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Central Japan city of Kakegawa becomes country's 1st 'green tea liqueur special zone'

Matsushita Tea Garden's green tea liqueur samples. (Photo courtesy of the Kakegawa Municipal Government in Shizuoka Prefecture)

KAKEGAWA, Shizuoka -- This central Japan city has become the country's first "green tea liqueur special zone," in which legal hurdles are lower for small businesses to make liqueur using green tea, and a local manufacturer is aiming to launch a champagne-like green tea drink around March next year.

    Extract from high-quality tea leaves grown in the city of Kakegawa -- one of the largest tea-producing cities in Japan -- is used for the product being developed by Matsushita Tea Garden, which plans to sell 1,500 liters of the drink with around 12% alcohol by volume in the first fiscal year that its liqueur goes on sale. The producer has already developed a sparkling liqueur using high-quality tea extract mixed with an alcoholic beverage and carbonating it.

    The Kakegawa Municipal Government applied to become a special zone on May 11, and the Japanese government gave approval on July 20. In the special zone, which covers the entire city, the minimum annual volume of green tea liqueur that must be produced to obtain an alcohol-manufacturing license has been lowered from 6,000 liters to 1,000 liters. This way, even small manufacturers can get a license.

    The city has been striving to promote tea, with the municipal assembly passing the "ordinance to toast with green tea" in March 2019. While the consumption of pricey green tea brewed in teapots has dipped, consumption of tea in the form of soft drinks that can be made with cheap ingredients is on the rise. Under such circumstances, crude tea trading prices remain stagnant, and tea farmers find themselves in dire straits. They therefore need to come up with new products that will spur renewed tea demand.

    (Japanese original by Koichi Fukuzawa, Hamamatsu Bureau)

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