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Tea was introduced to Japan in the 12th century by monks returning from a pilgrimage to China. In developing its own tea tradition, the Japanese invented the process of flash steaming to extract the freshest aromas from plucked leaves, thus giving rise to classic Sencha tea. The nation's narrow geographic profile means that even inland areas are close to the ocean. The proximity to sea air imparts hints of seaweed and fresh grass to Japanese teas.

Today, the highest grade Japanese teas are produced in Shizuoka and Kyoto Prefectures in the main island of Honshu, and Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu. Japan makes almost exclusively green teas only. Less than one percent of its production is exported, making its premium teas exceptionally difficult to source.