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Discourse of quality and place in geographical indications: Applying convention theory to Japanese tea

Yoshitaka Miyake & Ryo Kohsaka (2022)

Food Reviews International, Online first.

Abstract. Though Japanese tea has been traditionally differentiated by, for example, production processes, varieties, and environmental and cultural factors of production areas, positive elements related to place or environment are increasingly highlighted to add value to tea practices. Here, agricultural practice peculiar to the area can provide foods more in a sustainable way. The practice can be registered through institutional measures. Regions of tea production are applying multiple instruments, such as geographical indications (GIs), trademarks, organic standards, and regional heritage registrations. Thus, this study examined the potential effects of these quality elements on the producers and production regions and discuss the quality is multi-layered over discourse and practice. For the analysis, this study employed convention theory originating from French economic sociology to understand producers and related actors deciding product quality. This study investigated four tea types, all observable cases of Japanese tea GIs. The effective registration of GI depends on diverse conventional elements such as inclusion and exclusion, duration of the registration process, and the agreeable product standards. The registration of GI tea can be combined with other quality or environment-related registration, such as organic standards, environmentally friendly or tradition-related labeling, such as that in Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS).

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