All About Tamba Sasayama Tea
Tamba Sasayama boasts the largest tea production in Hyogo Prefecture. Its most famous product is Tamba Sasayama Tea, which is mainly produced in the area of Ajima and Shitsukawa.
The roots of the tea culture can be traced in Japan’s oldest chronicles, “Nihon Shoki” (completed in 720). The practice of growing, making, and enjoying tea has a long history in Japan.
Tea production in the Tamba region is said to have started during the Heian Period (794-1185). During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), tea was mostly used as an offering to the gods and as medicine. It wasn’t until the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) that it finally came to be enjoyed as a beverage.
The secret behind the flavorful Tamba Sasayama Tea lies in the climate and the environment where it is produced. This climate in the area is continental, resulting in a severe temperature gap between summer (hot) and winter (cold) days. In addition, fog is common in Tamba. It is thanks to the relatively low average temperatures and foggy weather that the tea produced here is so aromatic.
Nonetheless, growing tea implies hard work. The farmers have to tend to the sprouts and make sure they don't turn bad because of the mist. They also have to prepare the soil for successful growth. Producers carefully track weather conditions while growing tea so that the delicate sprouts can safely see the light of day.
Preparing Tamba Sasayama Tea
In the case of Tamba Sasayama Tea, the preparation procedure consists of several steps. First, the leaves are steamed after being collected in early May to remove the fragrance of freshly-collected leaves. Next, excess water is extracted from the leaves. Lastly, the leaves are left to dry completely. Producers usually leave them in the sun in front of their shops until the end of May.
The tea made from the first sprouts collected that year is the first tea of the season you can enjoy. It has a distinctively refined and rich aroma, irresistible to any tea enthusiast. As the first tea is remarkably rich in amino acids, it is frequently used for cooking deep-fried dishes, sweet-flavored soy sauce dishes, and other types of cuisine. The most celebrated trait of this tea is the rejuvenating herb-like aftertaste.
Tamba Sasayama Tea Events
There is a special two-day event held during the tea collecting period in early June: the Daikokuji and Tamba Tea Festival. Visitors can witness the custom of carrying the first tea to the temple in a special urn (chatsubo) during the Procession of the Tamba Tea Urn. You can also try your hand at squeezing tea leaves for a fee (admission by 13:00) or buy delicious tea as a souvenir.
Event: Daikokuji and Tamba Tea Festival
Address: Chanosato Kaikan, near Daikokuji Temple (Hyogo, Sasayama, Ajimaoku)
Phone number: 079-552-1111 (Tamba Sasayama City Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Division)
Access: about 10 minutes by free shuttle bus from the west exit of JR Sasayama Station (via JA Tamba Sasayama Parking Lot)