The charm of Wazuka, Kyoto’s “Tea-topia” and producer of Uji Tea
Wazuka Tea, produced in Kyoto Prefecture, has been selected as a “regional brand ecosystem” in connection with Expo 2025, to be held in Osaka, Kansai, Japan. Did you know that approximately half of Uji Tea, a premium Japanese tea brand, is produced in the small town of Wazuka in the southern part of Kyoto Prefecture? We traveled to the home of the famed Wazuka Tea to uncover its secrets.
In a plaza adjacent to a beautiful park in Wazuka is an information center comprising a farmer’s market emphasizing local produce; “Wazuka no Sato,” an interactive space that doubles as a rest area; and “Wazuka-cha Cafe,” a shop and cafe where you can indulge in Wazuka Tea and sweets made from it. You can also find the offices of the Wazuka Town Regional Development Center in this area. Tucked in the Wazuka-cha Cafe are over 140 tea-related items, along with tea tsukudani (tea leaves simmered in soy sauce), tea furikake (seasoning flakes for rice), tea cookies, and other Wazuka Tea products.
We spoke with Ms. Minato, who helps to operate the Wazuka Town Regional Development Center. Aiming to invigorate the community from the inside out, she expressed the center’s ambitions to create a place where the townspeople can interact and further develop a love for their community.
To facilitate revitalization and interaction, the Wazuka Town Regional Development Center also hosts rural homestays and various cultural experience workshops related to tea. Wazuka is located between Kyoto City and Nara City along the “golden route” for school trips. Since 2014, the town has hosted local and international students in rural homestay programs, and in 2018, close to 300 students participated in such homestays. One of the main features of this initiative is for students to gain experiences unique to Wazuka, such as interacting with the local community and learning how to brew tea from their host families, and for the host families to enjoy their time together. Ms. Minato has also led workshops for families to explain the goals and safety management of homestays. However, she revealed that the main objective was to foster interaction between the families so that they can gather with a common goal in mind and feel that they are contributing to the community.
We then visited local tea plantations, cafes, and guesthouses. At each location, everyone we met shared a profound love for Wazuka Tea and voiced their wishes to convey the town’s charm. We felt that Wazuka Tea has grown into a strong brand due to the efforts of Ms. Minato and those at the Regional Development Center, as well as the farmers’ pride and love for the tea they produce in this region.
While we certainly recommend trying Wazuka Tea at Wazuka-cha Cafe, those who have time should also experience the allure of Wazuka Tea with all five senses. Take part in the “tea field walking tour” and visit the production site with a guide, or the “tea-brewing workshop” where you can make tea in traditional kyusu teapots. You will be sure to uncover the reason why Wazuka is known as a “Tea-topia.”
*The information herein is as of Novermber 2021.