Yabukita Tea Cultivar
Every kind of tea plant comes from the same Camellia Sinensis plant family. Their differences show in forms of shape, taste, aroma, and color, etc. due to the different cultivars being used in the breeding of tea plants. In Japan, Yabukita (やぶきた) is the most famous and commonly used cultivar, comprising 85% of the whole tea production. There are many reasons for using it on a large scale, mainly because of high yielding, frost resistance, and the ability to survive in any location. Yabukita is easy to spot due to its long and straight leaves and not to forget the intense green color. It continues to grow to stare and upwards like reaching for the sky.
It brings in the most profit with its high-quality tea, but the said quality can be lost if not harvested on time. Once the leaves have passed a certain time and are not cropped, all the qualities and characteristics of a good tea lose. Therefore, a lot of care goes into exercising Yabukita cultivar to get the best result. Thanks to Yabukita cultivar, the Japanese tea industry has managed to stay on top with consistent yields and offered high-quality tea.
HISTORY OF YABUKITA CULTIVARS
Yabukita is derived from two Japanese words, Yabu(藪), meaning bamboo grove, and Kita(北) means north. It was first cultivated in 1908 by a tea breeder named Sugiyama Hikosaburo(杉山彦三郎). He took two tea samples from the fields of Shizuoka city and plated in a testing field. The field was close to a bamboo grove, and samples came from the north, and therefore he named the new breed Yabukita. The one similar to this came from the south and was named as Yabuminami, whereas Minami means south.
He experimented with different styles to determine which survives longer and gives better-desired characteristics. After years of struggle, he finally managed to develop the Yabukita cultivar and discarded the Yabumianami due to disadvantages. Yabukita got registered much much later in history.
In 1953-54, the Shizuoka prefecture tea industrial laboratory tested and bred Yabukita cultivar and finally registered it as tea cultivar number 6 in 1956. After two years of registration, it was recommended to be produced and cultivated in Shizuoka Prefecture, and then it spread to Japan.
Before the breeding culture, Japan was still using conventional tea cultivation, and the production rate was low. During the 60s, farmers slowly started to leave traditional practice behind and adopted the new breeding cultivar for tea plants. The year 70s was the time when it rapidly became popular practice, and at that time, Yabukita cultivar was already used by ⅔ of the farmers. Fast forward to the 1990s, almost 95% of bred cultivation farms, 93% were using Yabukita. It rose to popularity and, to this day, is responsible for ⅔ of Japanese tea production.
Year registered 1953
Original cross-location Abe, Shizuoka
Parents Seedling of native Shizuoka species
Spring harvest April–mid-May
Branching type Upright
Cold resistance High
Disease resistance Susceptible to anthracnose and gray blight
Yabukita cultivar is mainly responsible for producing Sencha, which is the most grown green tea in Japan. When cultivating Sencha, it can only be harvested for a short time around spring, and shortly after, picking leaves are sent to processing. Leaves are steamed to prevent oxidation, while some tea leaves are left to weather to increase oxidation, like in black tea. The sencha leaves after steaming are rolled and dried, which eventually take on a long thin shape. Next comes the sieving and cutting process and later separated by leave color and shape. In the last step, leaves are dried and packaged. However, each manufacturer has their style of processing and brings out the best aroma and flavor from the tea leaves.