The history of green tea in Yame begins with a single man almost 1000 years ago. The famous monk, Eirin Shuzui, was given a gift of seeds from his brother monks of the Soshu Reigangi Temple in China. These seeds would become the progenitors of a rich, bountiful crop that has been lovingly tended to ever since by countless generations.
To this day, the city of Yame is one of the most well known green tea producers in the country. Despite producing comparatively little, it is renowned across Japan for producing some of, if not the finest, high quality green tea in the whole country. Its reputation is well deserved. As of 2015, the Kyoto Institute, the official government appointed body that oversees all tea production in Japan, ranked two varieties of Yame green tea -Gyokuro and Sencha – green tea as the number one high quality teas in their respective categories; an almost unheard of honor.
Almost all varieties of green tea are produced in Yame, in small plots owned by locals farmers. It is not uncommon to see three generations of the same household working side by side in the fields. Yame not only cultivates exceptional green tea, it also cultivates a rich heritage, as the nuances of the trade are passed down from one generation to the next.
Nowhere is this painstaking dedication to excellence and tradition more evident than in the process by which Gyokuro green tea is cultivated. Farmers work on small, remote plots of land high up in the mountains surrounding Yame. Here, the temperature, shade and mist combine to create the perfect environment to nurture this delicate tea. Gyokuro is often referred to as “Jade Dew”, for it’s characteristic azure-green color when properly stepped. By meticulously protecting the plants’ delicate leaves from the sun, countless essential amino acids and anti-oxidants that are normally lost to ultraviolet rays are preserved within the final brew.
Three weeks prior to harvest, farmers will transport the crop in small planters to specifically designed sheds next to their homes. These last three weeks are crucial, as farmers will rely on centuries of experience to oversee and optimize every aspect of the climate within these sheds. Humidity, light and soil acidity are all strictly controlled in order to produce the finest grade tea possible.
After harvest, the tea is then shipped and processed at one of the dozens of renowned factories, before being packaged and sold across the nation or in one of the many tea shops in the municipality. Almost 40% of all Gyokuro is produced in Yame, and its reputation for quality is so high that many Japanese associate this particular type of green tea with Yame by default. A reputation duly deserved, as all of the top 26 ranked brands of Gyokuro are produced in Yame as of 2007.
This level of passion is not limited to just Gyokuro. No matter the variety, as long as its grown in Yame, every cup of tea is guaranteed to delight down to the last drop.
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