Urasenke Tea Ceremony

December 1, 2019

By Sakina Nishitsuji & Yunji Choi

Green tea and matcha (powdered green tea) are both very popular among Japanese things in the world right now. Also, tea ceremony is growing in popularity among young people in Japan. One of the most famous tea ceremony schools in Japan is Urasenke.

What is Tea Ceremony?

Tea ceremony is one of the most popular aspects of traditional Japanese culture. Traditional tea ceremony is called sado in Japan. In sado, the tea master invites guests and serves matcha in a ceremonial way. The ceremony is full of meaning and tradition. It can have a calming and contemplative effect on people who experience it.

Japanese tea ceremony room

History of Tea Ceremony

Tea came into Japan during the Heian period (805). A Heian period monk, named Saicho, and an early Heian period monk, named Kukai, went to China. When they came back to Japan, they brought Tang period tea which they just thought of as a medicine. Later in the Kamakura period (1141∼1215), the priest Eisai, who brought the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism to Japan, also brought back a Chinese tea, which he thought was also medicine. That’s why Eisai wrote a book called Kissa-yojoki. It is a Chinese classics book which is written about the different kinds of methods for making powdered green tea, and tea drinking for promoting health.

In the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when Yoshimitsu Ashikaga built Kinkaku temple and Yoshimasa built Ginkaku temple, a tea meeting place was made for art lovers. The art came from China, but there was little respect for spirituality. Murata Shuko (1422-1501), who appeared in the era of eight Shogun, made a four-and-a-half tatami mat room for tea ceremony that uses not only Chinese utensils, but also Japanese-made tea utensils. He came up with a spiritual tea world that disciplined against selfishness and self-attachment. An expert in the tea ceremony, Takeno Joo (1502-1555) inherited this spirit, and Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), a famous tea master during the Azuchi-momoyama period (1568-1600), invented wabicha, which is a style of Japanese tea ceremony that became the origin of modern tea ceremony. He also built Soancha no Yu, which is Sen no Rikyu’s tea room.

The Three Schools of Tea Ceremony

There are three schools of tea ceremony in Japan. Generally, Urasenke is the most famous schools of the three. Most people who study tea ceremony learn Urasenke. Of the three stules, Urasenke is the most casual style. That’s why people find it easier to learn.

The name san-Senke refers to the Omotesenke, Urasenke and Mushakojisenke schools of the tea ceremony. Omotesenke is the head family. Actually Omotesenke and Urasenke share almost same the basic actions, but there are some minor differences. In the tea ceremony, a fukusa (or cloth) is used for cleaning up tools. Omotesenke uses a vermilion-colored fukusa, but Omotesenke uses a red one. Also, the way to make tea is different. Tea made by the Urasenke school has finer bubbles, almost like a cappuccino. On the other hand, the tea in the Omotesenke style has a stronger taste. People can directly experience the taste of matcha.

Mushakojisenke is the most unfamiliar style of the three. This was started by Soushu, who is a son of Sen no Rikyu, on Mushakoji street in Kyoto. Mushakojisenke set up a branch family from Omotesenke. The way to make tea is similar to Omotesenke. There are no bubbles in the tea. They also use a vermilion-colored fukusa, as in the Omotesenke tradition. Other differences include how to prepare the tea and actions taken during the tea ceremony.

Koicha

Usucha

Otemae お点前

The act of making tea is called otemae.

There are two kinds of tea in tea ceremony: koicha and usucha. Koicha is a strong tea. If you drink koicha for the first time, you will experience a very bitter taste. Koicha is also called okoicha. Koicha is uses a lot matcha in the tea. That’s why it looks so thick. On the other hand, usucha is a thinner tea than koicha. Usucha also has another name: ousu. These tea types have other differences, too, like tools used to make them, for instance. When making usucha, chawan (tea bowl) are used. Many of these chawan have beautiful paintings on them that people can enjoy. In the summer, chawan made of glass are used. However, more expensive chawan without any paintings are used to make koicha. People who do not know deeply about tea ceremony, are probably familiar with usucha, as it is more famous than koicha.

Tools Used in Otemae

Chashaku 茶杓: A chashaku is the tool which scoops up matcha from a natsume, which is the box for matcha. It is generally made from bamboo.

Chawan 茶碗: A chawan is the bowl in which tea is prepared and from which tea is drunk. Chawan are very important items in tea ceremony. If you use a good quality chawan, the tea ceremony experience is heightened.

Fukusa 袱紗: It’s a square silk wrapping cloth. It is used in the tea ceremony to set tools on or to wipe them.

Sensu 扇子: Sensu is a folding fan. It is used to fan yourself, but in the tea ceremony, We use it when we greet people, like say hello. It’s kind of a communication tool.

Urasenke in Kyoto

Below are some places were you can learn more about Urasenke tea ceremony, and even experience it.

Konnichian 今日庵

Konnichian is a retreat located in the former residence of Urasenke in Kyoto. It was built when a tea master Sen Soutan, the grandchild of Sen no Rikyu, handed the house over to Sen Sousa. Sen Sousa is the third son of Sen Soutan and he is also a tea master of early Edo period (1619∼1672). This retreat is located in Honjoji-mae, Kamigyo-ku of Kyoto City. In 1949, a foundation of Konnichian was established. Their purpose was to preserve and nurture the Urasenke tea ceremony that was inherited from Sen no Rikyu’s tradition, spread the spirit of tea ceremony to the general public to contribute to the development of Japanese culture and also to preserve the remains, artifacts, arts and crafts, and structures that exist at the Konnichian.

Tankosha 淡交社

Tankosha is a publisher located in the Kita Ward of Kyoto City. They publish books that are related to tea ceremony and Kyoto. When Yoshiharu Naya, the ex-president of Tankosha, graduated from Doshishya University in Kyoto, he established a publishing organization to publish the newsletter of Urasenke, called Tanko, in the following year. His father, Soshitsu Sen is a traditional name taken by the business grouping of the Urasenke family, and he is the fifteenth-generation grandmaster of the Urasenke. Yoshiharu Naya’s grand brother, Yoshito Naya, is currently managing the company. The company name comes from the word of a Chinese philosopher, Soshi. The name Tankosha means that the communion between scholastic and respectable people should be a clean relationship like water, and compassion without a selfish motive will not break. The employees of Tankosha publish books and magazines on various fields, such as traditional culture centered on tea ceremony. They are related to Kyoto culture and tourism. In fields other than tea ceremony, there are arts and crafts, history and culture, travel guides, cooking, and hobby life, or they publish books that are related to Kyoto, like ‘Kyoto Encyclopedia’ and ‘Kyoto Tourism Culture Certification Test Official Text Book’. They handle books in languages other than Japanese. Besides publishing, they sell tea ceremony architecture and tea utensils. The first floor of the Kyoto head office (Murasakino Miyanishi-Cho) has a floor for selling books and selling tea utensils.

Kyoto Murasakino 京都むらさきの

Using authentic tea utensils, a standard traditional tea ceremony will be conducted for visitors. An experience of making your own bowl of tea with those utensils is included. You can practice tea ceremony in the Urasenke style. The ceremonies are held only on Saturdays and Sundays, but even then there are days on which the ceremonies are not held, so be sure to check the website before you go. You have to make a reservation on the website at least two days in advance. Here is the homepage URL: https://www.shin-shin-an.com/ 【Address】 6 Kamigoshodencho Murasakino Kita-ku, Kyoto JAPAN

Jinmatsuan 甚松庵

Jinmatsuan is a place to discover and experience Japanese culture. It is located near Gojo station, Kiyomizu temple, and the Gion area. They are open every day, but sometimes they hold special events, so be sure to check the homepage. You can make and drink matcha along with making Japanese tea ceremony sweets, or ohigashi. You can also make a Japanese traditional sweet wagashi and dancing with maiko, the girls who please people in the banquet by the trick such as dancing and Japanese orchestra. Here is the home page URL: https://www.jinmatsuan.com/tea 【Address】 BELK Karasuma 2F, 135 Manjuij-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City

Conclusion

As you can see, Urasenke tea ceremony is rich in meaning, history, and tradition. There are many people, both Japanese and foreign, who don’t know the history of tea ceremony even though the tea ceremony is very popular overseas. There are many places in Kyoto where you can actually experience the tea ceremony. The general foundation has a lecture on tea ceremony which was introduced at Konnichian. We introduced some places where you can both learn and experience traditional tea ceremony in the Uraksenke style. We hope that you will discover the beauty and tranquility of tea ceremony while you are in Kyoto.

 

Ban-cha, Matcha and Fukujuen

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 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

Fukujuen building

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.

You can enjoy “matcha sweets” in Fukujuen.

Hoji-cha

by Sakina Nishitsuji, Miyabi Saeki and Shiho Tojo

Hoji-cha is a kind of Japanese green tea drunk by many people all over Japan, especially in Kyoto. Generally, it is roasted from Sencha, Ban-cha, or Kuki-cha.

  • Sen-cha is a type of green tea. It is simple and a bit tart. It is the most popular tea in Japan.
  • Ban-cha is a tea that people often drink. This tea is a late harvest tea. It has a simple, non-bitter taste.
  • Kuki-cha has a higher sweetness and nicer aroma than other teas. It has a very good taste at a low cost. Almost all people can buy it easily.

Hoji-cha has a unique and nice smell, and the taste is good. So, almost all people, from Japanese children and adults to foreigners, can drink Hoji-cha. Hoji-cha is suitable for drinking with meals. The reason why is that it is not very stimulating and it has a good effect on the stomach. A lot of people come to Kyoto to buy tea from specialty stores, and they buy various kinds of tea. For example, Matcha, Sencha, Bancha, and Hoji-cha. Matcha is a very famous tea. Almost everyone’s idea of tea is Matcha. However, Hoji-cha also tastes good and has many varieties. Each kind of Hoji-cha has a different flavor. The colors of the tea leaves are different too. The picture below is that of Hoji-cha leaves, and it shows the difference in color between Kuki-Hoji-cha and GokujyoHoji-cha.

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Kuki-Hoji-cha and GokujyoHoji-cha are sold in specialized tea shops. Foreign people like tea from Japan. Japanese specialized tea shops have various kinds of tea, and almost all of these shops were built in Kyoto. So, a lot of foreign people visit Kyoto to buy tea from these shops. There are also many people who buy it as a souvenir.

History

Hoji-cha first appeared in the early 1920s in Kyoto. Japanese tea companies tried to use leaves and stems to make tea. The leaves and stems were roasted. This is how Hoji-cha was made. A long time ago, that roasting method gave people a good result. This roasting method created a new procedure for making Hoji-cha and other kinds of tea. It creates a strong smell and flavor. Moreover, it has a fascinating aroma. Sone people drink Hoji-cha like coffee in the morning. Today, many makers of Hoji-cha use large tumbler machines to roast the tea leaves. This process removes some of the caffeine. In this way, it becomes a green tea that doesn’t have much caffeine.

How to Make Hoji-cha

1. Cultivate the tea leaves. One must grow tea leaves in a tea garden.

2. Tea-picking. On the eighty-eighth day of spring, pick the first tea leaves. Plant new tea leaves at the beginning of the year. By the end of April, the leaves develop their flavor. Then, we can pick them.

3. Steam. The next process is steaming. Steam the leaves within half a day of picking them. Steaming can take 15-20 minutes. (It prevents the color and the smell of the young leaves from disappearing.)

4. Drying while rubbing the tea leaves. Rub the leaves that were steamed. This will spread the taste across the whole leaf. Rub it coarsely at the first, and then gradually rub more gently. All the leaves have to be equal. Remove any water to prevent a change in quality.

5. Parch with high temperature. After finishing the process of steaming, sort the stems from the leaves. Roast the coarse leaves with a machine. This process can remove caffeine. The nice smell of Hoji-cha is born.

How to Drink Hoji-cha

1. Warm up an empty cup.
2. Brew the leaves in 100-degree water for several minutes. Then pour the tea into the warm cup.
3. After 30 seconds, you can begin to drink it.

Brewing Guide for Different Teas

Amount of tea leaves The temperature Amount of hot water Time
Gyokuro 3g 50℃ 20ml 150sec
Sen-cha 3g 70℃ 60ml 90sec
Karigane 3g 80℃ 60ml 60sec
Hoji-cha 3g 100℃ 130ml 30sec
Brown rice tea 3g 100℃ 130ml 30sec
Matcha 2g 80℃ 60ml

Ippodo

Ippodo is a very famous store in Kyoto that specializes in tea. The company of Ippodo broadened premium Japanese green tea for Japanese people. The company was founded almost three centuries ago as a shop called Omiya, on Teramachi Street. The name changed to “Ippodo” in 1846. Ippodo gradually became famous in Japan and extended their line of tea products. In the old days, making tea was difficult, but recently it has become easy to make tea step by step.

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Hoji-cha Sweets

There are many kinds of Hoji-cha sweets in Kyoto. For example, Hoji-cha parfait, Hoji-cha pudding, Hoji-cha cake, Hoji-cha chocolate, and so on. The most famous Hoji-cha sweet is Hoji-cha soft ice cream. You can buy and eat it in Arashiyama, Gion, and some other popular sightseeing places. You can also enjoy Hoji-cha sweets in Kyoto where there are many kinds of Japanese sweets shops. Hoji-cha sweets are not as famous as Matcha (powdered green tea) sweets, but they are worth eating. Hoji-cha’s taste is very different from Matcha’s. It is unique and very delicious. If you want to eat some Japanese sweets, why don’t you try Hoji-cha sweets?

Conclusion

In conclusion, Hoji-cha is a kind of Japanese green tea. One can buy it from some vending machines, supermarkets, and also most Japanese tea shops, such as Ippodo. However, its taste is different depending on where you buy it. Vending machines that have Hoji-cha can be hard to find, and the taste is very standard. There also isn’t much variety to choose from. However, it is cheap at around one hundred yen for a 550ml bottle. Hoji-cha from the supermarket is also cheap. This is because a lot is made by some major companies, like Itoen and Suntory. That said, there is still not a lot of variety, the most readily available kinds being generic blends.

Hoji-cha leaves from a tea shop can be a bit more expensive to buy at first, but there are many kinds of Hoji-cha available, and you can make more tea from them. Different kinds of Hoji-cha can have very different tastes and smells, especially when compared to what’s available at the supermarket. Ippodo at Kyoto, Kawaramachi has a varied list of quality Hoji-cha tea leaves for sale. For example, their Gokujyo Hoji-cha has a light flavor, whereas their Kuki Hoji-cha is sweeter and has a stronger smell. Also its taste changes depending on how one prepares it. We wrote about how to prepare it, so if you want to drink tasty Hoji-cha you should try it that way with leaves bought from a tea shop. In short, Hoji-cha can be enjoyed in a lot of different ways depending on what you prefer, whether that be the convenience of Hoji-cha from a supermarket or the quality of tea leaves from a tea shop.

Uji’s Morihan Tea

by Mochizuki Ayana and Yuki Kurisu

Morihan (森半) is the name of a well-established tea company in Uji, a small town just south of Kyoto. Uji is famous for the tea grown in the surrounding hills and so naturally many tea companies and tea shops are located here. Morihan offers many different tea products that, according to its motto, “are safe and can be trusted.” They sell powdered green tea (macha), other varieties of regular teas, coffee and also other macha products that are used in many foods and implements that are connected to  the tea ceremony. Morihan has always tried to maintain their company tradition of producing high-quality tea ever since it was established in 1836. And it always consider show its tea is suited to Japanese tea culture and life style. Morihan also has a tea shop in Uji that serves teas and sweets and tea souvenirs.

We talked with Yoko Morishita who is has worked at the company for many years. She taught us about Morihan’s history, how tea is produced, how it is sorted, and how teas taste differently from each other. She is a knowledgeable person and was exceedingly kind to us. She also works as a Chado (tea ceremony) instructor, teaching students how to make and serve green tea, and how to conduct a tea ceremony in a small teahouse or anywhere. We asked Ms Morishita a few questions.

 

Tell us about Morihan…

 

“By adhering to a high standard that is from our tea cultural inheritance and a very long history, Morihan reflects that spirit, and has been developing a wide range of products that utilize powdered green tea in new ways. They make green tea tea bags, and sweets that contain green tea like dorayaki (sweet-bean paste between cakes—popular TV anime character Doraemon’s favorite food), daifuku (mochi with bean paste), ice cream and cake. Our products all have high quality and have great reputations both domestically and internationally.”

 

Morihan tea shop. The character on the shop curtain is "cha" and means tea.

 

 

What does the company’s name, Morihan, name mean and what is its history?

“The name comes from Morishita Hannzaemon, who was the first president of our tea company. The first part of the last name, MORI (森), is combined with the first part of the first name, HAN(). This tea company was established in Tenpo era (1830-1844). At that time, they grew tea in nearby fields and sold tea leaves in Uji. Right now Morihan has been merged with the Hankyu department group and another tea company named Matsumoto.”

 

What is rewarding about your work.

 

“These days, the tea world has been split in many parts. Some companies produce high-grade tea for use in expensive tea pots. Others produce cheap teas, instant teas, and  teas that are sold in plastic bottles. Still others focus on tea products that are used in baking, and other kinds of foodstuffs. Now great effort is being put into this aspect of the tea business. But I like being an instructor of  tea. To make macha familiar to a lot of people with my work is very worthwhile.”

 

Does Morihan export to the foreign countries?

 

“They export almost all of their macha powder to foreign countries these days. They export to the USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong and also some countries in Europe too. The USA uses it in cafes; in Taiwan and Hong Kong they sell it in big supermarkets. Many countries in Europe want to drink green tea or eat Japanese foods because they think it is healthy. These foreign companies contact a Japanese food buyer to obtain our green tea powder.”

 

Thank you for talking with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAP SHOWING MORIHAN’S TEA SHOP

京都府宇治市小倉町久保78番地

 

Buy products from MORIHAN

Ayataka – Kyoto Based Tea Company

by Akihiko Sato, Masayoshi Seki, Ayaho Takaoka

The Ayataka Tea Company

Ayataka is a Japanese tea company affiliated with the Coca-cola corporation. Ayataka was first came on the market in 2007, when Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten – a traditional Kyoto-based tea company – and Coca-cola came together in collaboration. Ayataka’s aim is to produce bottled tea just like it came straight from the teapot, with sediment and all.

The name ‘ayataka’ has a special meaning. ‘Aya’ means to incorporate tea leaf quality. ‘Taka’ refers to the symbol of noble presence and precious tea. Ayataka uses gougumi, a process of mixing together high quality green tea leaves based on the skill and technology of Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten. Through the gougumi process, Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten and Coca-cola are able to ensure the quality of the tea leaves to be used and the excellent flavor of tea to be produced.

Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten

Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten has been in business for more than 450 years. It sold its tea mostly in department stores back in the old days. However, its teas were very expensive. For this reason, Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten never became well known throughout Japan.

We paid a visit to the Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten in Kyoto recently. There we heard a talk about Ayataka and Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten from the person in charge of information. They said, “We want everyone to enjoy the real taste of quality green tea. Giving our customers delicious tea is the most important thing we do.”

To make a delicious tea, paying attention to both appearance and fragrance is especially important. In order to do so, the company members use all their senses when making the tea to provide customers with the best, most authentic taste. This, they said, is the most important thing.

Gomotsu Chashi

What is Gomotsu Chashi? They are simply tea masters who have been around since the medieval period. They worked for the family of the shogun, worked with tea from the Uji region of south Kyoto, and created a very high quality tea. They created many rules for drinking green tea. At the peak of their activity, the Gomotsu Chashi consisted of about 30 families, but since then there have been 13 or 14 families on the decline. The Kanbayashi family was the strongest of these families. They worked for the shogun and the Emperor in Kyoto. The Kanbayashi family was, in fact, put in charge of all Gomotsu Chashi by the bakuhu, or Japanese Government in the Edo period.

Ayataka – Consistently Cloudy

The best thing about Ayataka tea is the way it is made with powdered green tea from one of the most famous tea regions in Japan: Uji. Uji is in the south part of Kyoto City. Ayataka is made from a high quality type of green tea grown in Uji, called tencha. The tencha leaves are first selected based on their shape, color, and fragrance. Then they are ground into a fine powder using a stone mill. After that, it is time to brew the tea. First the temperature and volume of the water is prepared. Then as the tea is brewing, a sediment specialist steps in the measure the cloudiness of the tea. This is a very important step, for Ayataka is famous for its cloudiness. Achieving the right level of cloudiness may sound easy, but it isn’t. In the early days, getting the cloudiness level just right was a big challenge. But after much trial and error, Ayataka has perfected its cloudiness level. The suspended sediment from powdered green tea is Ayataka’ most charming characteristic.

How to Drink Ayataka Green Tea

Now that you know a little about powdered green tea, do you know how to drink it in the traditional way? Well, the problem is, Ayataka comes in a plastic bottle. Traditionally there was no plastic! Nevertheless, its creators have ensured that the tea inside is cloudy and delicious, just like the real thing.

The first thing to do is pour the tea into a proper Japanese teacup. Then, straighten your back and use your right hand to pick up the teacup. Next place the cup in your upturned left hand while keeping your right hand on the outer side of the teacup, facing away from you. Then, using your right hand, make two turns in a clockwise direction. Now you are ready to drink it. While drinking, make a slurping noise as you inhale air while drinking the tea. Then put down the teacup and bow to the host (or the person who poured your tea). If you can learn to drink tea in this way, then you have mastered the art of drinking Japanese tea.

Interview with Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten

On our visit to Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten, we asked our guide the following four questions:

1. What is the most important point in the manufacture of Ayataka green tea product?
We are very careful in the way we mix the ingredients and in our manufacturing methods.

2. In recent years, tea gardens have been on the decline in the Uji region. What is your company doing about this?
It is true that the quantity of tea produced in Uji is on the decline. For this reason, we are both stocking up on tea leaves and buying from other areas in Japan, not just tea from Uji.

3. People prefer to be healthier all around the world. Do you have any solution?
No. We just mixed three types of tea together: macha, sencha and tencha. We think it is delicious.

4. In the future, what do you think the demand for green tea products will be?
We will probably only sell our tea domestically, not abroad.

Access

Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten – This is the head office of the Kanbayashi Shunsho company. There we can watch an informative video about Kanbayashi and walk around the factory. We can also learn how to make Japanese green tea by machine. It is well worth a visit.

OPEN 10:00 – 14:00
1st 10:00-
2nd 12:00-
3rd 14:00-

Uji Kanbayashi Kinenkan – This is a memorial museum about tea from the Uji region and the Kanbayashi family. There are many vases and Japanese tea cups on display.

OPEN – 10:00 – 16:00
CLOSED – FRIDAY

Iyemon – a Kyoto-style Tea Company

by Akihiko Sato, Ayaho Takaoka, Masayoshi Seki

Do you know this product? It is called Iyemon. It is a Japanese green tea product made by a company called Fukujuen: a long-established store of Japanese green tea in Kyoto. Fukujuen was founded in 1790.  The name of the founder was Iyemon Fukui, thus the name of the brand. In 2004, the Iyemon brand was purchased by the Suntory corporation, which has brought the Iyemon teas to a larger, more international market.

To make the tea, Fukujuen uses the best water in Japan, which comes from the Yamazaki area of southern Kyoto. They also employ a special manufacturing method of using a traditional stone mill.

The tea is especially bitter and fragrant. It also has the quality of wabisabi, which is the frugal and traditional Japanese aesthetic. For example, the shape of the plastic bottle is like bamboo. You can find wabisabi in many aspects of Japanese culture, especially in Kyoto, which is the center of culture in Japan. Kyoto has a lot of examples of wabisabi aesthetic, such as in its temples, shrines, and art.

Types of Iyemon Tea

Iyemon – this is the standard type of Iyemon green tea. It has two types of temperatures: cool and hot. It’s made with a stone mill and contains maccha (powdered green tea).
Iyemon zeitaku reicha – this tea is also made using maccha, but it is only made using cold water. This method gives it a better taste. Some of the maccha settles at the bottom of the bottle, so if you shake the bottle, you can enjoy tasting another kind of flavor.
Iyemon koime – This tea is stronger than the normal type. The tea leaves used to make it are of better quality than the ones used to make the normal type. Therefore, it has a better taste and fragrance.
Iyemon Genmai chaGenmai is a mix of green tea and roasted brown rice. It actually includes brown rice, so it tastes and smells a little bit like rice. It goes well with Japanese meals and tends to be even healthier.
Iyemon Houji cha – Houji cha is a roasted green tea, made with a mixture of two different types of tea leaves. It has a deep flavor and smell. It tastes better to drink it hot. This tea is also very healthy, for it is anti-aging and prevents high blood pressure. It contains a bit of caffeine, which will perk you up in the mid afternoon.
Iyemon Japan Espresso – This is a unique and strong beverage that is made with maccha. It is like espresso made with green tea rather than with coffee. And it’s not too sweet and not too bitter, so it is a real luxury. If you want something Japanese to wake you up, this is the drink for you.

Method of Making Japanese Green Tea

Japanese green tea harvest takes place between the beginning of May to June every year. Farmers block off the direct sunlight with a cover and then pick the soft buds of tea by hands. Then the farmers take them to the factory in order to steam and dry the leaves. This process is called tencha aracha. The veins of leaves are dried one more time because they retain a lot of water. These leaves are placed on the tea dryer to keep their quality and fragrance. The tea leaves are then sealed for safekeeping until they are ready to be ground by the stone mill. The process of grinding with a stone mill turns the  tencha tea leaves into maccha, the finely powdered form.

Situation of Iyemon Today

Today, Iyemon tea is sold in Japan by department stores, grocery stores, and more. In department stores, however, you can only buy tea bags (just the leaves), not the bottles of pre-made tea. But Fukujuen was worried about the decline of their brand’s image, so they made a new brand called Uji no Tsuyu. This brand has actually become more popular than the Iyemon brand abroad. And ever since Fukujuen began to cooperate with beverage giant Suntory, this also hurt their brand image of being a Kyoto-based tea company. However, the move led to a large increase in total sales. Moreover, in the Kinki region of Japan (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, etc.) Fukujuen has always been well known. But now, thanks to marketing and mass distribution, it is starting to become known around the country, being sold in supermarkets everywhere.

Iyemon Abroad

Exporting tea is a tricky business. For example, it is difficult to sell Iyemon tea in other Asian countries, who already have their own tea cultures. Iyemon teas simply do not fit in well. Therefore, sales are low. For example, in China the food is very oily, so Chinese people prefer to drink oolong tea, which helps to break down oil in the stomach. And in Mongolia, people drink butter tea made with butter and rock salt. It makes their bodies warm up on the inside because Mongolia has a very cold climate. As you can see, tea culture is often related to people’s way of life, so it isn’t easy to export one tea to another place in Asia.

In Europe, it is easier to export Iyemon teas, but Europeans often put sugar into their tea, so actually many of them do not like Japanese tea. And in North America, not only plastic bottles, but also glass bottles have been selling there for 2 years now. The trend is healthy food now, so North Americans prefer non-sugar tea to soda. Today in America, non-sugar tea is very popular.

Around the world, we all want to be healthy. Black tea has more catechin than Japanese tea, which lowers blood pressure, blood sugar level, and prevents cancer. However, black tea doesn’t have so many vitamins. Indeed, Japanese tea not only has catechin, but also many vitamins. So it is ideal for health.

Iyemon’s Store

There are two places you can go that are related to Iyemon teas:

Fukujuen Kyoto Honten – It is the head office of Fukujuen. It has a restaurant and it also sells Iyemon teas.
Hours: 10:00~21:30
Tel: 075-221-2920

Uji Kobo – This is an interesting place where you can actually experience the tea making process. You can crumple tea leaves by your hands and make maccha by grinding with the stone mill.
Hours: 10:00~17:00
Tel: 0774-20-1100

Amazing tea!

by Fumiaki Kai and Akiko Kagawa

Green tea is the most surprising tea in the world. Although, green tea, black tea and oolong tea are basically produced from the same leaves, green tea can boast a number of beneficial effects. It’s also used in a variety of different foods and products such as sweets, snacks, perfume, bedclothes and so on. Uji in the south of Kyoto, is one of the most famous places for green tea in Japan. People say that Uji’s green tea is No.1. Have you ever tasted this attractive tea? We would like to talk about it here.

History

The main tea that is drunk all over Japan now, is green tea. However, it is fast becoming famous in other countries, too. It is said that green tea came from China in the 9th century, and at that time the color of the tea was brown like oolong tea. Due to it’s lofty status, only professional tea teachers in Uji were permitted to grow green tea at this time.

Effects and Benefits

You can receive a lot of health benefits if you drink green tea, and catechin is the most effective constituent in it. All teas contain this constituent, but green tea has more than its fair share of this high quality ingredient. Catechin is an antibacterial property and prevents oxidation. It is said that this can help protect against diseases like cancer, as well as slow the effects of ageing and adult’s disease. Polyphenol is a kind of catechin, and green tea contains 100 times the amount found in wine, and 50 times that found in cocoa. This makes it very valuable indeed as a health supplement.

As you know, vitamin C is very important for us, and green tea has more than any other tea. Vitamin C is known to be good for preventing freckles, and rough skin caused by a lack of good vitamin C intake. It also works on neutralizing alcohol which means it’s very good for hangovers!

Did you also know that tea can reduce unpleasant odors. If you have a dry tea bag, you can try putting it in your bed or your shoes and wherever else you may want to remove bad odors. Moreover, there is another wonderful effect which helps prevent dental problems. Green tea contains fluorine that helps make teeth strong, and if you eat snacks with your tea, you can avoid dental worries without thinking about it.

Green Tea Goods

There are many products which make wonderful use of green tea as an ingredient.

  • lotion— green tea contains a lot of catechin, ferment extract and vitamin C. These elements help tighten the skin and give it a healthy glow.
  • soap — this soap is made with a natural dryness and because of this it does not melt easily or produce a lot of foam. It offers excellent moisture retention properties and the long production process gives it real quality.

Green Tea Food Products in Kyoto

As you know, good food is a surefire way to make us happy! There are many kinds of food products that use Uji tea such as rice porridge and buckwheat noodles. So you can enjoy Uji tea at lunch time, too. There is a wide variety of green tea foods available in Kyoto, but some of them contain just a little green tea, or may use only green tea as a colorant. At one shop, Tsujiri, you will not be disappointed, however. Uji tea foods may be a little bitter for some people, but this is real Kyoto style. Whenever you come to Kyoto we suggest going to the famous Uji tea café called “Tsujiri”. This café mainly offers green tea in the form of desserts. They use very high-class Uji tea here and keep their customers happy with many kinds of Japanese style original desserts. The desserts they present are all prepared with the freshest ingredients to maintain the highest standard.

There are three stores in Kyoto:

1. Isetan JR Kyoto Station, 4th Floor.
Tel: 075-352-6622
Business hours 10:00~20:00

2. Nenenomichi Koudaiji Higashiyamaku, Kyoto City
Tel: 075-541-1228
Business hours 11:00~18:00

3. 573-3 Minamigawa Gionnmachi Higashiyamaku, Kyoto City
Tel: 075-561-2257
Business hours 10:00~22:00 (Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays 10:00~21:00)

I especially recommend the third one because it is the head office. You will probably have to queue up to eat green tea sweets here, but if queuing up is not for you, then I suggest you go there right on opening time. Alternatively, you can buy ice cream or green tea goods as a take-out without having to go to the bother of standing in line.