My visit to Wazuka and Obubu Tea Farms remain to be one of the highlights of my Kyoto trip.
My interest in tea started two years ago. A fairly short amount of time since there are either limited or expensive options back in the Philippines. My only experience with tea came in forms of teabags. Then, I moved to Australia where the tea culture, though not as widespread as in Japan, is thriving.
I had my first taste of green tea here. The varieties of teas to choose from were more accessible. It was a starting point which later developed to strong interest to learn more as I began to travel.
Tea has been an integral part of daily life for diverse communities around the world. You have the Turkish tea, coca tea of the Andeans, mate in Argentina, rooibos in Africa. Add to that the varieties found in main tea-producing countries such as Japan, China and India. Tea cultivation has a history that spanned thousands of years ago. It exists not only as a way of life but also as a form of livelihood for communities.
The Visit to Obubu Farm
Golden tones of the afternoon sun seem to highlight the beauty of the Wazuka as I travel to the plantations. The concrete jungle of Kyoto slowly switched to that of a rustic view of the countryside. Another scenery begun to unfold in front me as I sat in the cab. Bamboo groves, and hills of tea plantation greeted my eyes as I make way to my destination.
It was Obubu’s international coordinator, Simona who greeted me upon arrival. She gave me a brief overview over the course of the tea consultation. She also introduced Matsu-san, Obubu’s vice president who is also part of the consultation. The tea consultation is a two hour session. Obubu will discuss the business aspects of the company and topics the participant want to focus on. I was interested in history of Japanese tea and the processing methods. The consultation also included a visit to the factory and the plantation.
Tea Fields of Wazuka
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over a millennium. During this time, producers cultivated tea intensively in the countryside of Kyoto. Even up to this day, Kyoto remains an important figure in production and the supply of high-quality tea.
Wazuka is one of the prime regions in Kyoto for tea cultivation. It is a small town with history spanning 800 years dedicated in producing the best-quality tea in Japan. Wazuka is regarded for ujicha- a highly prized tea in the country since Kamakura period.
Farmers plant tea trees in Japan side by side and pruned to have that tubular hedges of different heights. You can find tea fields in gradually inclined terrains in foothills of gently sloping mountains. The climate plays a crucial role in the conditions of these fields. Excess rain may cause the soil to erode.
They also mentioned the use of fans in the field. Fans circulate air above the fields. They disperse fog and retain the heat in the soil that accumulated during the day. The fans also prevent the formation of dew. Depending on temperature, dew either burns or freezes the leaves, both damaging new shoots.
It was also interesting to see several plants covered with a mesh canopy. This is a technique that reduces the plants’ exposure to the sun. This process results to a change in the chemical composition of the leaves. We have discussed this in one of my classes in the university. The plants produce more chlorophyll in order to compensate for the lack of photosynthesis. Plants are more reliant to the nutrients from the soil in the process. This yields dark-green leaves that contain more chlorophyll and less tannins.
The soft tones of the afternoon sun bathing the tea fields presented a stunning picture.
After the visit to the fields, we made a stop to Obubu’s factory wherein tea leaves are processed. The factory is closed off-season. Matsu-san explained how the machinery works and the processes the raw leaves undergo before it’s ready. The leaves undergo steaming, rolling and drying during the first phase. The second phase focuses on sorting and blending to create a balanced flavor profile.
The consultation concluded with a tea tasting session where Matsu-san gave an overview of types of Japanese green tea. He also demonstrated how to brew Japanese tea. He demonstrated how the flavor and intensity of the tea will depend on the brewing method.
This was an enriching experience to learn the processes and the farmer’s efforts behind the production of green tea. It is really commendable to see how growers like Obubu put so much value in their work. The excellent quality of their tea reflect the effort of the farmers. I’m very thankful to Simona and Matsu-san who were knowledgeable, kind and funny guides for the day.
I would recommend for everyone not to miss this chance to visit Obubu and Wazuka. For every tea-enthusiast, or to visitors who simply love Japanese culture, this experience is a highlight of your Kyoto stay.
The Obubu team is always open for inquiries. The website also contains information regarding the directions on how to get there.
Please visit: https://obubutea.com/
So this concludes my 12 AM – 11:59 day, my grand first day in Kyoto, check out my next tea adventure in Uji here.