A visit to the Obubu Tea Farm in Wazuka, Kyoto

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My two month stay in Kyoto gave me the last push into the world of tea and I couldn’t leave Japan without visiting (for the first time!) a tea farm. On a slow night in the guesthouse I worked I saw pictures of a visit of vice-president Matsumoto of the Obubu Tea Farm to the ICT Academy in Holland. A quick Google search learned that the Obubu Farm was just an hour of traveling away from Gion, Kyoto. This was a no-brainer: a week later I was visiting the farm in Wazuka.

Obubu knows how to market tea and definitely knows how to involve tealovers in the making of tea. Next to their Tea Club and plucking events, in which you can pick tea yourself, they offer three kinds of tours: the Group Tea Tour, the Hiking Tea Tour and the Guided Tea Tour. I took the Guided Tea Tour on a beautiful spring day. It turned out there was only one other guy taking this tour that day, Max from Germany, and we met in the bus on our way to Wakuza.

Me, Matsumoto & Max

Me, Matsumoto & Max

The quiet town of Wazuka is amazing to visit if you like to see nothing but tea fields. Because really, it’s mostly tea fields. Tucked in between houses, covering whole mountains… Amazing. After an introduction by Matsumoto in the office of Obubu (of course with one or two teas to taste) we went up to a mountain to visit (if I recall right) the Heavenly Tea Fields on one of the highest mountains in the village.

Not only were you given the chance to walk right through the tea bushes, you were also able to get great views over the whole tea region. After the visit to the tea fields we were taken to the factory in which the tea is processed (it was just before plucking season began, so not much activity yet) to see step by step how a plucked tea leaf turns into the finished product that you eventually steep.

The (tea soba) lunch is included in the tour and with a full stomach you will head back to the office of Obubu, where you will be given a  tea tasting, including Hojicha’s, Sencha’s, Matcha’s, everything you could wish for in a Japanese tea tasting. The tasting is in a very casual environment. The tea tasters will tell you in detail of the practices of the Japanese way of drinking tea, but not in a too formal way.  It’s just great fun to taste all these different teas with same-minded tealovers. Their best tea is the Kabuse Sencha, a partly shaded Sencha. Definitely worth it to take all the way home, so of course I did.

The factory where the tea is processed after plucking.

The factory where the tea is processed after plucking.

I really liked their way of presenting the Kabuse Sencha as a cold drink. They will put some leaves with ice cubes in a cocktail glass before the tea tasting starts and by the time you finish your tasting, the ice cubes turned into water that is full of the Kabuse Sencha-flavor. Loved it!

When it’s time to leave the farm you can buy some of their teas with discount. They do not push you to buy tea at all. I walked away with a Kabuse Sencha, a Sencha of the Earth and a Genmaicha (not a big fan, but hey, you’re in Japan!). Every brew of one of these teas in Amsterdam takes me back to this lovely day in Wazuka!

These covers are not to shade tea, just to prevent treetwigs and leaves to fall in between the teabushes.

These covers are not to shade tea, just to prevent twigs and leaves to fall in the tea field.

There are lots of factories around Uji you can visit to see how Matcha is made, but unfortunately I discovered that opportunity too late to book a date. From the stories I’ve heard (and because their Matcha is just the best there is in Kyoto) it’s best to visit the factory of Marukyu Koyamaen, totally free! Be sure to book ahead of your Kyoto trip!
Wazuka is not the easiest place to reach from both Osaka and Kyoto, but it’s Japan, so you can count on the public transport. From Kyoto, I took the train towards Nara and transferred at Kizu, from where you can take the train to Kamo. From there you can take bus #66 to Higashiwazuka. But hey, why try to explain the directions here when Obubu can do it so much better! So check out detailed information on how to get to Obubu here.

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