Yabukita Tea Cultivar (やぶきた)
Every kind of tea plant comes from the same Camellia Sinensis plant family. Their differences show in forms of shape, taste, aroma, 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 upwards like reaching for the sky.
What is a Cultivar?
Before introducing Yabukita, we have to know first about the tea cultivars. The time came in Japan when the tea supply can no longer meet its demand. It even started importing tea in Taiwan due to the high demand, while laborers were scarce due to their migration to neighboring countries. Tea Cultivar comes into the picture. Tea cultivar is often defined as a plant variety produced during cultivation through selective breeding. It is basically a plant that was purposefully bred by humans for specific traits. They take pollen from a plant to apply it to another plant. In short, making a new variety. It does not produce true-to-seed; however, it can be reproduced through methods such as tissue culture and grafting. Seed production is possible but under meticulous control.
Yabukita 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 the Yabukita cultivar to get the best result. Thanks to the Yabukita cultivar, the Japanese tea industry has managed to stay on top with consistent yields and offered high-quality tea.
History of Yabukita Tea Cultivars
Yabukita is derived from two Japanese words, Yabu(藪), meaning bamboo grove, and Kita(北) meaning north. It was first cultivated in 1908 by a tea breeder named Sugiyama Hikosaburo(杉山彦三郎). He came from a family of doctors, but chose a different path and became a tea farmer and breeder. He took two tea samples from the fields of Shizuoka city and plated them 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 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 Yabuminami due to disadvantages. Yabukita got registered much later in history.
Yabukita is often commonly produced as Sencha although it also can be processed into Matcha. Aside from that, it is a high-quality green tea, it is now easier to grow, has bigger leaves, and is more stable in various climates and soil types than other Camellia Sinensis plant varieties. Yabukita can withstand frost damage where plants usually wither during winter. Because of this, Yabukita is considered a premium breed.
Health Benefits of Yabukita Tea Cultivar
Yabukita tea cultivar has high antioxidants found in drinking Japanese green tea. Its taste and aroma are the standards when choosing a high-quality Japanese green tea drink. Yabukita when turned into a tea helps tea drinkers to flush out bad cholesterol and fats. Due to the catechins present in this tea, there is a boost in immunity against colds and allergies. Yabukita green tea has both good taste and health benefits. Tea drinkers can relax and improve their memory caused of L-Theanine (amino acids). Whether alone or chatting with people, Yabukita green tea will surely keep stress at bay.
In 1953-54, the Shizuoka prefecture tea industrial laboratory tested and bred the 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 practices 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, the 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. Less plant damage especially in summer and winter means more profit.
|Original cross-location||Abe, Shizuoka|
|Parents||Seedling of native Shizuoka species|
|Spring harvest||April to mid-May|
|Disease resistance||Susceptible to anthracnose and gray blight|
The 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. If leaves are harvested late, the tea quality will be lost. 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, eventually, take on a long thin shape. Next comes the sieving and cutting process and later separated by leaving color and shape. In the last step, leaves are dried and packaged. However, each manufacturer has its style of processing and brings out the best aroma and flavor from the tea leaves.
Here is Yabukita Sencha we carry:
This post was first published in 2020 but it was updated in 2022 just for you.