Competition Grade TeaCompetition Grade Tea

Tea Competition

Executives of the tea industry association serve as judges of the exclusive competition. They strictly judge and critique the contributed teas to provide feedback to tea farmers and producers in order to improve Japanese tea. Contributed teas are judged on appearance, aroma, flavor, color of the brewed tea infusion, used tea leaves, and so on for each category: Gyokuro, Sencha, and Matcha. In the case of Matcha, Tencha, which is the form before being ground into powder, is evaluated.

Toward the end of the competition, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries selects the most excellent tea in each category: Gyokuro, Sencha, and Matcha. All teas contributed to the exclusive competition are generally of premium quality. And, if the judges find any defect, imperfection, or area that needs improvement, this information is passed on to the tea farmers so that they can improve their agricultural techniques.

When the judges evaluate the tea's appearance, the tea leaves are checked for uniformity of shape and color: bright, deep green, etc. More healthy and vigorous tea leaves are bright and deep green. And the most unique feature of teas contributed to the competition is that they are quite short and fine, like tiny green needles, because they are harvested as very young tea sprouts and processed accordingly. Although generally the best time to gather tea leaves is when the tea tree has five sprouts, and three sprouts for even the highest grade tea, these tea leaves are picked when the tea tree has only one or two sprouts. It is quite different from general teas which are not so fine like needles. And farmers specially process the tea so the leaves retain their fine needle shape for the exclusive tea competition.

When the judges critique the color of the brewed tea infusion, teas are evaluated for color brightness and imperfections. Tea which is healthy and vigorous has a very bright color. If the tea leaves have any imperfections, even if quite small, the imperfection can be identified in the brewed tea infusion. Negative indications include a red or black tint to the brewed infusion or an infusion that is too yellow, along with turbidity, strength or intensity, deposition condition, and so on.

As for the aroma and flavor, teas are evaluated for generous, smooth, and mellow flavor and aroma, and various imperfections. Teas contributed to the National Tea Competition usually have a full and generous flavor that is smooth, mellow, and deep, along with the fresh aroma of young sprouts. Gyokuro and Matcha have an especially noble aroma created by shading the tea plants from sunlight for more than 20 days before harvest.

As above, teas contributed to the competition are harvested when the tea tree has only one or two sprouts. In general, the flavor of the tea becomes more intense when the tea tree produces two to five sprouts. When the tree has only one or two sprouts, the flavor is usually quite weak because the tea tree is unable to fully absorb nutrition from the soil. Therefore, to grow tea for the National Tea Competition, farmers must encourage the tea trees to absorb much more nutrition from fertilizer when the tea tree has only one or two sprouts. It is common for even the highest grade teas to be harvested when the tea tree has three to five sprouts. It is very difficult and requires knowledge and wisdom accumulated through time and tradition and daily great efforts. The knowledge accumulated through growing teas for the National Tea Competition not only helps to improve the farming and production of high grade tea, improved techniques learned through tea production can often be used in other areas of agriculture, all around Japan.


The site of the national tea competition


Evaluating the appearance of Gyokuro and Sencha

Evaluating the appearance of Matcha (Tencha)


Evaluating water color


Evaluating aroma



Evaluating flavor


Evaluated teas are sorted in descending order


This monument was built in honor of the establishment of Uji cha green tea Hall, where the competition grade teas are evaluated.

What is Competition Grade Tea?

Competition Grade Tea and Belended Sencha are now available. They are all limited edition only available this winter season.

The National Tea Competition is held several times a year in Japan. Sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and attended by executives of the Japanese tea industry, the event provides a venue for tea farmers and producers to receive feedback in order to improve Japanese tea agricultural and manufacturing techniques, and to congratulate and encourage those that have produced outstanding tea.

Teas contributed to the National Tea Competition usually have a full and generous flavor that is smooth, mellow, and deep, along with the fresh aroma of young sprouts. Gyokuro and Matcha have an especially noble aroma created by shading the tea plants from sunlight for more than 20 days before harvest. The feature of the flavor and aroma is unique only to teas contributed to the exclusive competition and quite different from usual tea. Competition grade teas outshine even the highest grade teas found in tea shops in Japan.

Competition Grade Tea is available only at the National Tea Fair of Japan, attended by those within the Japanese green tea industry. Even in Japan it is almost impossible to find tea of this quality - this is one of the very best available anywhere. This is quite a unique opportunity to try the deep mellow taste, fresh aroma of young tea sprouts, and noble flavor found only at Japan's National Tea Competition.

Competition grade Matcha is a bright green color.

Tea leaves of competition grade Gyokuro and Sencha are quite short and fine, like tiny green needles.

Evaluating water color and flavor. The flavor is quite different from usual tea.

2017 Award Competition Grade Matcha: Available This Time Only

This item is limited edition of 250 packages available at this time only. It is unknown how many years it may be before we could sell Award Competition Grade again. (shopping page: click here)

This Competition Grade Matcha won the Japan Tea Industry Central Association President Award, and finished second place at the National Tea Fair of Japan. This is the second highest award for tea in Japan.

The price of tea finished in the second or third highest place is more moderate than the first highest place tea, though there is no significant difference in quality. Indeed, it seems that the mellowness and deepness of this Matcha is almost the same as last year's #1 Awarded Competition Matcha, which the farmer won the first highest award in 2012 and 2016, and the color may possibly be even brighter.

The year 2012 #1 Award Competition Grade Matcha sold out much earlier than expected, and we received many requests from customers to offer it again, if possible.

You can prepare approximately 9 or 10 bowls of Matcha with this Competition Grade Matcha. If 30% is deducted as a handsel for the farmer, the cost would be less than US$5 (2012 #1 Awarded: US$8) for each bowl of this Matcha. We are certain this Matcha will be the ICHIGO ICHIE precious experience of your life.

The unique flavor, deep mellow taste and fresh young aroma of this 2017 Award Competition Grade Matcha is outstanding even in upper level competition Matcha.



What is Blended Sencha?

Competition Grade Tea and Belended Sencha are now available. They are all limited edition only available this winter season.

With a single cup of Blended Sencha, one can concurrently enjoy two different characteristics: the aroma of Sencha and the taste of Gyokuro. Blended Sencha is more sweet and mellow than basic Sencha, characteristic of Gyokuro. But, it has a more refreshing aroma than Gyokuro, characteristic of Sencha.

The aroma of Sencha and the taste of Gyokuro are created by a labor-intensive blending technique similar to that of Blended Sencha Premium or Super Premium.

Arcanum is a great secret of nature, a natural mystery or special blend of natural ingredients, known only to a small group of specialists, such as alchemists. We call this tea "Arcanum" because it is a special blend of Sencha which provides a dramatically intense and balanced flavor.





Competition Grade Tea / Blended Sencha Items: Now Available!

We have arranged to add three limited edition Competition Grade teas and two limited edition Belended Sencha teas.

Competition Grade Tea is extremely rare and available only at the National Tea Fair of Japan, attended by those within the Japanese green tea industry. The flavor is unique only to teas contributed to the exclusive competition and quite different from usual tea.

Belended Sencha has concurrently two different characteristics: the aroma of Sencha and the taste of Gyokuro. They are composed of fine and unique breeds of tea with special characteristics. Each individual tea is more sweet and mellow than basic Sencha, characteristic of Gyokuro. But, it has a more refreshing aroma than Gyokuro, characteristic of Sencha.

Competition Grade Tea is limited edition of just 650 packages each and Blended Sencha is limited edition of just 850 packages each ONLY AVAILABLE this winter season.

Competition Grade Tea
[Limited] Competition Grade Gyokuro Pinnacle (30g/1.06oz): US$38.00 (Now Available)
This Competition Grade Gyokuro Pinnacle has an excellent, deeply mellow taste. The National Tea Competition is held in order to improve Japanese tea agricultural and manufacturing techniques, and to congratulate and encourage those that have produced outstanding tea...
[Limited] Competition Grade Sencha Pinnacle (40g/1.41oz): US$30.00 (Now Available)
Competition Grade Sencha Pinnacle is available only at the National Tea Fair, attended by tea connoisseurs and those within the Japanese green tea industry. This fine green tea has an excellent, deeply mellow taste...
[Limited] Competition Grade Matcha Pinnacle (20g/0.71oz): US$46.00 (Now Available)
This Competition Grade Matcha Pinnacle has an excellent, deeply mellow taste. The National Tea Competition is held several times a year in Japan. Sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and attended by executives of the Japanese tea industry...
[Limited] Competition Grade Matcha Pinnacle Refill (60g/2.12oz): US$115.00 (Now Available)
This Competition Grade Matcha Premium Refill package is an excellent value. The price is actually discounted 17%. This has an excellent, deeply mellow taste. The National Tea Competition is held several times a year in Japan. Sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries...
2017 Award Competition Grade Matcha
[Limited] 2017 Award Competition Grade Matcha (15g/0.53oz): US$65.00 (Now Available)
(This item is limited edition of 250 packages available at this time only. It is unknown how many years it may be before we could sell Award Competition Grade again.) This Matcha won the Japan Tea Industry Central Association President Award, and finished second place at the National Tea Fair of Japan. The price of tea finished in the second or third highest place is more moderate than the first highest place tea, though there is no significant difference in quality....
Blended Sencha
[Limited] Blended Sencha Super Premium (80g/2.82oz): US$25.00 (Now Available)
Blended Sencha Super Premium is a blend of Ohiwase and Meiryoku breeds of green tea. These tea leaves are sprouts that are small and soft and not fully-grown...
[Limited] Blended Sencha Premium (80g/2.82oz): US$20.00 (Now Available)
Blended Sencha Premium is a blend of Sencha and Gyokuro. This tea is composed of four breeds of green tea: Kanayamidori, Sayamakaori, Yabukita, and Okumidori...