Kyoto is known as one of the most famous green tea producing areas, however, it is actually the 5th largest producer after Shizuoka, Kagoshima, Mie and Miyazaki.
The production was 3,700 tons in 2019, which was approximately 3.6% of the total domestic green tea production. Whereas, it has a large share of high-end tea such as Gyokuro and Matcha.
Recommended cultivars such as “Yabukita”, “Hoshun”, “Ushimidori”, “Kyomidori”, “Asahi”, “Ujihikari”, “Tenmyo” and “Samidori”are cultivated in Kyoto.
The history of tea production in Kyoto Prefecture
It is said that the green tea cultivation in Kyoto originated with a monk named Myoe Shonin in The Kamakura period. He planted tea leaves brought from China at the temple Koenji (Togano, Ukyo, Kyoto) and in Uji. Therefore, Koenji has a monument that says “The oldest tea plantation”.
In the Muromachi period, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga built his own tea plantation called Uji Shichimeien to promote the tea cultivation. There were eventually seven plantations called Umojien, Kawashimoen, Iwaien, Morien, Biwaen, Okunoyamaen and Asahien, but only Okunoyamaen is extant in Ujizenho
In the late 16th century, the technique “Covered Cultivation” was developed in Uji. As a result, dark green colored tea leaves with strong umami flavour could be produced and Uji is now known as one of the best high-end tea producing districts.
In the Edo period, Nagatani Soen developed a method called Aosei sencha seiho or Uji seiho. It is a unique Japanese method of rolling and drying tea leaves, which resulted in Green tea (Sencha). This is what made Uji as “The birthplace of Green tea”. This method is still a major method of Japanese green tea.
In the late Edo period, the Uji method was used to produce Gyokuro from cover-cultivated green tea leaves, and the tea was widely consumed in the upper class.
Kyoto has been well-known as a great green tea producing area for ages. As it is still famous for its green tea production, the Kyoto prefecture has been working on projects such as the maintenance of green tea plantations, the promotion of the green tea industry and the spread of the green tea culture.
Tea-growing areas in Kyoto Prefecture
Green tea leaves are cultivated in the south area of Kyoto which is Yamashiro district including Uji, Ujitawara and Wazuka. These are the major green tea producing areas.
The specialty of Kyoto’s green tea is definitely Ujicha that is considered as one of the best three Japanese green tea same as Shizuokacha and Sayamacha.
Ujicha is cultivated in and around Uji. It is said that the area is suitable for cultivating tea in terms of its average temperature, annual rainfall and the temperature difference between day and night.
Ujicha mainly produces Sencha as well as Tencha and Gyokuro. Since Tencha is the ingredient of Matcha, Uji is also well-known as a Matcha producing area.