July 5 2015
This spring we were lucky enough to be invited to a special tea day in Wazuka, Japan. Wazuka is a beautiful mountain valley between Kyoto and Nara, and is home to hundreds of tea fields. Taking the bus through the valley, as you look up at the mountains and down beside the streams, you see tea fields dotted all over the place – hugging the sides of mountains, and sitting in back gardens.
Wazuka is home to a cooperative of tea growers working together to harvest and process their tea. Rather than send their tea away to be processed, or each family having to buy expensive processing equipment, they put together to make their own tea factory where all their teas are steamed, rolled, and dried.
The process of making tea hasn’t changed all that much over the centuries. The only difference today is that the work once done by many hands has been passed to incredibly specialised machines.
The cooperative had a big community day, where locals can come and pick tea by hand in the fields in the morning, then process them in the afternoons using traditional hand methods, helping to keep the old crafts and skills alive. No tea-steaming machines here – just dry heat (Kamairi-cha), bamboo baskets, a giant wok, and lots of elbow grease!