Uji tea (Uji-cha) is the high-grade Japanese green tea made in plantations in the Uji area in the southern part of Kyoto Prefecture.
It is one of the two most famous green tea brands in Japan.
The cultivation of this tea is thought to have begun in the Kamakura period (12-14 century).
Tea plantations were originally created by the shogun and other leading figures during the Muromachi era (14-16 centuries) and Uji tea strengthened its position as a leading green tea in the Warring States period (15-17 centuries).
During the Edo’s era this tea was grown using a special method called “Oishita Chaen”. This is where the tea field is covered with shade to harvest good leaves.
After being harvested and it would be delivered from Uji to the former capital of Edo city exclusively for the Supreme Shogun.
Muromachi period (14-16 cc.)
Is is said that at the end of the 12th century (the early Kamakura period) green tea was planted in Uji for the first time. In the middle of the 13th century, during a visit to Uji by the emperor Go-Saga the first green tea plantation was opened in the Buddhist temple Byodo-in. Later Uji became well known throughout the country as an area for the cultivation of tea.
Since the period of Nanboku-cho (from 1334 to 1392), for many years, a game called “tocha”, a peculiar competition based on guessing the grades and origins of tea, was very popular and enjoyed widely. From the offered teas it was necessary to choose and guess from several different types of green tea. The winner would be awarded expensive gifts: silk, weapons, gold or jewelry.
These tea competitions brought about a tendency to create new grades of original teas with unique tastes and smells, which would be different depending on the area of cultivation. Thus, green tea began to be grown in most regions of Japan.
Sengoku period (15-17 cc.)
In the 16th century the great warlord Oda Nobunaga arrived in Uji where he examined local landscapes and tea plantations. He ordered the appointment of Supreme managing director of local plantations to the well known tea master by the name of Mori Hikoemon who played an important role in the formation of the tea industry in Uji.
Before Oda Nobunaga’s death, the new managing director Sen no Rikyū was appointed, he had strengthened his position as a great and unique master of Japanese tea tradition at the time. He became the most influential figure in many aspects of Japanese culture. Thanks to him tea production increased tremendously, and the status of Uji green tea considerably grew.
Imperial Regent of Japan Toyotomi Hideyoshi was very interested in tea ceremony and Uji tea.
Edo period (1603-1868)
From the late Warring States Period to the Edo era Japan was visited by a great number of missionaries who with distribution of the Christian doctrine took home information about the life and customs of Japanese. Their manuscripts from the 1600’s included description of Uji tea. In particular it was noted that the total quantity of shipped tea was about 68 tons, and the cost of the one jug of good-quality tea was equated to more than a one gold coin.
In 1738 the master of tea Nagatani Soen from Ujitawara province invented a special way of making of Uji tea for the very first time. Uji-cha began to extend widely thanks to the Japanese Buddhist monk Baisao and the large tea house Yamamoto-ya, having reached Edo’s capital. Soon the district of Uji became a famous place for the production of tea, known as sencha. During the Edo period Uji tea fell in popularity as a result of the spread of tea cultivation. However, after the invention of the gyokuro tea making process in Uji, Uji tea once again became famous.
Meiji period (1868-1912)
A monument to Uji tea in front of the main gate of the Buddhist temple Byodo-in in Uji city.
Since the end of the 19th century, and the opening up of Japan, sencha green tea became an important export to America. However this resulted in deficiency of product and a fast jump in prices.
Cultivation of green tea began to extend all over the country at an extremely fast rate. Ujitawara and Wazuka settlements became the main regions of cultivation of Uji tea in Kyoto prefecture.
Today Uji tea is a must buy souvenir for tourists who visit Uji. If visiting be sure to take some home.
The main part of tourist street around Byodo-in is called Ujibashi Street and is blanketed shops filled with visitors tasting green tea.
Стандарты маркировки и определение места производства
В наши дни синонимом зелёного японского чая высокого качества все еще считают сорта “гёкуро” и “маття” из разных регионов страны. Однако, в 2004 году конгресс Киотского Института чайной промышленности префектуры принял резолюцию, по которой правом называться “удзитя” (чаем Удзи) приоритетно обладают только чаи, произведённые именно в префектуре Киото, а также выращенные в четырёх префектурах Киото, Нара, Сига и Миэ, где исторически, исходя из культурных, географических и климатических условий, культивировались как “удзитя”, но обработанные традиционным способом исключительно специалистами из префектуры Киото.