As the Japanese winter gives way to spring, the country begins to stir with new life. April is a particularly magical time in Japan as the weather starts to warm, and the flowers and leaves begin to bloom. It’s also the time when tea leaves are ready for the first harvest. This is a critical time for local tea farmers, traders, and retailers as they prepare for the first bidding day at the Shizuoka tea market.
The First Bid: A Tradition That Marks the Start of Green Tea Sales
The first tea bidding of the year marks the official start of green tea sales in Japan. This tradition is known as the “first bid,” and it’s a day that brings together tea farmers, traders, and retailers from all over Japan to gather at the Shizuoka tea market. Established in 1956, the Shizuoka tea market is responsible for scheduling the first bidding date every year.
The Early Years of the First Bid
Before the establishment of the Shizuoka tea market, the first tea bidding had no set date, and it came irregularly. In 1952, the Shuzoka Tea Commerce and Cooperative set the date of the first bid to April 20th, which was kept for five years. However, it became clear that setting a date for the first bid was impractical because the first harvest day always varied due to the weather. As a result, it was challenging to maintain a stable amount of tea on the same day every year, leading to unstable prices.
Establishment of the Shizuoka Tea Market
The establishment of the Shizuoka tea market in 1956 marked a significant turning point in the first bidding tradition. The market became responsible for scheduling the first bidding date, which would be based on the weather conditions of the year. In 1957, the first bidding date was set for April 26th, and from that point on, the date has varied from year to year.
The Significance of the First Bid
The first bidding is an essential event for farmers, traders, and retailers because it provides valuable information on the tendencies of the tea industry, the price, and the quality of tea for the year. Today, the first bidding is conducted locally in each green tea-producing prefecture in Japan. In the year 2000, the first bidding was conducted on different dates in different prefectures, ranging from April 10th to May 17th.
The first bidding tradition in Japan is a fascinating and important part of the country’s tea culture. It is a time when farmers, traders, and retailers come together to celebrate the start of a new season and share information about the year’s tea harvest. As the first bidding continues to evolve, it remains a vital event for the Japanese tea industry and a unique cultural experience for visitors to the country.