How to Source Organic Green Tea from Japan
What is Japanese Green Tea?
Japanese tea is renowned for its high-quality and unique flavour profiles. Studies show that 72.3% of people in Japan drink green tea daily, with 89.6% of people drinking green tea more than once a week. This makes it one of the most consumed beverages in the world.
Typically, Japanese green tea is steamed to preserve its vegetal and herbaceous flavours. This prevents the leaves from oxidizing and maintains the natural beauty of the leaves, along with ensuring that the quality of the leaves is preserved. This results in the perfect balance of colour, flavour, and taste.
There are approximately twenty varieties of Japanese green tea, with tea production being dominated by the Yabukita cultivar. This limits the variety of tea produced, making each cup even more specialised.
Brief History of Japanese Tea Exportation
Whilst Japanese tea production dates back to the 8th century, exportation was only promoted as a national policy since the early Meiji Era (starting in 1868AD). During 1868 and 1926, between 10,000 and 20,000 tons of Japanese green tea were exported, with the majority being sent to the United States.
Since then, with the competition for coffee and the spread of Chinese green tea, export numbers have decreased. Because of this, Japanese green tea production has declined, with youngsters from tea farming families often moving out of the tea fields and into the cities. This has led to a decrease in Japanese tea being produced, turning it into a specialist beverage.
How Do I Import Organic Japanese Tea?
One of the first things that you should be aware of when importing tea is the fact that each country has their own regulations regarding the label ‘organic’. As part of these rules, an ‘organic’ food product has to be approved by an organic organisation. In order to be certified, you will need proof of packaging, storage, production, and documentation, which will then be submitted along with the product to the organic certification body.
For produce from Japan, you will need to go to the Japan Agricultural Standard to certify your tea as organic within that country. Then, you will need to check that the other countries where you plan on selling your product will accept the JAS certification. Some examples of these countries include the USA, Canada, and the EU.
For the above countries, each shipment will have to be accompanied by a certificate, which typically costs between $20 and $100. When the shipment reaches the border, the certificate will be inspected, and the tea will be officially classed as organic.
Some countries, such as those within Europe, need additional information. For example, the importer needs to be registered either with the government or by a 3rd party organisation. If you choose to register with the 3rd party organisation, they will sign you up to the TRACES system before you can officially class the tea as organic.
Is There Anything I Should Worry About?
Luckily, there are very few issues when importing Japanese tea. In most places, tea is classed as a ‘herb’ or a ‘food’, and in the UK, you don’t pay any taxes on smaller shipments. Although green tea under 3 kilos (pre-packaged) has a 2% on total of its value, and this number steadily increases with the shipment size.
One of the largest issues with importing tea from Japan is that in times like this, where the pandemic is still at large and everything is delayed, waiting times for import shipments can be much longer than usual. Be prepared to wait 2-3 times longer for your shipment to be delivered, so be sure to order it well in advance.
You should also take out insurance for all of your goods, ensuring that they are protected against theft, damage, and loss along the way.
For any extra issues, we recommend that you consult with your country’s customs office to find out if there are any additional procedures.
Which Mode of Transportation Should my Shipment Undergo?
You should also decide on the method of importation that best suits you. The majority of tea is shipped by ocean freight, but this can be a tricky method of transportation as the shipping container will be shared with pallets of products from other importers. There could be dangerous goods such as volatile chemicals sharing the same container as your tea, which could bring up larger issues later on.
This also means that if any other shipment is irresponsibly packed and pests are discovered in the container, then the whole container will be sprayed to ensure that no invasive species enter the country.
The issue of chemical exposure and pest contamination is a serious problem. It can lead to organic certified products having high levels of chemical residue by the time the consumer drinks it despite the certification. This is because certification testing is done on the farm, not usually at the distribution warehouse.
Shipping via freight also adds, on average, two extra months between the leaves being picked and the product ending up in the consumer’s cup, meaning that it will be much colder than if it was sent by air. This results in a weaker aroma, taste, and sometimes, quality.
Air shipping only adds 40 cents per ounce to the order and is a lot faster. This means that you can drink tea that is only a week old – the flavour difference is astounding. However, with many consumers becoming aware of their carbon footprint and the effects that this will have on the environment, this may not be the best option for your target audience.
Where to Source Quality Japanese Green Tea
When sourcing green tea from Japan, you should look for wholesalers that are:
- Transparent about the tea origins
- Share their knowledge on green tea
- Offer helpful resources
- Available to discuss any questions
Of course, we recommend our own Japanese green tea. We have been actively involved in the Japanese tea industry since 2000, and in doing so, we are exceedingly knowledgeable about how to source the right green teas at the best prices for our worldwide customers.
We hope you enjoy them!
- View our Shizuoka tea products here
- View our Kagoshima tea products here
- Contact us to create wholesalea account here
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