Japanese Tea Cultivar List

Japanese tea cultivar list
Picture from NARO website

There are many Japanese tea cultivars, although in reality only a few are extensively cultivated.

I’m sure that Japanese tea enthusiasts would like to know about all the ones that are available.

For this reason, I decided to list the registered cultivars.

Note that there are also non-registered cultivars being used in Japan, but I don’t know the reason why they aren’t registered. Maybe it takes a long time to do so?

Update: Information provided by Fumiki Kawaguchi from Shinkoju.

  • Registering a cultivar is optional, so many cultivars are used without being registered. For example the Yutakamidori cultivar which in cultivated area ranks second, never went through the proper cultivation testing but many prefectures wanted it so it spread anyway.
  • Some of them have failed the selection process in the past but as times changed they gained more attention, such as the Shizu-7132 cultivar.
  • Other times, the cultivar is commercialized before the judgment for registration begins and hence it is disqualified, such as the Kouju cultivar. There are many reasons why a cultivar isn’t registered.

From what I understand, the process is now governed by the NARO (National Agriculture and Food Research Organization). However, in the past another organization was in charge.

There are actually two systems in which tea cultivars are registered. The first one is the Agriculture and Forestry Certified Cultivars (農林認定品種) under MAFF (農林水産省), and the Seed and Seedling Law Registered Cultivars (種苗法登録品種).

The first one was the original and has had changes along the way. The second one is more recent, and it takes into account that since it takes a long time (decades) for cultivars to be registered under the Agriculture and Forestry system, one can still apply this one to seedlings that are being raised and thus protect the intellectual property of the breeders.

Some cultivars are registered in both lists.

Agriculture and Forestry Certified Cultivars

The list covers cultivars since 1953, when cultivars were first registered in Japan. The last one is in 2017, which is believe is the most recent.

NameYear of registrationUsage
Benihomare1953black tea
Asatsuyu1953sencha
Miyoshi1953sencha
Tamamidori1953tamaryokucha
Sayamamidori1953sencha
Yabukita1953sencha
Makinoharawase1953sencha
Koyanishi1953sencha
Rokurou1953sencha
yamatomidori1953sencha
Takachiho1953kamairicha
Indo1953black tea
Hatsumomiji1953black tea
Benitachiwase1953black tea
Akane1953black tea
Natsumidori1954sencha
Yaeho1954sencha
Asagiri1954gyokuro
Kyoumidori1954gyokuro/tencha
Hatsumidori1954sencha
Benikaori1960black tea
Benifuji1960black tea
Himemidori1960gyokuro
Izumi1960kamairi tamaryokucha
Satsumabeni1960black tea
Okumusashi1962sencha
Yamanami1965kamairicha
Benihikari1969black tea
Unkai1969kamairicha
Kanayamidori1970sencha
Sayamakaori1971sencha
Okumidori1974sencha
Toyoka1976sencha
Okuyutaka1983sencha
Meiryoku1986sencha
Fukumidori1986sencha
Shunmei1988sencha
Minekaori1988sencha
Minamikaori1988kamairicha
Saemidori1990sencha
Fuushun1991sencha
Minamisayaka1991sencha
Hokumei1992sencha
Benifuuki1993black tea/oolong
Ryoufuu1997sencha
Musashikaori1997sencha
Sakimidori1997sencha
Harumidori2000sencha
Soufuu2002sencha/oolong
Sainomidori2003sencha
Harumoegi2003sencha
Miyamakaori2003sencha
Yumewakaba2006sencha
Yumekaori2006sencha
Shuntarou2009sencha
Sunrouge2009N/A
Saeakari2010sencha
Harunonagori2012sencha
Nagomiyutaka2012kamairicha/sencha
Nanmei2012sencha
Seimei2017sencha

By the meaning of their names in Japanese, one can tell many things.

For example, the ones that have “midori” (green) are for green tea. On the other hand, cultivars meant for black tea have “beni” (red) in them. Remember that black tea is actually red tea in Japan.

Also, the cultivars with “oku” (interior) in their name are late budding, or banseishu (晩生種). Those with “wase” (early crop) are early budding cultivars. This is all relative to the Yabukita cultivar.

As you can see in the list, the popular Yabukita cultivar is very old, it was registered in 1953, along with 15 other cultivars.

Seed and Seedling Law Registered Cultivars

NameYear of registration
Hoshinomidori1981
Okuyutaka1983
Tsukasamidori1984
Takanewase1985
Satouwase1986
Okuhikari1987
Meiryoku1987
Fukumidori1988
Inaguchi1988
Terakawawase1990
Minekaori1990
Minamikaori1990
Shunmei1990
Saemidori1991
Chachuukanbohonnou 11992
Fuushun1993
Minamisayaka1994
Sawamizuka1995
Benifuuki1995
Hokumei1995
Mineyutaka1996
Shouju1996
Marishi1996
Mieryokuhou 11996
Asanoka1996
Fujikaori1996
Yamanoibuki1997
Chachuukanbohonnou 21998
Sagarahikari1998
Sagaramidori1998
Koushun2000
Sagarakaori2000
Sagarawase2000
Sakimidori2001
Ryoufuu2001
Midorinohoshi2001
Musashikaori2001
Ryokufuu2002
Chachuukanbohonnou 32002
Narino2002
Okunoyama2002
Harumidori2003
Tsuyuhikari2003
Mieuejima2003
Soufuu2005
Sainomidori2006
Miyamakaori2006
Harumoegi2006
Kiraka2006
Houshun2006
Tenmyou2006
Chachuukanbohonnou 62008
Chachuukanbohonnou 52008
Chachuukanbohonnou 42008
Hourainishiki2008
Yumewakaba2008
Yumekaori2009
Kanayaibuki2009
Kanayahomare2009
Shuntarou2011
Sunrouge2011
Harunonagori2012
Yumesuruga2012
Saeakari2012
Nagomiyutaka2012
Kibounome2013
Nanmei2014
Shizukaori2015
Okuharuka2015
Mantennokagayaki2015
Kirari312016

Unregistered Japanese Tea Cultivars

Name
Houryoku
Surugawase
Fujimidori
Kuritawase
Yutakamidori
Yamakai
Kurasawa
Ouiwase
Gokou
Ujihikari
Asahi
Komakage
Samidori
Oguramidori
Ujimidori
Karabeni
Tadanishiki
Benitsukuba
Misaki
Shizu-7132

Updated: Mar 2022

Sources:

http://www.naro.affrc.go.jp/patent/breed/0200/0206/index.html

http://minorien.jp/university/hinshu.pdf

http://www.hinshu2.maff.go.jp/

33 Comments

  1. Lars
    October 20, 2013

    Wow! What an impressive list, that you’ve compiled there. A japanese tea fanatic like me enjoys exactly that!

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      October 20, 2013

      Thank you Lars, I hope that you find it useful.

      Reply
  2. lochan
    February 7, 2014

    Really interesting.
    Isn’t Yume Wakaba ゆめわかば already registered as a cultivar? Maybe you missed that. I think it was registered as ‘Norin No.53’ and named ‘Yumewakaba’ in 2006.

    Lochan
    Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden
    Nepal

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      February 7, 2014

      Hi Lochan

      You’re absolutely right, I’m missing Yume Wakaba and probably some more cultivars!

      I’ll do more research and update it as soon as I can, thank you for noticing : )

      Reply
  3. Ricardo Caicedo
    February 7, 2014

    The cultivar list is now updated, last teas are from 2012.

    Reply
    1. lochan
      February 8, 2014

      Hi Ricardo,
      Last year I went to the tea research station in Kikugawa, Shizuoka. They gave me an official chart of the clones. It is in Japanese though. I scanned it and made it into a pdf file. I can send that to you if you want. It may help you. Send me your mail address if you would like it.

      Reply
      1. Ricardo Caicedo
        February 9, 2014

        Hello Lochan

        That would be very helpful, thanks!
        I’m sending you an email right now.

        Reply
  4. Paul Escudero
    March 28, 2014

    Excellent work Richard. Where can I obtain reliable cultivars in the Eastern United States? I live in the notheast but would like to obtain 4 or so that I will keep in large containers on a deck and bring inside in the winter time.
    Your friend in delight of tea
    Paul

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      March 28, 2014

      Hello Paul

      I’m not really sure, but have you tried contacting the US League of Tea Growers?
      http://usgrowntea.wordpress.com/

      Reply
  5. Brendon Collins
    December 23, 2015

    Hi Ricardo, what an epic list! There’s some really good information here 🙂

    I found 5 of the 6 varieties we have here on our tea farm in Australia. If you know anything about our sixth – Yutakamidori – I’d be very keen to hear it.

    Thanks for all of your effort !

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      December 23, 2015

      Hello Brendon

      Thanks for the comment. It’s interesting that you have so many Japanese tea cultivars in your tea farm.

      As you can see Yutakamidori isn’t on the list. This is because it was never registered, although this cultivar is fairly popular.

      What I can tell you is that it can be harvested 5 days earlier than Yabukita, and it is suited for warm weather. That’s why it is mainly found in Kagoshima prefecture.

      Reply
      1. Alexander Seleznev
        September 23, 2017

        Hi, Ricardo! Yutakamidori is the second cultivar after yabukita (more than 5% of total Japanese tea production). It`s very popular in Kagoshima. It was registered in 1966 so it must be on your cultivar list.

        Reply
        1. Ricardo Caicedo
          September 23, 2017

          Hi Alexander

          If it’s registered, it must be in some other list.

          The list on this page isn’t mine, I translated it from the official one made by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan.

          Reply
          1. Alexander Seleznev
            September 23, 2017

            Very weird indeed. Looks like the name of Yutakamidori cultivar was registered in 1966 but the cultivar itself is not registered yet. I will check it out!

  6. Valeria
    June 29, 2016

    Hello Ricardo and thanks for a great site!
    I’ve heard of a new cultivar registered in 2015, okuharuka (sencha). The leaves of oharuka have a perfume like that of sakura leaves – or it seems so, I haven’t yet tried it. Maybe it could be joined to your great list too..

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      June 29, 2016

      Dear Valeria

      Thanks for reading my blog.

      The cultivar that you say exists, you can buy a tea made with it if you search for it online.

      However, I looked at http://agriknowledge.affrc.go.jp/ and it isn’t listed yet. Sometimes it takes many years, and sometimes they aren’t listed at all but they are still used.

      From what I looked online, it submitted and application in 2013.

      As you say, it has the aroma of sakura leaves. Unfortunately I haven’t tried it either.

      Reply
      1. Valeria
        June 30, 2016

        Thanks, Ricardo! It seems I got the wrong information about its being already registered. Good to know, and thanks for the useful link!
        I’ve been reading your site with great pleasure and sincerily admire your work!
        By the way, I would be very interesting to know more about your experience at 日本茶インストラクタ教会. Maybe you have already wrote an article about it? I can’t find…

        Reply
        1. Ricardo Caicedo
          June 30, 2016

          Hi Valeria

          I haven’t written about that yet, but give me a few weeks and I will.

          If you want to take the course and need more info now, feel free to email me.

          Reply
  7. Mei
    July 5, 2016

    Hello. Thank you for such an interesting site. I am only just getting into learning more about Nihoncha, even though I have been actively drinking Japanese tea for around 3 years now. Your site has been helpful. 🙂

    Do you have any info on Samidori, a cultivar that is said to originate from Kyoto?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      July 5, 2016

      Hi Mei, thanks for commenting.

      Actually there’s not much info online about Samidori. It’s a cultivar best used in shaded teas such as matcha and gyokuro, in that respect it’s similar to Gokou, Asahi, and Ujihikari. They are all from Kyoto, but for some reason they aren’t registered. However, they are relatively popular in representing tea from Uji.

      Samidori is reasonably resistant to cold weather, a bit weak against the grey blight and the white peach scale. It also has medium resistance to anthracnose.
      Yield at harvest is a little low.

      Not to be confused with Saemidori.

      Reply
      1. Mei
        July 8, 2016

        There are just so many unregistered, but popular, cultivars. Or maybe there is an update to the list since 2012 but not released to the public. Well, just maybe. ^^;

        Reply
  8. lochan
    December 8, 2016

    Hi Ricardo,
    Do you have any information on the Kyoto cultivars, Gokou and Asahi now? I think Mei also requested for this earlier.

    I have some information on Samidori and would be happy to share it with you by mail.

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      December 8, 2016

      Hi Lochan

      If you have information on any cultivar I would be glad to receive it.

      I’ll get working on the cultivars again, so I might get one published soon.

      Reply
  9. Jonandre Bliss
    October 10, 2018

    Hi everyone, Which cultivars are neon green for matcha?

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      October 10, 2018

      Hi Jonandre

      It’s not only the cultivar. A better color is achieved through many factors, for example quality of harvest, quality of shading method, quality of processing, etc. For example, if it’s from later harvests of the year, the color is impacted immediately.

      You can have different grades of matcha from the same farm using the same cultivar.

      Reply
  10. Noli Ergas
    March 13, 2019

    I really appreciate you putting this list together and updating it over the years, Ricardo. I have referenced it quite a few times.

    Do you have nay plans to cover the popular unregistered cultivars in a similar fashion? It appears you are quite familiar with a few already.

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      March 13, 2019

      Hi Noli

      Nice to see you in the comments again.
      Sure, I will cover the unregistered cultivars too, but first I want to complete the first list.

      It takes time, because I mix things up so that the posts aren’t about cultivars every time.

      Reply
      1. Noli Ergas
        March 21, 2019

        I totally understand that. But maybe you can make a list of unregistered cultivars, even if you don’t have articles to showcase all the unregistered cultivars yet. I think the list alone would be a great resource. Thanks for all the work you’ve done 🙂

        Reply
        1. Ricardo Caicedo
          March 21, 2019

          Hi Noli
          You’re right, at least I should have the list. I will be working on that.

          Reply
  11. Mircea - Teamelier
    September 22, 2019

    You should also add Misaki to not registred, is made by Yoshida Chaen in Ibaraki.

    They make Izumi(Green, Black), Yabukita(Green Black), Misaki(Green), Hokumei(Green), Harumidori(Green)

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      September 22, 2019

      Thanks, I looked it up and it’s on the list now.

      https://www.yoshida-chaen.com/商品紹介/品種茶/

      Reply
  12. lochan
    November 15, 2019

    Tea made by Yoshida Chaen from Izumi culitvar is really something. I had it few weeks ago in Tokyo at a tea festival. My friend told me later that it got sold out quickly.

    You should also do some research on Sofu. That is getting more and more popular with tea connoisseurs in Japan and perhaps it will catch on elsewhere soon.

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Caicedo
      November 15, 2019

      Hi Lochan.

      Wished I could have been at that festival.
      I do have a post about soufuu:
      https://www.myjapanesegreentea.com/soufuu

      Reply

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