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Tamba Sasayama Tea – The Traditional Tea Reflecting Tamba’s Nature
Things to Know About Tamba Sasayama Tea
Sasayama bears the title of the largest tea producing city in Hyogo prefecture, and its most famous merchandise is Tamba Sasayama Tea. It is mainly produced in Ajima and Shitsukawa areas.
The traces of the tea culture can be found in Japan’s oldest chronicles “Nihon Shoki” (finished in 720), and this practice is said to have an admirably long history in Japan.
As for the tea producing in Tamba province, it is said to have started during the Heian Period (794-1185), while during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), it was mostly used as offering to gods, as a medicine, and similar. It wasn’t until the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), that it finally became enjoyed as a beverage.
The secret behind the irresistibly delicious Tamba Sasayama Tea is in the climate of Sasayama City, and the environment in which it was produced. This area’s characteristic is its continental-type climate, resulting in a severe temperature gap during its summer (hot) and winter (cold) days. It is thanks to the relatively low average temperature and the so-called Tamba’s fog, a heavy, thick fog that can be witnessed every morning and evening in this area, that Sasayama’s tea has such a flavorful and aromatic features.
Nonetheless, the hard work relating the producement is never-ending – the farmers have to tend to the sprouts not to let them turn bad because of the mist, and to prepare the soil for successful growth. It is necessary to keep track of the weather conditions while growing the tea, so that the delicate sprouts can finally (and safely) see the light of day.
Its Characteristics and Preparation
The preparation procedure consists of several steps. The first one is to steam the leaves after collecting them at beginning of May, in order to remove the its “fresh(ly collected leaves)” fragrance. Then, the leaves need a good squeezing to remove the excess water, after which comes the last step – drying them completely. Producers usually line them up for drying in front of their shops by the end of May.
The tea made from those first sprouts that are collected each year, is called “the first tea (of the season)”. It has a disinctively refined and rich aroma, which makes it an irresistible flavor for any tea enthusiast. As season’s first tea is remarkably rich in amino acid, it is often used when preparing deep-fried dishes, sweet-flavored soy sauce dishes, and in other types of cooking. Its most celebrated trait is the rejuvenating herb-like aftertaste.
Tamba Sasayama Tea Events
During the tea collecting period starting of June, and during the following two weeks, there is an event you certainly shouldn’t miss – Daikokuji and Tamba Tea Festival. The visitors can appreciate the custom of carrying the first tea to the temple in a pot, the so-called Journey of Tamba Tea Pot. They can also try out squeezing the tea leaves (admission-paid; admission possible by 13:00), or buy some delicious tea for their personal indulgence.
Event: Daikokuji and Tamba Tea Festival
Address: Chanosato Kaikan, in the vicinity of Daikokuji, and such (Hyogo, Sasayama, Ajimaoku)
Phone Number: 079-552-1111 (Sasayama City Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Division)
Access: about 10 minutes by a free shuttle bus from the west exit of JR Sasayama Station (via JA Tamba Sasayama Parking Lot)