Green Tea as an Elixir of Life

According to history, green tea was brought from China to his native Japan as a seed by the Buddhist monk Shoichi Kokushi about 800 years ago. In his luggage, the monk, who was also called Enni Benen, also had the recipe for a pastry that was to be served with the tea. These were the two ingredients with which Shoichi Kokushi wanted to transform his poor Japanese homeland into a prosperous place. This early marketing effort has since borne fruit.

Teefelder in der japanischen Präfektur Shizuoka / © Foto: Georg Berg
Tea fields in the Japanese prefecture of Shizuoka / © Photo: Georg Berg

In the hills surrounding Shizuoka City, many tea farmers have been planting the noble luxury food for generations. The city is aware of its tradition as Japan’s largest tea producer. Shizuoka strengthens local producers with a tourism concept that introduces visitors to the region to the tea ceremony as well as to tea production and the people who have often worked as tea farmers for many generations.

For a cup of tea in Tochizawa

Sit at a table with a tea farmer and his wife and have a Japanese tea ceremony explained to you. Take a look inside the production plant, walk through the tea fields or spend a whole day working as a tea picker and spend a night as a guest in one of the traditional houses where everything has revolved around green tea for generations. It’s all possible and can be customized depending on your itinerary.

Auf der Teefarm Sansuien in den grünen Hügeln nahe Shizuoka City produziert Kiyomi Uchino hochwertigen und prämierten grünen Tee. Das Teehaus gehört zu den ältesten in der Region. Hier werden Tee-Zeremonien gehalten. Jede Führung über die Teeplantage beginnt mit einem Aufguss der besten Teesorten, einem Gebäckstück und der Geschichte des grünen Tees in Japan / © Foto: Georg Berg
At the Sansuien tea farm in the green hills near Shizuoka City, Kiyomi Uchino produces high-quality and award-winning green tea. The tea house is one of the oldest in the region. Tea ceremonies are held here. Each tour of the tea plantation begins with an infusion of the best teas, a pastry and the history of green tea in Japan / © Photo: Georg Berg.

Tourists can choose the intensity of a visit to the tea fields around Shizuoka City. It is an experience that is fondly remembered when one returns home. Especially when, with the new first-hand knowledge, you brew your own cup of tea with much more expertise.

Shizuoka City of Green Tea! Den Mönch Shoichi Kokushi hätte gern gesehen, wie gut sein Plan aufgegangen ist. Wer in Shizuoka City in ein grünes Tee-Taxi steigt, kann sich sicher sein, dass der Fahrer den Weg raus zu den Teebauern und Degustationsmöglichkeiten kennt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Shizuoka City of Green Tea! The monk Shoichi Kokushi would have loved to see how well his plan worked out. If you hop on a green tea cab in Shizuoka City, you can be sure the driver knows the way out to tea farmers and tasting opportunities / © Photo: Georg Berg

Japanese tea – drink of mindfulness

Kiyomi Uchino serves the tea in wide glasses. Outside it is hot, over 30 degrees with high humidity. A sweet filled with red bean paste is traditionally served with the tea. It is eaten first.

Der Appetizer zum Einstieg der Tee-Zeremonie. Gebäck mit süßer Bohnenpaste aus Azuki-Bohnen / © Foto: Georg Berg
The appetizer to start the tea ceremony. Pastry with sweet bean paste made from azuki beans / © Photo: Georg Berg

Then, the first infusion. The water is only room temperature and is poured directly onto the tea leaves in each guest’s glass. The essence from this first infusion is amazingly intense and spicy. We Westerners, who usually brew our tea with boiling water and immediately pour a large pot, are amazed at the minimalist entry into the tea ceremony. First insight: the water temperature determines which flavors are brought to light.

Tee-Degustation im Haus Uchino. Serviert wird Tee in weiten Gläsern. Draußen ist es heiß. Die Wassertemperatur beim Aufguss bestimmt, welche Aromen zu Tage gefördert werden. Bei einer Zeremonie im Sommer, ist es ganz angenehm, dass der Tee nicht heiß serviert wird / © Foto: Georg Berg
Tea tasting at Uchino House. Tea is served in wide glasses. It is hot outside. The temperature of the water during infusion determines which flavors are brought to light. At a ceremony in summer, it is quite pleasant that the tea is not served hot / © Photo: Georg Berg

The tea leaves now swell and are ready for a second infusion. Depending on the water temperature, different flavors develop. Generally, the hotter the water, the more bitter substances are released from the leaves. Tea farmers are also happy to serve their best teas when visiting the site. Kiri no Tsuyu, for example. Which can be translated as dew drops. The leaves of this tea grow in a constant mist along a river.

Mindfulness and concentration are the essence of any Japanese tea ceremony. This is the only way for a layman to be able to taste the first nuances among the tea varieties. Part of the ritual of a tea ceremony is that the oldest person in the room is poured the last and perhaps best drop.

Sencha, der grüne Blatttee, wird traditionell in einer Kyusu, einer japanischen Teekanne mit Seitengriff, zubereitet / © Foto: Georg Berg
Sencha, the green leaf tea, is traditionally prepared in a kyusu, a Japanese teapot with a side handle / © Photo: Georg Berg

Japanese tea – thirst quencher to go

Of course, not all green tea is the same! Different tea varieties are grown in Shizuoka. The best known Japanese green tea is Sencha. The tea leaves of Sencha have seen sun. They are steamed briefly after harvest, rolled and dried. Typical of Sencha are the pine needle shaped leaves. Sencha is the tea for a warm tea infusion.

Unterschiedliche Tee-Qualitäten. Sencha ist gut an den nadelförmigen Blättern zu erkennen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Different tea qualities. Sencha is easily recognized by its needle-shaped leaves / © Photo: Georg Berg

Green tea is also popular in Japan as a cold drink. It is available, for example, in traditional ryokan, a typical Japanese guesthouse, as a welcome drink. You can also find a selection of bottled cold green tea in any small supermarket. Unlike the iced teas one is used to from Europe, in Japan the green tea from the bottle is always unsweetened and thus becomes a real thirst quencher and fitter in hot temperatures.

Noch hängen die Schatten-Netze wie ein großer schwarzer Drache der Augsburger Puppenkiste über den Feldern der Teefarm Sansuien / © Foto: Georg Berg
The shade nets still hang over the fields of the Sansuien tea farm like a big black dragon from the Augsburg Puppet Box / © Photo: Georg Berg

A shadowy existence for luxury – Gyokuro tea

Gyokuro is the king among Japanese teas. The tea leaves grow in a tea garden where the leaves of the plants are protected from the sun. Shading the leaves enhances the fifth flavor dimension, umami, and reduces bitterness and astringency. Like matcha tea, Gyokuro ekes out a shadowy existence for a rounded flavor with a slightly sweet note. Unwanted bitter notes are thus controlled via slow growing under solar sails.

Kiyomi Uchino auf den Teefeldern an seiner Farm. Je nach Wetterlage zieht er Netze über die Teepflanzen. So kann er das Aroma seiner Ernte beeinflussen. Weniger Sonneneinstrahlung bedeutet weniger Bitterkeit und Adstringens / © Foto: Georg Berg
Kiyomi Uchino in the tea fields at his farm. Depending on the weather, he pulls nets over the tea plants. This allows him to influence the aroma of his harvest. Less sunlight means less bitterness and astringency / © Photo: Georg Berg

It’s an elaborate procedure that means a lot of extra work for the tea farmer, because the shade nets are pulled over the tea plants manually. Kiyomi Uchino, who works alone in the fields outside the harvest season, is thus busy for a whole day pulling up the nets.

The tea ceremony started sweet and ends with a savory kick. A pinch of sea salt is added to the leaves in the glass. Chopsticks are used to eat the now lightly spiced greens.

Das Ende der Tee-Zeremonie. Die Teeblätter werden mit Stäbchen direkt aus dem Glas gegessen, nachdem sie mit Meersalz bestreut worden sind. Nichts wird verschwendet, alles ist bekömmlich. Gerade an einem sehr heißen Tag ist dieser aromatische und leicht salzige Abschluss der Tee-Zeremonie sehr willkommen / © Foto: Georg Berg
The end of the tea ceremony. The tea leaves are eaten with chopsticks directly from the jar after being sprinkled with sea salt. Nothing is wasted, everything is digestible. Especially on a very hot day, this aromatic and slightly salty conclusion to the tea ceremony is very welcome / © Photo: Georg Berg

Green genealogy – Where does the tea of Sansuien come from?

In September 2019, Kiyomi Uchino submitted the DNA of his tea seeds for investigation. He wants clarification on whether his tea plants can be traced back to the go-getting monk Shoichi Kokushi, who once brought tea from China. If so, Uchino, who loves to tell the story of his region and the importance of tea production in his homeland, could add another distinction to his high-quality tea.

Die Ernte bei den Uchinos findet im Mai statt. Vier Familienmitglieder und 30 Arbeiter machen sich dann ans Werk. Gepflückt werden die obersten drei Blätter, nicht mehr. Sie werden ganz kurz bedampft, getrocknet und der Größe nach sortiert / © Foto: Georg Berg
Harvesting at the Uchinos’ takes place in May. Four family members and 30 workers then set to work. The top three leaves are picked, no more. They are steamed very briefly, dried and sorted according to size / © Photo: Georg Berg

Green power drink

It tastes warm, it tastes cold. It is conquering the world right now as matcha tea. Green tea is versatile and healthy. It is a potpourri of secondary plant substances that have a supporting effect against many diseases. The most significant are the bitter substances called catechins. In addition, green tea has a pleasant wakefulness effect. The stimulating effect lasts longer than with coffee and also increases the ability to concentrate. So it is no wonder that Japanese green tea is becoming more and more popular and the different ways of preparing it are becoming better known.

Japaner sind Meister der Verpackung. Frau Uchino schlägt den Tee, den man nur vor Ort in kleinen Mengen erwerben kann, in schöne Umschläge / © Foto: Georg Berg
Japanese are masters of packaging. Ms. Uchino wraps the tea, which can only be purchased locally in small quantities, in beautiful envelopes / © Photo: Georg Berg
Mount Fuji ist in der Präfektur Shizuoka allgegenwärtig. Das Logo verrät, der Tee in dieser Packung ist prämiert und gehört zu der Grünen Tee Selection Mount Fuji / © Foto: Georg Berg
Mount Fuji is omnipresent in Shizuoka Prefecture. The logo reveals that the tea in this package has been awarded a prize and belongs to the Green Tea Selection Mount Fuji / © Photo: Georg Berg
Das Ehepaar Uchino vor ihrer Farm. Der Sohn der Teebauern ist 25 Jahre alt und studiert. Die Eltern hoffen auf den Fortbestand des Familienunternehmens. Doch die Entscheidung hierüber liegt beim Sohn. Noch helfen seine Großeltern bei der Teeverarbeitung mit / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Uchino couple in front of their farm. The tea farmers’ son is 25 years old and studying. The parents hope for the continuation of the family business. But the decision on this lies with the son. His grandparents still help with the tea processing / © Photo: Georg Berg

Green travel experience in Shizuoka

In Shizuoka City, the options for a personal tea experience are wide-ranging. A day trip by green tea cab can be arranged, as can a homestay with a tea farmer. If there is not enough time in your itinerary for an overnight stay with a tea farmer or a visit to a plantation, Shizuoka City offers many small stores and cafés where everything revolves around Japanese green tea and the appropriate accessories for its preparation.

In Shizuoka-City gibt es kleine, feine Tee-Boutiquen, in denen man fachlich beraten wird, bei der Tee-Zubereitung zuschauen kann und natürlich beste Tees aus der Region Shizuoka kaufen kann. Hier im Chagama wird das Teewasser aus dem gleichnamigen traditionellen Wasserkessel dem Chagama geschöpft, so wie er früher in jedem traditonellen japanischen Wohnhaus zu finden war / © Foto: Georg Berg
In Shizuoka City there are small, fine tea boutiques where you can get expert advice, watch tea being prepared and, of course, buy the best teas from the Shizuoka region. Here in the Chagama, the tea water is drawn from the traditional water kettle of the same name, the Chagama, as it used to be found in every traditional Japanese home / © Photo: Georg Berg
Grüner Tee in allen Variationen: ob auf Eis oder im Schicht-Pudding, in Gebäck und on the rocks. Es lohnt sich, durch die City of Green Tea Shizuoka zu ziehen und bei einem Stadtbummel mehr über den grünen Tee zu erfahren / © Foto: Georg Berg
Green tea in all variations: whether on ice or in layered pudding, in pastries and on the rocks. It is worthwhile to wander through the City of Green Tea Shizuoka and learn more about green tea during a stroll through the city / © Photo: Georg Berg

The Shizuoka Green Tea Guide lists 15 farmers who welcome visitors and share lots of interesting facts about their trade over a cup of tea in their small tea rooms. Most tours and tea tastings are in Japanese. Those offered in English can be found on the Tea Tourism Guide website, which has been translated into English.

An excursion to a tea farmer including booking a tea cab with a guide in English can be booked directly on the Explore Shizuoka website.

Der Weg zu Motoko Dobashi ist nicht so weit. In Düsseldorf im AN/MO kann man ihr bei einer Tee-Zeremonie zuschauen. Regelmäßig besucht sie Teeproduzenten in Japan und kauft direkt beim Erzeuger beste Qualitäten / © Foto: Georg Berg
The way to Motoko Dobashi is not so far. In Düsseldorf at AN/MO you can watch her performing a tea ceremony. She regularly visits tea producers in Japan and buys the best qualities directly from the producers / © Photo: Georg Berg

A Japanese tea ceremony can also be experienced in Germany. In Düsseldorf, for example, there is a Japanese community and a correspondingly large selection of restaurants, supermarkets and also tea stores. In AN/MO, the Japanese Motoko Dobashi explains the course of a tea ceremony in an authentic and vivid way.

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The stay in the prefecture was partly supported by the Shizuoka Tourism Association.

Food topics on Tellerrand-Stories

Our mode of operation is characterized by self-experienced, well-researched text work and professional, vivid photography. For all stories, travel impressions and photos are created in the same place. Thus, the photos complement and support what is read and carry it further.

Never miss new Tellerrand-Stories again! Mithilfe eines Feed-Readers lassen sich die Information über neue Blogartikel in Echtzeit abonnieren With the help of a feed reader, all stories about the Tellerrand (edge of the plate) can be subscribed to in real time.

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