Safe Japanese Teas

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People today increasingly concern about food safety and health.  And this is also the case with Japanese tea.

The lecture – “Safe and healthy Japanese Tea” at Kyoto Tea Marketplace, sponsored by Kyoto Japanese Tea Instructor Association, convinced me that people are looking for safe Japanese teas not only in Japan but also internationally.

Most countries that import Japanese teas don’t produce green teas.  Therefore, they set strict residual agricultural chemicals level guidelines on Japanese teas.

The Japanese organic agricultural standard certification was launched about 20 years ago.  And it has still room for improvement of the standard, the consumer scores, and the value that producers see in obtaining the certification. Some farmers began pursuing non-chemical farming before the certification system was started.  It is unfortunate to observe that some of these tea farmers seem to meet the organic standards, but are unwilling to obtain the organic certification.

The taste of tea leaves is improved by adding chemical nitrogen fertilizer, as it increases amino acids.  So, it is not easy to grow good taste Japanese teas without chemical fertilizers.  I wonder if the reason of lower organic tea farming ratio in Kyoto (2.5%, lecture hands-out) compared to Japan on average (4.6%, Tea Guide – Zennoh, is, because Kyoto produces Gyokuro, Tencha (tea leaves to create Matcha), which value more amino acids than other tea types.

In the lecture, Mr. Okadome, Chief Scientist at Kyoto Tea Research Institute, talked about natural predators are categorized as agricultural chemicals.  Predators are agrichemicals!  Did you know that?  Multiple insects eat other insect that damage tea trees.  Unfortunately, those “good” insects are also vulnerable to pesticides.  We should not, by any means, use agricultural chemicals.

We learned in transitioning to organic farming, many farms located in higher altitudes have less damage to the quality and the volume.  I also learned at Saitama Tea Research Institute the other day, that cooler climates are ideal for organic farming.  Based on the two lessons above, it makes sense for organic tea farmers to locate themselves in the mountainous regions.

More than 70% of Japanese tea trees are the Yabukita variety.  however, Yabukita is very weak against pests and disease.  So tea researchers are developing new varieties to address this issues.  And I look forward to having a new variety resistant to pest and disease and also tastes better than Yabukita.

Mr. Okadome also commented on how organic teas are a pre-requisite in considering export to EU.  People value safety more than taste in overseas markets.

Free trade makes import and export an active process.  I predict that the common safety standards will get close to the strictest standards in the long run.

Organic.  Right choice.  Go Organic!  Go SONO!

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