 15km and is surrounded by the Osumi Peninsula  (大隅半島) located in the south of Shibushi Bay(志布志湾), Soo City (曽於市 in the north west and Miyakonojyo City (都城市) as well as Kushima City (串間市) in the north and east (the last two are in the Miyazaki prefecture).

2nd Most Important Tea Region in Kagoshima

Shibushi has the second largest tea production in the Kagoshima prefecture. After Shiyuoka, Kagoshima is the second biggest prefecture for green tea in Japan. In terms of quality, Shibushi ranks amongst one the leading producers in Kagoshima and as such in the whole of Japan.

The coast enjoys a particularly mild climate enabling one of the earliest Shinchas to be harvested. Further inland the farmers benefit from flat fertile arable land which like South Chiran allows the farmers to enjoy a high productivity.

In recent years the region has continuously seen its production levels increase and has given rise to a reputation for very good quality tea. The tea is mainly cultivated by smaller tea farmers and producers.

Strong Reputation of Shibushi Tamaryokucha & Shincha Teas

The region produces mainly the tea varieties of Sencha, Fukamushi Sencha (deep steamed) and Tamaryokucha. There are however small amounts of Benifuuki grown here as well as for the first time a high quality organic Gyokuro (totally shaded). In addition the area boasts one of the earliest Shinchas in Japan.

While Tamaryokucha Shibushi enjoys the highest reputation unlike Sencha it is not rolled in a needle shape, rather it is compressed about five times smaller (Magatama shaped) enabling a very deep & complex taste.

In 2007 at the 61st National Competition, 6 Tamaryokucha producers were awarded a special prize for their teas. In 2013 Shibushi won 3rd place for the best tea region for Tamaryokucha.

Famous Green Tea from Matsuyama & Ariake

Shibushi City originated from a joining of Shibushi Town , Ariake Town (有 明 町) and Matsuyama Town (松山 町) . The very small, neighboring sub regions of Matsuyama and Ariake are only a few kilometers from the coast in the south Shibushi. The climate is very mild and the soil very fertile.

The Cha Matsuyama (松山 茶, Cha = tea) and Ariake Cha (有 明 茶) enjoy an excellent reputation for growing the best green tea in Shibushi. They are therefore included in Kagoshima’s and Japan’s leading tea sub regions.

In Shibushi the same seed varieties as in Kagoshima are generally grown in principle. This is largely Yabukita but the rare and savory cultivars Okumidori, Saemidori and Yutakamidori also thrive here especially well in the south Shibushi due to the mild climate. These are characterized by their depth of flavor and act complementary to Yabukita with their different compositions of healthy ingredients. In particular, the amino acid rich Saemidori and Okumidori are ideal for Gyokuro.

Shibushi Excellent Organic Gyokuro 

The cultivation of organic Gyokuro is particularly difficult, as the leaves need to be shaded which means the plants extend far more energy growing and the farmers are not reliant on synthetic fertilizers. All the more astonishing when considering the high quality tea, that in my opinion (as of 2015) ranks amongst the best organic Gyokuro in Japan.

Gyokuro cultivation is favored by Shibushi due to the mild climate and the thriving seed varieties Saemidori and Okumidori which create a particularly high content of amino acids and thus the coveted Umami. Unfortunately, these teas are only available commercially in very limited quantities, but luckily are still reasonably priced.

Conclusion: Shibushi has become another flagship area in Kagoshima for green tea. Particularly noteworthy is the green tea variety Tamaryokucha and the neighboring sub regions in the south of Matsuyama (Shibushi ward) and Ariake. This is an insider tip for connoisseurs looking for the best organic Gyokuro in Japan.

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