Buying Japanese tea at a health store or specialty shop can be sketchy at best. From my own experience, I haven’t been able to find any good Japanese tea in a local store. Why is this?

Shipping Is Not Cheap

If you’re a serious Japanese tea drinker, you probably have experience with buying tea from online shops. (That is unless you became so serious about Japanese tea that you moved to Japan. If you have, Griff will want to see if you’d like to write for the AJ-GT blog! 😛 )

Anyway, if you have bought from an online store, your tea was most likely shipped on a plane for the major part of its journey. Grocery stores, health food stores, and specialty shops usually opt to have their products shipped by cargo ship, which is a lot slower, but more cost effective.

The longer your tea is stuck in shipping, the less fresh it will be once it arrives to you, never mind the shelf life.

Local Stores Don’t Know Any Better

I don’t often come to the defense of retail tea stores (actually I don’t ever) but let’s face it, most couldn’t spot quality Japanese tea if it was right under their noses.

Japanese tea is a vast subject on its own. Massive. How could someone running an all encompassing tea store have an intimate knowledge about all their teas? The fact is they can’t, and they don’t. The more “exotic” a tea is, the less they will know.

On top of that, there is a good chance they also won’t know how sensitive Japanese tea is to oxygen, and how to properly store it. (Belle’s tip: If they keep their tea in large containers for customers to scoop out of, don’t buy any!)

Some People Buy Up Their Product Anyway

I know you are an educated tea drinker. I know you can tell the difference between good and bad tea. But some people can’t. They will buy supermarket brand tea anyway, tell their friends how bad green tea tastes, and continue to drink it for the “health benefits”. (Side note: low grade tea that’s gone stale does not have much nutritional value.)

But seeing how the words “green tea” sell well to the average customer, the market for these low quality teas will remain.

They Aren’t All Bad

Even though I’ve yet to find a store selling decent Japanese green tea, I don’t want to make it sound like they don’t exist. I believe they do. In fact I’ve had some friends tell me about being able to find good tea locally. These stores are independently run tea shops specializing in Japanese tea. They are very sparse, but they do exist.

If you find one of these little shops, please do us (and them) a favor and let everyone know where their store is at! 🙂


Belle is a long time fan of Japanese green tea. Since her first taste of Matcha, her love of tea has steadily grown to Sencha, Gyokuro, and a variety of Chinese tea. Belle is also a lover of Anime, and Japanese culture.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Ryan

    Good info. Well written.

    I have some Japanese supermarkets near me; though, I’ve never tried any of their teas. Well, actually, I’ve tried two selections during shincha season that they air ship, but they weren’t nearly as good as what I can find online. They came from the “McDonald’s” of tea companies.

    I think Japanese green tea is probably the most sensitive of all teas. That said, I’m sure you can still find relatively fresh Japanese tea that has been shipped by sea. However, given a choice, I’ll always choose plane shipped. And I’m not as concerned with buying Chinese tea if it has been sea shipped; it’s not as sensitive as sencha and so I think it’s effected less with sea shipment.

    I think, ultimately, many people who drink sencha do it rather casually and aren’t all that picky. And then there are studs like me and Griff, and all those that frequent THE ART OF JAPANESE GREEN TEA FORUM who are picky and dedicate their lives to finding the finest Japanese sencha they can.

    1. Belle

      Hi Ryan thanks for stopping by!

      Good points. From what I’ve heard, there are some companies selling decent sencha in the west. The only catch is that the prices for these decent teas are comparable to the prices for outstanding teas from online vendors.

      And yes, those who dwell in the forum are an interesting breed. I often wonder what you guys are plotting over there, while sipping on your recently imported tea 😛

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