Tea production in Japan is a meticulous process, and the final stages of this process involve the finishing of the tea. The finishing factories are responsible for several critical procedures, including separating, firing, sorting, and blending.
Separating the tea involves several stages, and the use of different machines to shake off particles and unnecessary parts of the tea leaves to clean the tea. Usually, this process is done by a separation machine.
The firing process serves two essential purposes. Firstly, it dries the leaves, reducing the moisture to improve tea storage. Secondly, it enhances the tea’s aroma. By adding the firing process, the grassy smell is reduced, and several elements such as pirazine, pirol, and flan are produced. Additionally, the production of amino acids and gimechilsulfid improves the tea’s aroma and flavor.
Sorting involves the removal of stalks from the tea leaves. One method of sorting involves the use of static electricity. This process entails passing tea leaves through high-tension current, which causes the stalks to be aspirated towards the electrodes. The machines that use this method are widely used in Japan.
Blending is the process of mixing different types of tea to meet the expectations of retailers and consumers. In Japan, there are approximately 1300 finishing factories, and 400 of them are located in Shizuoka prefecture.
Tea cultivation in Japan occurs in various regions ranging from hilly areas to flatlands. Tea cultivated in the mountains is renowned for its high quality. About 38% of the farms on the mountainsides are inclined at 15 degrees, and they are relatively small, with most not using machines for harvesting. In contrast, tea estates on flat land typically employ advanced automation systems for picking and maintenance. As a result, the tea cultivation styles on hillside and flatland regions vary significantly.
In Shizuoka, automatic rail harvesters are more commonly used than auto-harvesters, while in Kagoshima prefecture, auto-pluckers are preferred. This is due to 75.5% of tea farms in Kagoshima prefecture being located at an inclination of less than 5 degrees, while in Shizuoka, only 43.9% are on an inclination of less than 18 degrees. The auto-style harvester is not suitable for hillside tea farms, while tea farms that use rail harvesters appear half-circled, while others appear flat on the surface.