Friday, May 30, 2008

The dirty secret about the Shizuoka label

In Japan, Shizuoka Prefecture is considered to be the source of some of the country's best green tea. Shizuoka is to tea what the Napa Valley is to wine in the United States.

However, because of labeling laws that are much less stringent than in America, tea that is labeled "Shizuoka tea" might not even be processed in Shizuoka, let alone grown there. As long as the company has a presence in Shizuoka, the tea can be called "Shizuoka tea." (Actually, wineries follow a similar practice, labeling any wine "Napa wine" as long as it is "cellared" in Napa, even if the grapes were grown, crushed into juice, and bottled elsewhere.)

Another reason that Shizuoka tea isn't all it's cracked up to be (this isn't just sour grapes, or sour tea) is that years ago, when Shizuoka tea started becoming trendy, the big food companies started setting up operations there. These behemoths don't exactly practice traditional agriculture: pesticides and other agrochemicals are liberally used in order to maximum yields for maximum profit. So, even tea that is actually grown in Shizuoka may be the product of a huge corporate farm.

In short, it's not where the tea is grown that matters, but how it's grown.

The majestic Mt. Aso, near where Mellow Monk tea is grown.

—Mellow Monk

Go to the Mellow Monk tea page
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