Black Tea made in the small district “Oku”, northern Okinawa called Yanbaru area, has fantastic refreshing sweetness

Did you know that there are black tea in northern tip of  Okinawa island that reminds “Oriental beauty” which is Oolong tea in Taiwan?

Okinawa Tea

Okinawa has been poor in tea since the Ryukyu era(14th to 19th century). Even though the demand for tea in Okinawa has been high because of its sultry climate, the Okinawa tea production volume has not been low. Necessarily, Okinawa has relied on the import of tea from mainland Japan and Taiwan, worsening the trade balance. Over a few hundreds of years, many policies were implemented to increase the domestic production quantity. but they did not work well. Unfortunately, Okinawa tea would not be match with Okinawan tastes. Then, a stable business base could not be established. In the long and harsh history of Okinawa tea, the Oku community had created a period of brilliant light.

Oku Tea plantations on the northern tip of Okinawa island

Handling tea cultivation as business in Oku community began in 1929  with the launch of a seed nursery.

Tea picking scissors

After 3 years from the war II ended, in 1948, a voluntary organization “Oku Tea Industry Association” was formed with 74 people. A zinc roofing simple tea new factory was established by collecting waste materials of US military and progressed to revitalization.The operation spirit was based on the mutual cooperation(called Yuimaru), in which each member was organically connected. Efficiently,the quality was improved, and the production volume was increased. They also sent trainees to the mainland, incorporating state-of-the-art technology and preferences at the time.

When Okinawa returned to Japan in 1972, the domestic tea protection policy of the Ryukyu government was lost. and Oku farmers had to struggle for the cheaper tea from the mainland. The Oku Tea Industry Association had achieved remarkable success as a result of united efforts to improve quality and production mass. Moreover,stabilized distribution channels to the mainland, and reduce its distribution unit prices. In recognition of that achievement, Oku Association  received the Asahi Agriculture Prize in 1975, which was selected the most excellent organizations among new agricultural businesses from all over the country every year, and the Okinawa Times Industry Prize in 1976.

Tea picking machine

In the Heisei era, recent a few 10 years, the aging of union members put a burden on heavy tea picker machine handled by two old farmers, and gradually shifted to “Shiquwarsa (citrus)”, which can use lightweight agricultural equipment, and Oku tea volume has reduced gradually the area of tea plantations. Another reason of the decrease could be low preference of Okinawan for domestic tea, which would made the island tea market fix predominantly mainland market distribution systems.

In Reiwa(2019~), the Oku teas are still produced. Green tea and black tea are sold in the first place after entering the shop.

Green tea is nice balanced and delicious My favorite black tea is similar to “Oriental Beauty” oolong tea and has a sweetness like honey and can be enjoyed without adding anything.

Tears are sold after the entrance of the Oku share shop

Dear readers,when going to northern Okinawa, please stop by Oku District, about 8 km from Cape Hedo, and stop by Oku shared shop to get the tea. Imagine a tea plantation grown in a subtropical forest, so you can relax.

Enjoy Okinawa distilled spirit “Awamori” with rich black tea

I sometimes dilute the Awamori, an Okinawan distilled liquor, into a insulation cup with hot, dark-grained black tea, and enjoy the scent and flavor slowly.


Okinawa Tea


国頭村 奥の茶畑
国頭村 奥の茶畑














Free Tour of Northern Okinawa Awamori Distillery “Yanbaru Shuzousho”, rich taste from the tropical forest pure water

Awamori is a distilled spirit indigenous to Okinawa, that is not sake,  almost same with Shochu. Awamori is made by the fermentation of indica rice without any other grain with black koji(malt), which is the same koji of Shouchu. You can learn the history and fermentation and distill process of the liquor in the free tour. You can also taste some kinds of Awamori in the factory.

Yanbaru Shuzousho, which I visited this time, is located on the Takazato River in Ogimi Village, and is the northernmost distillery specializing in Awamori founded by local people 70 years ago. Awamori product process use the same method of southern area of Okinawa, but the water is different. In the southern part, the hard water purified by infiltration of Ryukyu limestone is used, whereas in Yanbaru Shuzousho, medium hard water infiltrated through forests and soil that does not contain much limestone is pumped up. It is used as a  water to thin the fermented rice, cooling water for distillation, and to reduce alcohol.

Tour reception and sales office

Entrance of the  distillery, I was guided by Mr. Ikehara, President.

Thai rice is the only cereal that is washed, soaked and drained.

After draining, the 700kg rice is steamed.

Black malt spores are sprinkled evenly on steamed rice. Since the black malt is a strong bacterium, it does not attract other bacteria. then the rice is not spoiled.It is also a very useful bacterium used in a black vinegar made in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The black malt on the factory roof beams gives a sense of the building’s history.

Rice koji made from black koji and steamed rice is mixed with Yanbal water to form “moromi” and fermented slowly under room temperature. A month later, “moromi” had a slightly sweet awamori scent.

The water used for Awamori is sterilized with ultraviolet light. Low temperature pasteurization is widely used so that the taste of freshly squeezed milk is not impaired by heat. Pasteurization is widely used so that the taste of freshly squeezed milk is not impaired by heat. Efforts to preserve the deliciousness of natural water are wonderful.

The fermented moromi is heated, distilled, and blown into a cooling tank through the square pipe in the picture.The water flowing through the cooling tank is also Yanbal water.Because it is distilled at normal pressure, the scent of moromi and various components are contained more than shochu. That will be the source of the taste of Awamori.

The freshly distilled Awamori is aged in storage tanks for over a year and slowly grows mellow.

It was one of the best shochu and Awamori I ever drank. Yanbaru Distillery is a small  business size that is mostly consumed locally. As demand declined due to depopulation. When going to Yanbal, please stop by the Yanbaru Distillery and try delicious Awamori








酒造所の入り口 社長の池原さんに案内していただきました。














沖縄本島北端の辺戸集落で気楽に神様に近い暮しと自然をツアー体験 2020.1.19




午後の部 参加者とガイド 記念写真撮り忘れ、すみません。







ちょっと味見会してみました。美味しい!! そのままサラダに使える食材と思いました。


1m越えの切り株 病気のためバッサリ ガイドさんの声が寂しそうでした。



< 辺戸集落の暮らし >

古来、辺戸で祭事を仕切っておられたノロさんの祈りの場所ウガンシュにて、お祈りを捧げました。辺戸のノロは、琉球王朝から任命され、王朝へ捧げる重要な若水を取り聖地を守り地域の安寧を祈る重責を400年続けてこられたとのこと。私はノロの しめやかなお屋敷に普通に正月飾りがあることに、琉球人の神も神道も仏もおおらかに敬い親しむ気持ちよさを感じました。


共同売店にある寄り合い会議室で、祖母が辺戸最後のノロであった地元のお婆さんを囲んで、色々とお話しを伺いました。ノロは世襲制ではなく霊力をもった適正な方が推挙されノロとなれるとのこと。祖母は与那の人だったが、ご自身の霊感によりノロの依頼が来ることを予見して心構えをしていたとのこと。当時、辺戸集落にはノロが不在で悪い気があり、辺戸の人たちは祖母をノロに迎えることを決めて夜中、竹三本で松明を作り祖母の元にノロを依頼されたこと。覚悟していた祖母と母は辺戸に移り住んで、辺戸に安寧がもたらされたこと。ノロにとって大切なマガタマが紛失したが奇跡的に戻ってきたこと。 ツアーの方々は、お婆さんの話の内容だけでなく語り部の醸し出す雰囲気に感じ入った様子でした。

<  義本王の墓>





株式会社ファーマーズ・フォレスト 石井さん、写真提供有難うございました。