Visiting Japan’s first tea gardens

It is worth visiting Japan’s first tea gardens. These ones were planted on the island of Kyushu, apparently around the 17th century. They are very small gardens, situated on the mountainsides. To visit them you must travel through dense forests, mainly made up of magnificent cryptomeria trees. You walk along a narrow, well-worn path and then, coming across a clearing, you discover a tea garden.

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A stele worth a detour on the island of Kyushu

This stele may look unprepossessing, but for fans of Japanese teas it is worth a detour. The stone bears an inscription stating that it was in this place that the monk Eisai, who came from Long Jing in China, planted tea seeds he had brought with him. As for the rest, you can see the outlines of some Camellia Sinensis trees on the right. At the moment I’m on the island of Kyushu, near the city of Saga, where the story of Japanese tea began.

I should also mention that there are a few other similar stelae on the same mountain, bearing roughly the same inscription.

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Tokoname, a well-known centre of Japanese ceramics

The Japanese city of Tokoname, situated not far from Nagoya, is one of the best known centres of ceramics. The city is home to well-known potters who work in their own studio, which is sometimes part of their house. Many make the famous “kyusus”, the small teapots that can be slightly flat in shape, with a handle perpendicular to the spout. They are used to make the best Gyokuros, or equally delicious Senchas.

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The Zen Kashoin tea room in Kyoto

Tradition and modernity come together in Japan. This mix also applies to tea houses. In a city like Kyoto, for example, which is near where I’m staying at the moment, you will find establishments that are more than two hundred years old, which are really worth a detour. Personally, I like the peace and charm of a comfortable place with clean lines like the Zen Kashoin tea rooms, located in the city centre. There, you can enjoy matcha ice-cream and various pastries, accompanied by your favourite green tea.

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Happy holidays to all my readers!

With many of you currently heading off to the green countryside, I dedicate this photo to you, and hope you enjoy your holidays. As for me, I’m surrounded by greenery all year round in the tea fields, and I’ll continue to bring you news throughout the summer. The tea plants won’t stop growing while you’re at the seaside! And don’t forget to prepare a jug of your favourite iced tea to take with you and keep you cool on the beach!

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The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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