One hour south, and a whole world away from Kyoto city, is Wazuka. The area’s terraced mountain slopes, thick with fog, make the perfect conditions for growing tea, accounting for approximately 50 percent of the entire prefecture’s production. Not only is the area ideal for growth, but for simply taking in the scenery; rows of vibrant green bushes ripple against blue skies, sweet smelling cedar and a landscape punctuated by wooden homes, their presence perfectly sympathetic to the surrounding scenery.
One company redefining Wazuka’s tea heritage is the fifth-generation Kirokuen Tea Garden, a farm that is, remarkably, entirely owned by women. After the death of her father, Megumi Hori, her sister, and mother took over the running of the almost 100 year old farm to continue her father’s legacy of producing exquisite tea expressions.
‘Nearly 100 years ago, my great-grandfather came here to the mountains in Wazuka and cleared the forest for our farm. Back then there was no machinery. Early every morning he would walk to the mountain to clear it by hand. It took him five years. When my father died, men in the village asked to buy the farm from us. They didn’t think we’d be able to run it on our own,’ Megumi tells me. ‘But I knew we could’
Whether perched atop a mountain, or clinging to an almost 50 degree hillside, the setting of Kirokuen’s collection of 26 tea fields are as appealing as the tea that they produce. Kirokuen have 12 types of tea in total, many of which are rare expressions or varieties typically considered too arduous to process. All of their fields are harvested individually, creating single-origin varieties that are processed according to what’s best for each, a task that rarely takes place at other farms due to the demanding and costly refinement process. Yet here, the ladies of Kirokuen take it all in their stride, ensuring a standout expression every time.
Rachel E T Davies
Rachel E T Davies