I’ve been home from Japan over a week and I’m still assimilating back into life here. With each tea tour (this is the fourth over five years) I come back changed for good—my life having been enlarged in so many ways by living with and learning tea, for ten to fifteen days. When I say this I’m also including the experiences of meeting the people of tea in each country—watching them practice their artistic trade with the pride, dedication and skill that we get to taste in every cup.
One of many tasting experiences
It was interesting to learn that traditional green tea consumption is on the decline in Japan. Several of our hosts mentioned this and said they are increasingly looking to export tea. The decrease is primarily attributed to the rising popularity of coffee among young people, and the increased demand for ready-to-drink bottles of prepared tea. There is a huge shift in demographics with an aging population that is drinking less tea as they get older, and a reduced young population that isn’t as interested in the tradition of leaf tea.
Tea production in Japan is typically made in two stages and a tea business may be a farmer/cultivator and initial processor of aracha (rough tea); or a tea finisher of leaf that is then sent to consumer markets. We spent considerable time with owners of both and watched (actually participated in) production processes of each.
At Shizuoka Tea Auction
There were six of us, all women, on the tour, along with Dan Robertson, owner of World Tea Tours, and our lovely Japanese tour guide Keko. We each have our own unique interest in tea with most of us owning a tea business. The trip was a perfect blend of tea education, tourism, culture, history, fun and good food.
In our kimonos in Kyoto
There is so much to cover with the different experiences that I’m going to post this intro and some pictures, then follow up with specific posts about various stops. Here is a relatively accurate summary of our itinerary (as with most vacations each day melded into the other so I may be off a little):
Shizuoka Prefecture and City—days 1-3
Dogo Hot Springs—day 9
Kyushu and Mt. Aso—day 10
We kept on the move! Tea tour days usually start at 8AM or earlier and often don’t end until 8 or 9PM. These are not vacations—they are wondrous adventures that can feel exhausting, but always enriching. Thanks Dan for another great tour.