|Ad poster of black tea summit in Takahashi 2012|
Strictly speaking, Japanese black tea is not a newcomer. It was one of Japan’s main export items a long time ago. Its history dates back to 1870’s. Since black tea was more popular than green tea in the world then, the government pushed the production forward. As a result, about 8,525 tons of black tea was produced at peak period, in 1955. (During the wartime, production went down, though.) However, it came to lose its competitiveness in terms of price and quality and the production dropped. In addition, the restriction on the foreign trade of tea was removed in 1971, which made the situation much worse. Finally, the production reduced to only three tons in 1975.
Since the 1990s, black tea began to come back once again. More and more farmers have gradually been working on its production. One of the reasons is a decline of green tea consumption caused by the spread of bottled tea and the change of our diet. A lot of people, especially younger generation, prefer bottled tea than tea from a teapot because of convenience. Westernized dishes, which don’t go well with green tea, are served at our tables more often. In order to break with the status quo, the farmers have started to feel their way through this new challenge.
At this point, wakocha is creating a buzz because it’s rare and new. But soon, it will not be purchased just because of its novelty. Its specialty and originality, to say nothing of quality, will be a must for it to survive in the future. Japanese black tea is evolving steadily. The sales are increasing surely. The tea helps revitalize the rural economy, too. Black tea could be the icebreaker of a “Japanese tea Renaissance”.
special thanks AH