The tea cultivar Yabukita is cold and drought resistant and can be grown throughout Japan. Due to its high yield and fast growth rate, combined with its expressive flavour and elegant, light umami aroma, the variety enjoys great popularity among tea growers and consumers alike.
The cultivar accounts for 73% of Japan's total tea harvest and about 40% of the tea harvest in Kagoshima.
In 1908, the cultivar was bred in Shizuoka by Hikosaburo Sugiyama. The name Yabukita is derived from the place where the tea was first grown by Sugiyama: the northern part (kita) of a bamboo grove (yabu). Originally, there was another variety Yabuminami (the south of the bamboo grove), but it did not catch on, while Yabukita established itself as the quintessential Japanese tea.
The first tree of the Yabukita variety was replanted from its location at the bamboo grove to near the Shizuoka Prefectural Art Museum and is designated as a prefectural natural monument. Even after more than 100 years, it continues to bear leaves and is a popular tourist destination.
It was only after Sugiyama's death that Yabukita was officially registered as a cultivar in 1953. Since then, more than 100 other cultivars have been bred on the basis of Yaabukita, including the much praised varieties Saemidori and Okumidori.
However, the wide distribution of the cultivar also creates problems. At harvest time, all fields ripen at about the same time, causing shortages of workers and production capacity, and pests and diseases also spread more easily. To counteract this, organic farmers in particular are increasingly focusing on diversification and the breeding of new cultivars as well as the expansion of old varieties.
Field of Yabukita at the KEIKO Biofarm in Chiran (Kagoshima) in Spring 2021
teas with the cultivar Yabukita in the KEIKO tea shop
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