Judging from a comprehensive viewpoint (considering historical, cultural, geographical and climate backgrounds), Uji tea can be defined as green tea that is harvested in either Kyoto, Nara, Shiga or Mie prefectures (which have been developing together in cooperation), processed and finished by tea manufactures in Kyoto Prefecture.
However, the green tea from Kyoto Prefecture shall be given priority over that from the other prefectures.
Gyokuro is made with the tea leaves that are grown in fields shaded from sunlight after new shoots begin to emerge, or about 3 weeks before the tea-picking season. Blocking sunlight increases chlorophyll content in the tea leaves and turns the color to bright green.
Uji Gyokuro is the highest grade of all Japanese green tea varieties. After drinking, a mellow and rich taste is left in your mouth.
Kabusecha is made with the tea leaves that are grown in plantations covered with straw or cheesecloth (covered cultivation) to screen the sunlight for about a week. It combines the flavor of Uji Gyokuro and the refreshing taste of Uji Sencha.
Sencha is the most commonly used green tea variety. It is a “non-fermented tea” that is prepared by deactivating oxidase enzymes through a heat treatment process. The beauty of Sencha is the refreshing aroma and refined astringent taste. You will feel a cool sensation after drinking.
Matcha is green tea powder ground in a stone mortar. It is made with the tea leaves that are steamed and then dried without the rolling process. Enjoy the rich and mild sweetness of Matcha.
Karigane consists of stems and stalks that are removed during the manufacturing process of Uji Gyokuro and Uji Sencha. It is characterized by the distinctive taste of stems.
Genmaicha is a blend of Uji tea with roasted brown rice. Enjoy the fragrant aroma of brown rice combined with the refreshing taste of Uji Sencha.
Hojicha is composed of Uji tea leaves that are roasted at a high temperature to bring out the rich aroma. It is gentle to the body because of the low caffeine content, so recommendable for small children and elderly people.
As the name connotates (Bancha means "late harvest tea"), Kyobancha is made with fully grown up tea leaves. “Bancha” in general is processed by kneading the old tea leaves, but“Kyobancha”, or Bancha produced in Kyoto, is made in a different way. The tea leaves are firstly steamed, then dried without the kneading process, and after that roasted like Hojicha. A lot of fragmented leaves and stems can be found in Kyobancha. Kyobancha has a fragrant aroma.
Approximately 2 grams per person (for Sencha)
Approximately 3 grams per person (for Gyokuro)
Boil water for about 5 minutes. Then let the water cool down to the appropriate temperatures as indicated below.
When hot water is poured into a teapot, its temperature drops by approximately 10 degrees. In turn, the teapot becomes warm, thereby enhancing the taste of tea.
Appropriate water temperatures:
70 ℃ (for Sencha)
50 ~ 60 ℃ (for Gyokuro)
Put hot water at the recommended temperature into the teapot with tea leaves in it. Then, pour the brewed tea into each teacup little by little in turn, until the teapot is empty.
Tea leaves for Sencha and Gyokuro harvested by hand or shears are processed through a series of steps. Nowadays, most of the steps is done by machines, but this whole process was originally devised based on the principle of manual tea rolling.
The manual-rolling tea production method was devised in 1738 by Nagatani Soen, a tea farmer in Ujitawara. Green tea prepared with this method was superior in terms of color, aroma and flavor, compared to the conventional one, so it spread out across the nation and became the basis for today’s Uji tea processing method. The valuable technique has been preserved and passed on as an intangible cultural asset by Uji-cha Tea Production Method Preservation Association.
In 2009, the effort to preserve the traditional technique was acknowledged by the Kyoto Prefectural Board of Education, and it was designated by Kyoto Prefecture as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
The tea leaves for Uji tea is cultivated with great attention and care, and processed accordingly into each green tea product.
The principle of the traditional manual tea rolling has been studied and tested to replicate the process. Today, the automation of almost the whole process from steaming to drying is achieved.
The tea leaves are laid out on seiro (bamboo steamer basket) which is placed on koshiki (wooden steaming basket), and steamed with boiling water in an iron pot under the koshiki. The leaves are mixed with long chopsticks during this process so that they are steamed evenly. Once the smell of steam has changed, seiro is moved from koshiki to a cooling table to cool down the leaves sufficiently.
Tsuyukiri (Shaking off moisture) for
About 25 minutes
The leaves that are cooled down are laid out on jotan (a frame spanned by Japanese paper) that is set on hoiro (a table for tea rolling and drying). The leaves are picked up by hand, and then thrown off from a height of 30 to 40 cm to reduce the moisture content of the surface.
for About 1 hour 30 minutes
The leaves are rolled and kneaded with both hands from side to side. Then, the leaves are slowly rolled and kneaded in all directions, putting weight on the hands. The moisture content of the leaves is reduced to about 50%.
Tamatoki (Loosening chunks) for about 5 minutes