This was the final day of the tea tour. Time flies when you’re having fun.
I felt a bit sad because the time spent together with the other press members and the JETRO staff would come to and end.
Our first stop was a tea store.
The name of this store in Japanese is Maikonocha Honpo (舞妓の茶本舗).
It’s in Kyōtanabe city, Kyoto prefecture.
The president Masayasu Tamiya prepared a gyokuro for us, and gave us some sweets to have with it. It was definitely a high quality gyokuro, I liked it a lot.
He talked to us about gyokuro. It’s the store’s specialty.
Later on the international sales advisor Ralph Faerber joined us and we had a short chat about tea.
Of all the teaware that I have, the only thing I was missing were authentic Japanese tea coasters.
I loved their shiboridashi tea pot, you can see it in the picture I took. But I couldn’t afford it, so I’ll add it to my wish list for now.
Kyoryouri Ujigawa and Uji Bridge
It was time for lunch, so we visited the restaurant Kyoryouri Ujigawa (京料理 宇治川).
The restaurant is right next to Uji river, so the view is really nice. The food is delicious, and since it’s in Uji there’s green tea in many of the dishes.
For example, they have soba noodles with matcha, green tea leaf tempura, and green tea inari sushi.
We can also see the Uji bridge from there. Besides appearing in the Tale of Genji, it has been the place for more than three battles, and it was the first stage of the annual journey to present shincha to the emperor during the Edo period.
Ironically, the Uji tea festival that also takes place at Uji bridge would happen a few days later (fist Sunday of October) but we wouldn’t be there anymore. Water is drawn from a top the bridge and it is taken to a temple to prepare the tea.
I forgot to take a picture of it, but one interesting thing about Uji bridge is that at both sides of the pedestrian path there is a row of tea plants.
Tsuen Tea House
Right after crossing the Uji bridge, we arrived to the Tsuen Tea House (通円茶屋).
Its history dates back to the year 1160 when a retired samurai decided to setup his residence near the Uji bridge.
This makes it the oldest tea house in Japan, and probably one of the oldest in the world.
Tsuen’s descendants started to sell tea to people that crossed the bridge, and eventually it led to the establishment of a formal tea house. The present building was built in the 17th century, in the same place where the old one existed.
I didn’t have the time to talk to him, but I was able to take a picture.
At Tsuen you can buy tea and teaware. You can also sit to enjoy tea and sweets.
We crossed the bridge again because we were going to Byōdōin (平等院) a famous temple in Japan.
It appears in the 10 yen coin, and the phoenix from the temple appears on the 10,000 yen bill. So this temple is a must-see in Uji city.
This street is also a great place for tea tourists. There are tea shops, souvenir shops, and places to eat that use green tea as an ingredient.
I could have stayed here all day!
I bought some goods to take home: a matcha curry, a matcha liquour with plum juice, and two teas as gifts.
There’s also a museum where many national treasures are displayed.
Cha no Ka
When we arrived to the hotel we were given a sample of a a high end matcha sweet: Cha no Ka (茶の菓), made by Malebranche.
It’s made with Uji tea and it is only available in Kyoto.
You can get the list of the stores in Kyoto from the company’s website.
The sweets are gluten free, have chocolate in the center, and are made with high quality koicha. They are definitely delicious and make a good gift.
Uji Tea Symposium
There was a presentation by JETRO, and we were also speakers and panelists for a round of questions.
I actually delivered a speech to 120 people of the Uji tea industry! I felt a bit scared because it was the first time that I spoke to so many people.
My topic was the state of the market for tea in Colombia, and South America as a whole. Since its a place that many Japanese people don’t know about, it was probably a novel thing for them to hear.
Overall I must say that this was the best tea tour that I have ever done. I want to thank JETRO again for their invitation.
If these posts sparked an interest in you to go to the Uji region as a tea tourist, then my job is complete.