Japanese Tea Industry Overview

As a Korean, Japan is such a far and close country to me. Between 1910-1945, Japan occupied Korea and committed all kinds of war crimes such as human experimentation, forced labour, mass rape, massacre, and more things that are too horrific to describe.

A century ago may sound like a long time ago. However, that’s only my parents of parents of parents generation. I grew up listening to primarily bad things about Japan.

During the Japanese colonisation, Japan forced Koreans to speak Japanese instead of Korean, change Korean names into Japanese names. Japan destroyed countless heritage places, artifacts, people, nature, whatever held significant importance in Korea.

It’s interesting how I didn’t grow up as one-sided, narrow-minded. I feel like drinking tea helped me to broaden my perspective and mature as a global citizen.

I am not sure how you process information. As a tea drinker, I tend to go through two steps.

First – I process information from my perspective that’s more instinct, subconscious based on my gender, age, nationality, situation, etc.

Second – I process information from a global tea drinker’s point of view that requires more time, learning and cognitive activities.

For example, when I hear, “Japanese tea is facing many challenges these days.”

 

My initial response would be something like, ‘Japan is still the world’s 8th largest tea export country!’, ‘Maybe it’s time for Japan to chill a little bit.’.

My second response would be something like, ‘What’s happening?’, ‘It’s impressive how people in the industry concern, prepare and informs about the issue to sustain, that’s something I need to learn!’, ‘What’s something I can do?’.

So, what’s happening in the Japanese tea industry? These are some of the information I learned from participating in the Japanese Tea Marathon.

“Japanese Tea is facing many challenges these days. Younger people in Japan are turning away from tea, seeing it as old-fashioned. Tea production is decreasing year by tear, followed by the rapidly shrinking and aging tea farmer population.”

1. Changing habits of Consumption

 

“In Japan, people prefer a more convenient way to drink tea. More teas are sold in bottles. “

This is also a global trend. According to Allied Market Research, RTD(Ready-to-drink) tea market is to reach $38.96 billion globally by 2027 at 5.5% CAGR with the outbreak of the pandemic and the change of people’s lifestyle.

Imagine all the wastage and use of plastics. If we don’t take care of this place, we are all gonna die underwater with the rise of sea level before any tea industry goes out of business. 

I am actually guilty of using RTD as well… I made the slide clip from my trip from Japan. Nowadays, I carry my own tea flask. 

2. Japanese Tea Production

“In Japan, the interest in tea has fallen. The tea production level has also fallen by 30%.”

3. Aging Tea Farmer Population

“In Japan, young people don’t see the future in tea. They don’t want to take part in tea activities. It’s hard work. Younger people are leaving away. Tea farmers are getting older and older”

4. Between 2000-2020

  “When looking at the trend last 20 years, there were 50,000 tea farmers in early 2000. There are just over 10,000 tea farmers now. 4 out of 5 tea farmers no longer make tea.” This is a big question to concern what’s gonna happen in the next ten years.

5. Japanese Tea Export

“However, there’s a positive sign in exporting. In the last five years, tea export increased by 5 times.”

Although tea export is increasing, it’s still small portion of Japanese tea consumption (about 6%).
Japanese Tea Marathon - Registration, Participation, What to Expect

Hence, Japanese Tea Marathon was created to raise interest and curiosity in Japanese tea around the world by giving more attention to the Japanese tea producers and tea regions. 

Simona and Anna from Global Japanese Tea Association also presented at the Nomad Tea Festival Europe. 

Japanese Tea Marathon is a great initiative that connects tea drinkers around the world with the Japanese tea farmers and regions.

I am not much familiar with the organiser Japan Tea Central Council PIIA. However, Global Japanese Tea Association is very active in the global tea industry. I highly recommend this event for tea drinkers. 

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