Japan’s history with tea goes back 1,200 years, when it is believed the monk Saicho brought back the first tea seeds from China at the end of the Tang Dynasty (618-906). Kyoto, Japan’s first major tea-producing region and the spiritual heart of Japanese tea ceremony, is still famed as one of the finest tea-growing areas in the country. Its southern Wazuka region, nestled next to Uji, accounts for approximately 50 percent of the prefecture’s tea production.

Wazuka is well known for its mountain tea fields, whose terraced slopes and fog make for the perfect conditions for growth. Someone who knows the town’s centuries-long history better than most is Megumi Hori, the fifth-generation owner of Kiroku Tea Garden: “Almost 100 years ago, my great-grandfather came to the mountains here in Wazuka and cleared the forest for our farm. Back then there were no cars or machinery. Early every morning he would walk to the mountain to clear it by hand. It took him five years,” Hori says.

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