THE FOUNDATIONS OF JAPANESE TEAS TODAY
WERE INVENTED IN UJI AND THEN TRANSMITTED TO
ALL THE OTHER REGIONS OF JAPAN.
Tea cultivation is said to have originated in China, with the first traces dating back to 2700 BC. It has been appreciated as a drink for over 2000 years. It was the Buddhist monks who, returning from China, imported this tradition of drinking tea to the Japanese peninsula at the beginning of the 9th century.
In 1191, at the beginning of the Kamakura era, Zen Master Eïsai returned from China and passed on the methods of making and preparing a powdered green tea to Japan. Eïsai asks the priests of the Kozan Temple in Kyoto to cultivate the tea plant and develop the production of drinking tea. The latter found suitable land, where the mist of the rivers is very dense and the climate is suitable for tea growing, in the Uji region. This is how the story of Uji's teas began.
Uji not only has natural conditions favourable to tea growing, but is conveniently located near the political and cultural capital, Kyoto, at the time when tea was widely consumed.
At the beginning of the 9th century, Uji teas were protected by the Ashikaga Shogun, and the name Uji was therefore known as the name of the region of teas of excellence.
Although tea cultivation and production was originally imported from China to Japan with the development of ritual practices such as "Tcha-no-yu" or "Bunjin- tcha", tea making techniques have evolved considerably thanks to the emergence of shade cultivation and the so-called Uji method. From this came unique green teas, Matcha, Sencha and Gyokuro.
JAPAN'S EMBLEMATIC TEAS, MATCHA, SENCHA AND GYOKURO, WERE ALL BORN IN UJI, A HISTORICAL REGION WITH A UNIQUE CLIMATE, AND REPRESENT A CULTURAL HERITAGE THAT WE INVITE YOU TO DISCOVER.
THE BIRTH OF UJI TEAS
AND THEIR STORY....
The city and province of Uji have developed around the Uji River, which has been flowing from Lake Biwa for more than a thousand years. Located at the crossroads of traffic linking Kyoto, Nara and Shiga prefectures, Uji has played a fundamental and strategic role in history.
Around the 9th century, it was a meeting point for the new aristocracy of Kyoto, which established a remarkable culture there, often described in Japanese literature as the famous scenes in The Tale of Genji.
It is in this geographical and cultural context that
tea has been transmitted in Uji and has been perpetuated for eight centuries the production of exceptional teas.
Intimately linked to the development of ritual and traditional tea practice, the innovative tea making techniques developed there have given rise to very fine green teas.
Since 2015, Uji has been listed as a cultural heritage site in Japan by the Agency for Cultural Affairs as a historic site, and is now considering applying for UNESCO World Heritage status.
UJI HAS A UNIQUE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL HERITAGE AND IS THE CRADLE OF JAPAN'S ICONIC TEAS.
Until the end of the 12th century, Chinese Matchas, cultivated in the open air, were found in Japan and drunk by soaking them in hot water. Uji began Matcha culture at the same time.
In the middle of the 15th century, Uji teas became a reference brand, supported by the imperial family in Kyoto and by the Shoguns. At the beginning of the 16th century, the "Tcha no Yu", i. e. the tea ceremony, appeared, where the equipment and utensils as well as the service and tasting gestures of the teas were highlighted and appreciated during a meal.
At the same time, the tea master Sen no Rikyu broadcast the "Wabi-tcha". And to meet the demand of tea masters, such as Sen no Rikyu, shade cultivation has been developed in Uji to produce the finest teas.
This is how Tencha was born, a softer tea without astringency, from which Matcha is made with a bright colour and strong umami, an emblematic tea from Japan.
In the middle of the 17th century, according to the Zen master Ingen (from the Manpuku temple), a way of drinking tea was spread by infusing rolled tea leaves. Following this, around the 18th century, a technique appeared in Uji which consisted in drying the steamed leaves on a hot hearth by kneading and crumpling them. This technique was called the "Uji method" which produces a tea rich in colour, aroma and taste: Sencha.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the fusion of shade cultivation and the Uji method gave birth to Gyokuro.
THE DIFFERENT TEAS FROM JAPAN
All teas come from the same variety of tea plant belonging to the Camellia family. Most Japanese teas are unfermented green teas, which are largely steamed to prevent oxidation. Then the leaves are dried gently while being crumpled and kneaded.
This innovative steam manufacturing technique did not exist anywhere else and has been invented in Uji.
[ Consists of covering the tea plants as the buds grow to block the light.]
Tencha: Tea steamed and dried without rolling.
Gyokuro: The buds are shaded for at least 20 days, giving them a deep green colour. They are then steamed and rolled up as they dry. It is a tea rich in aroma and umami, with a very soft green colour. Tea leaves are also consumed as they are.
THE TEA LEAVES ARE STEAMED SHORTLY AFTER PICKING TO STOP
ANOTHER TECHNIQUE CONSISTS IN PASSING THEM THROUGH A KAMA, A KIND OF CAULDRON, VERY HOT.