Green Tea Homestay
Since its introduction to Japan during the Heian period, tea has formed a vital thread in the fabric of Japanese culture. Green tea comes in many forms and is enjoyed in many ways throughout Japan, with a long history that spans the roasted bancha made by Edo-era farmers to the fluffy matcha lattes enjoyed today.
In an effort to celebrate tea heritage and spread this knowledge around the world, producers throughout Japan now offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience: tea homestays. Tea plantations are spread across Japan, with the two largest production areas located up north in Shizuoka Prefecture and further south in the volcanic soil of Kagoshima.
Although often aimed at foreign guests who would like a chance to interact and befriend locals, Japanese participants are also keen for a look into a little-known world and a chance to see the countryside off the beaten path. As tea knowledge and consumption wanes in younger generations, the chance for up close and personal interaction with traditional practices is half vacation, half education.
Many harvesters of shade-grown tea are older, and they represent a skill and vocation that is slowly disappearing. It’s one thing to read about this process, but another entirely to pluck leaves, watch as they become aracha, and then follow them along the factory floor to be steamed, rolled, and packed. Every year in Yame, Fukuoka, the local tea society holds a hand-rolling competition that serves to preserve this old-fashioned for of tea processing, and some homestays include this technically demanding practice.
Technology, nature, and culture are all major parts of tea production, but perhaps the most important is the most overlooked: people. The biggest benefit of tea homestays is the chance to meet the people who make your tea, and to see the skill at every level required for a tasty final product.
Japan Travel website.