On February 2021, in Saitama, Japan, the awards ceremony for the 75th National Tea Competition by the Ministry of Forest and Fisheries commenced. Several regional competitions leading up to this main event that pins the greatest producers in their respective categories against one another.
The Gyokuro category is considered one of the main events, and after 23 years, Uji has regained the title of the best Gyokuro in Japan. Yame's dominance in this field demonstrates its prowess in technique, production, and cultivation. The grand prize was awarded to a Kyotonabe Gyokuro Association Cooperative member, Akira Hayashi. Amongst these members, is the newly appointed head, Shinki Yamashita, whose Kansai regional Gyokuro has won three consecutive years and we've had the pleasure of sharing with you. This win has given Kyotonabe the momentum to start a new chapter for Uji Gyokuro.
In the national competition, there are about 200-300 farmers in each category from all over Japan that participate in the top prize in Sencha, Kabuse, Gyokuro, Tencha, Kamairi, Tamaryokucha, and Fukamushi. Farmers and producers consider this event a report card for the year's cultivation efforts and processing techniques. The teas are judged on taste, dry leaf appearance, aroma, brew color, and astringency. Pictured above, is the final judging ticket for Akira Hayashi's Gyokuro, receiving perfect points in each category.
Participation in this event requires a lot of manual support for each farmer since all the teas are picked and processed by hand after a long growing season of tending to the trees. A win for the farmer represents a win for the entire community since this would not have been achieved without their sweat and love.