Regions of Tea: Aichi, the Capital of Matcha
In this series we will travel through Japan to discover the role tea plays in shaping their lives. Today we travel to Aichi where Japan’s matcha tea is grown and refined
On the southern coast of Honshu, Japan’s largest island, lies Aichi prefecture. Bordered by Shizuoka to the east, Gifu to the north, and Mie to the east these four are the key tea producing regions.
The topography of the prefecture could not be more suitable to the cultivation of tea. Flat plains stretch from west to south and mountains in the northeast as high as 1,000m loom in the horizon result in optimal temperature and precipitation with bountiful water flowing and fertile soil from the Yahagigawa (Yahagigawa river).
It is the combination of all these factors that the rural city of Nishio came to be known as the birthplace of premium matcha.
Tea farming in Nishio is a 730-year tradition that traces its roots in the Meiji era when tea seeds were sprinkled in the Shimizu Temple. Jundo Adachi, the head priest of the Buddist Kouj-in temple bought with him tea seeds from Uji and started Nishio’s tradition in tea.
It was only in the closing years of the Taisho period (1912-1926) did the region begin to focus on matcha.
About 90% of the tea leaves cultivated in Nishio is Tencha, the unground form of matcha tea powder. With 100 years of honing their skills in growing and processing tea for matcha, Nishio matcha has become synonymous to premium, high quality matcha tea powder.
Nishio no Matcha
On the left bank of the Yahagigawa on the northwestern part of the city is a Kuyari Ouchi, a hilly area with about 100 hectares of tea fields that resulted in 400 tons of tea comprising a huge chunk of the 479 tons produced in the entire Aichi prefecture.
Tea, specifically matcha tea, is Nishio’s main agricultural output and is Japan’s leading producer of matcha tea.
In a bid to protect and uphold its reputation as the producer of prime matcha, the Nishio Tea Cooperative Association, the cooperative of Nishio’s tea manufacturers and teamakers, was formed in April 2007 and in July 2008 filed for “Nishio no matcha (Nishio’s matcha)” to be a regional brand in the Japan Patent Office under its Regional Collective Trademark System. In less than two years they were a certified regional brand and was the first in to be limited to matcha tea.
For matcha to be accredited as Nishio no Matcha, it has to be
“A matcha made by processing and refining tea leaves produced in Nishio-shi (shi: city), Anjo-shi, Ashi-gun (gun: district), Akira-gun and Kira-cho (cho: town) in Aichi prefecture, and refining it in the same region”
By meeting these requirements, along with the strict regulations imposed on matcha production, can matcha be accorded with the Nishio no Matcha brand mark: a black bowl with frothy matcha tea and Nishio no Matcha written vertically.
It is hoped that the seal will increase the value of tea leaves grown around Nishio city, as well as sales and popularity of Nishio no Matcha.
Aichi prefecture, specifically the city of Nishio, takes its moniker as “The Capital of Matcha” seriously. Cultural tours of Nishio are centered around its matcha tradition where one can try the “matcha experience” - observe the manufacturing, blending and grinding of tea leaves and ending with drinking matcha.
And as if Nishio wasn’t already steeped in everything matcha, in early October they also celebrate Nishio Matcha Day, a 2 day event that brings everyone together in celebration of their city’s favorite drink, their culture and above all, their pride.