Ultimate Guide on Buying Tea in Japan as a Souvenir

In Japan, tea is one of the most popular souvenirs and an integral part of everyday life. Known for its many health benefits, it has enjoyed a boom in popularity internationally, especially in Europe and the United States. While souvenir trends come and go, tea is here to stay. Why?

  • Light weight makes it an easy-to-carry gift
  • Many types of packaging such as tins and bags are available
  • Tea bags have the long shelf life and safe for the long-term trips
  • Can be easily purchased at the supermarkets and convenience stores in Japan

Whether you know your way around teas or you’re new to it all, this guide will give you some practical advice to help choose tea, its packaging and dosage, and explain the difference in taste depending on the production area.

Tea packaging

Tea pouches

Tea pouches are one of the most common ways to serve tea at home in Japan. Small 50 g packages can be easily purchased as souvenirs, provided you are choosing high-quality loose leaf tea in either case. The 100g pack of tea is ideal for regular use and is recommended as a souvenir for large households. However, if you’re really serious about brewing loose tea properly, think about the essential tools. Tea pots and tea strainers will complement your best tea set and ensure a perfect cup of tea at any time of day.

Tea bags

Tea bags are designed to make tea drinking easy and convenient. Since each tea bag is individually wrapped, it is easy to take it out and brew. How to choose a size, however, is completely a matter of personal preference. Whether bought in a small quantity or 100g pack, it makes a perfect souvenir for drinking at your work desk or during breaks.

Tea tins

Tea tins are a good solution to keep your tea fresh and are often sold in a two tins set. Carefully packed gift sets are guaranteed to impress anyone so many companies present them for official greetings.

Tea Growing Regions

Even with the same leaves, the taste, color and smell vary depending on the tea cultivation region. Although tea is grown throughout most of Japan, tea grows best in regions which enjoy a warm, humid climate with a certain amount of rainfall. Let’s take a glimpse at the two famous tea producing regions in Japan!

Shizuoka:

Shizuoka accounts for 40% of Japan's overall tea production. However, even there, the taste varies depending on the region and therefore, brand. The ones produced in Fuji and Numazu are famous for its astringent taste. Makinohara teas have a light aroma with a rich taste, and Tenryu ones have a subdued color with a slightly pale taste. Indeed, there is a wide variety to choose from! Hands-on tea-leaf picking is carried out between late April to May.

Kagoshima:

Kagoshima Prefecture is the second largest producer of tea in Japan after Shizuoka Prefecture. Similar to Shizuoka Prefecture, there are several tea brands in each region, but in recent years, a tea brand Chiran tea, produced in Minamikyushu city, largely accounts for Kagoshima's tea production. It is the representative tea of Kagoshima prefecture! The Chiran tea brew offers a very mild astringency with a pleasant, deep taste. Blessed with a mild climate, Kagoshima prefecture boasts the earliest tea harvesting period in Japan - the tea picking starts at the end of March at the earliest.

Shizuoka and Kagoshima are the two main tea producing regions in Japan, but there are also ubiquitous tea fields in Kyoto and Mie prefectures.

Where to buy tea?

Thanks to Japan's culture of drinking tea, you can purchase tea for home use almost everywhere, including supermarkets and convenience stores. If you want to buy it for other purposes, you can easily find it at the department stores in the big cities such as Tokyo, or at the tea specialty stores in the nearby areas. But of course, no tea-centric visit to Japan would be complete without a visit to the tea producing regions. The staff can assist you in choosing preferred packaging options, such as pouches, bags or tins. Tea production areas carry more varieties than you can imagine, so with a sample or two, you’ll be on your way to being a Japanese tea connoisseur in no time.

Read more about the different types of the great tea here