At the start of the year, I mentioned I was going on a trip to Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Well, now I’m in Japan on my internship at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms! My first few days in Japan have been quiet, so instead of doing a week at the tea farm (maybe I’ll do that in the future), I will be talking about the Tea Tours that Obubu Tea Farms hosts!
Location wise, the Town of Wazuka is 2 hours away from Osaka, 1.5 from Kyoto and 1 from Nara. From the Kansai International Airport in Osaka, I had to take two trains and finished my journey to the Obubu House with a cab.
Once you figure out how to use the transit system, the trip is completely doable. Even with minimal Japanese and a lot of pointing, I was able to get to Obubu in one piece. While I took a cab, you can also use the bus, which stops outside of the Obubu House.
Wazuka is located in the Uji Region, which is known for its Matcha. The area has over 800 years of tea farming experience with tea farms being passed down for generations. This is one reason why I decided to come to Obubu – I wanted to develop a strong understanding of Japanese tea. “Obubu” actually means “tea” in the local dialect!
One goal of Obubu Tea Farms is to bring Japanese teas to the world! Therefore, year-round, Obubu offers tea tours. This week, there was one guided tour with two international guests from Thailand and China. Since it was my first week at Obubu, I was given the opportunity to tag along during the tour as a guest rather than an intern.
The tour generally runs for around four hours. It covers topics ranging from basic tea information, Japanese teas, tea brewing, farming, production and also includes lunch and tea tasting. I was pretty excited about this because I had seen pictures and reviews of the event.
The most anticipated aspect for me is going to the tea fields and picking tea! I would have had no idea how to get to the tea field itself without being guided there because the road to get there is narrow, winding and steep. The view of all the tea fields along the side of the mountain really was as picturesque as I had seen online.
When I got out of the car, I was feeling a bit queasy because of how high up I was on a steep slope. After a short hike, we reached a section of tea bushes. We were instructed to pick tea that contained two leaves and a bud. This is because these are the newest leaves and the most tender! We were also asked not to use our fingernails in order to not further damage the plant.
I picked my first tea leaves! It has been a big dream of mine, and I was finally able to do it!
Afterwards, we went to the Sencha Factory that Obubu owns, where we were introduced to how tea is processed. I had only seen pictures of these machines until now. So, it was interesting to see how the machines functioned, even if there was no tea in them. We were also introduced to how tea is hand-rolled in Japan. I hope to be able to do that one day!
Following the factory was lunch at a local restaurant. I picked a tea soba (noodles) dish with wild vegetables. It may have been because of all the excitement and liking soba, but I ate my lunch extremely quickly. I loved the bright green colour of the noodles and the broth wasn’t overly salty.
The second part of the tour focused more on the different types of teas, especially those that Obubu offer. We were able to test brewing teas based on different time and temperature to develop an understanding of how we like tea. Some highlights for me was the iced kabuse sencha, tea salad (chagara) and the matcha dorayaki (a pancake dessert).
This was my first time trying chagara and I enjoyed how simple it was! It is pretty easy to make – all you use is thrice-infused tea leaves, some genmai (roasted popcorn), and a spritz of soya sauce. It was recommended to use sencha and not use any roasted teas because other teas leaves can more fibrous and may be bitter or not taste as good. If you don’t have genmai, try sunflower seeds or sesame seeds!
Overall, I have to say that I am pretty happy with the tea tour and that it would be something I would have done on my own and recommended to others. The best part for me is picking tea because it has been a goal of mine for a while. I am still amazed that I am in Japan living on a tea farm.
To learn more about Tea Tours or Group Tea Tours from Obubu, check out the website: Japanese Tea Tours
Also, Nicole at Tea for Me Please sweetly included this in her Friday Roundup: February 11th to February 17th post! Check out all the other neat posts that came out that week!