Japan is famous for its green tea.
But how do you tell the high-quality stuff from the low-quality?
Well, you could go by price, but that isn’t a very good determinant. For many Japanese its all about origin. Where did you get it?
If you say: Uji Street in Kyoto.
There’s a good chance it’s high-quality. Uji tea is famous for its high quality. However, there is one particular shop that stands out even among the best there. That is the San Sei-En Tea Shop (the Tristar Garden). So famous they have been in the popular program “Why Did You Come to Japan?”
My husband watches that show every week, recording it so he can watch it when he gets off work.
San Sei En Tea Shop’s tea is drunk by the Imperial Family. They order it in bulk once a year to serve to the Japanese Meiji Emperor.
The daughter of the shop owner is married to a man from Switzerland who is fluent in over four languages (German, English, Japanese, and I believe French).
Every time we stop by Uji Street in Kyoto we always go here. If the Emperor himself likes this tea, it must be good!
On the second floor there is even a small museum to the family who have been making tea for over sixteen generations. So if you want great quality at an affordable price than stop by here on your way to Byodo-en! The family is also so nice. They let me film inside and even told me about how they make it.
Outside the store is a device that makes Houjicha (ほうじ茶?) which is unique to other green teas because it is roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal. Most Japanese teas are steamed. At this high temperature, the leaf color turns reddish-brown.
The roasting process gives the tea a toasty, caramel-like flavor and lowers the amount of caffeine in the tea. Due to this mildness, Houjicha is a more popular tea for evening and before bed.
Here is a short video on our lovely experience. They even talk about how they make it and show inside. You can try it in their little cafe in the back.
If you ever visit Uji, check this place out for a very warm, friendly, and delicious experience: