In recent years, Kagoshima prefecture has caught up with Shizuoka in green tea production. Green tea produced in Kagoshima is sold wholesale at Kagoshima Tea Market Place which is located in a reclaimed land near the city center of Kagoshima city. Tea brands line the streets of the nearby Tea Industry Complex.
“Of all the tea produced in Japan, Shizuoka and Kagoshima make up about 75%. In terms of Chiran tea, Minami Kyushu city has the highest production when you look at production by city. Perhaps the warm climate is suitable for tea production. The characteristic of teas grown in Kagoshima is that there are many varieties of tea including those with a deep flavor and tea with a beautiful blue color.” (Kenta Ikeda, CEO of Ikeda Seicha)There are many varieties of green tea. In fact, if you include the minor brands which are not identified by the Ministry of Agriculture、Forestry and Fisheries, there are more than 100 varieties. Currently about 30 varieties are grown in Kagoshima, and Ikeda Seicha only sources the best teas based on their unique characteristics. “Tea cultivation in Kagoshima picked up shortly after the war. It grew exponentially in 1972 when the Tea Market Place and Tea Industry Complex were built. Tea growers also formed a network, and the use of machinery has helped boost the growth even further. As the third generation involved in the local industry, we are really eager and enthusiastic about raising the brand value of ‘Kagoshima teas’.” (Mr. Ikeda)
After separating raw tea into leaves, twigs and powder, the tea is roasted and blended to maintain the consistency customers have come to expect. Mr. Ikeda is one of only 15 tea masters who have been awarded level 10, the highest level in a national competition where tea masters demonstrate their skills at examining and appraising teas. His skills shine through in the roasting and blending process.
“The roasting process greatly impacts the amino acids, catechin and caffeine in the tea, directly impacting the flavor, texture, the after taste and color.” (Mr. Ikeda)
Nakata tastes the Kagoshima tea prepared by Mr. Ikeda.
“The flavor spreads throughout your mouth yet the after taste is very light. And the aroma filters through your nose as you sip the tea. It’s quite sophisticated, especially because it is so light as you swallow.” (Nakata)
There are five key elements to great tasting tea – the sweetness as you sip, the flavor and aroma that spreads through your mouth, the smoothness as you swallow, the after taste, and the scent that filters through your nose as you swallow. The tea Mr. Ikeda prepares seems to have the perfect balance.
Ikeda Seicha is involved in blending tea that emphasizes taste, as well as producing matcha tea which is increasingly becoming popular overseas. In order to provide quality matcha that is safe and trustworthy, they built a factory exclusively for processing matcha in 2020. The tea is ground by stone, to prepare the highest quality of matcha. They are also involved in research to expand the potential of green teas. New products include “ocha ugai” which uses green tea for gurgling based on the sanitization affects of catechin, and antibacterial sprays for masks using green tea.
Tea is not made on the farms. It becomes delicious tea only when there is someone who provides the skill, knowledge, and passion from years of experience and dedication. Mr. Ikeda definitely possesses these qualities, and he continues to enrichen the tea culture of Japan.
- Ikeda Seicha Co., Ltd.
- 3-11 Nanei, Kagoshima City Tea Industry Complex
- TEL 099-268-6266
- URL https://ikedaseicha.com/