October 16, 2017
By Kazuki Kume and Yoshiki Kawauchi
Kyoto is the origin of Japanese tea culture. It developed forms of serving and drinking tea that were very artistic. There are two famous teas in Kyoto; ban-cha and matcha (green tea).
What is ban-cha?
Ban-cha is a kind of green tea drunk all over Japan. Ban-cha especially made in Kyoto is called kyo ban-cha. Many people have been drinking it since ancient times because it is cheaper and easier to get than other teas. Its taste is refreshing, although it also contains some astringency. The name of this tea has two origins: one name meant the drinking tea on a daily basis, in other words it was inexpensive. Ban means “usually” and “everyday” in Japanese. Until the middle of the Edo period, it is thought that most of the tea drunk by people was ban-cha.The other meaning of ban was “evening”. . In other words, ban-cha is a late harvest tea. Ban-cha is not made from newly sprouting leaves, but it from hard tea leaves. Therefore, the size of its tea leaves is bigger than the others.
The effects of tea
You may expect that quality of the tea is low if it is cheaply priced. However, that is a mistake. You can get various effects from cheaper teas. For example, such teas contain a lot of tannin. Tannins improve the function of the intestines. So it is said that such teas can help prevent colon cancer. Also, ban-cha has less caffeine than the other teas, so you can drink without worrying about it keeping you up late at night. In addition, catechin, which is contained in the tea, has the effect of reducing body fat. By taking in catechin before meals, it is said you can keep body fat from building up.
Matcha and its famous shop
Kyoto flagship tea store Fukujuen is one of the most famous “Uji Matcha” stores in Kyoto. Located between Hankyu Kawaramachi and Hankyu Karasuma this shop has seven floors. Each floor is interesting to visit. In the first basement floor we can blend many kinds of tea together to drink. We can also enjoy a Japanese traditional tea party there. On the first floor is a stand for “Uji Matcha” —probably the most popular item for foreign customers. On the second floor is a café. We can eat matcha sweets and have a light meal. On the third floor is a restaurant. This restaurant offers dishes which mix “Uji Matcha” with French cuisine. We are able to discover new combinations in these meals. On the fourth floor is a tearoom. In this room, we can have a tea party easily. The fifth floor is like art gallery. There are many great tea implements here. Most of them are original designs of “Fukujuen” and the implements are all hand made.. the last floor is for entertainment. The room is made of marble. The atmosphere is so cool.