Sayama Tea – Let’s go on a trip to harvest tea leaves –
Have you ever wanted the chance to experience harvesting tea leaves? Well, there’s a perfect opportunity waiting for you just outside Tokyo!
The story of tea in Japan is said to have a history spanning over 1200 years. Many people are aware that there is a wide variety of tea with distinguishing features such as the bright green colour of matcha green tea, the dark green and delicately sweet Gyokuro green tea, and the health benefits believed to be received from bancha tea just to name a few.
But have you ever thought about how the tea leaves are grown and prepared before being turned into the impeccable drink enjoyed by so many?
Anyone who has travelled through Japan before might be familiar with the scene of straight rows of green tea plants sprawling out from the window of the train.
These meticulously trimmed rows of luscious green plants are often associated with the beautiful countryside of Japan, but you’ll also be able to see this scenery just outside of Tokyo and you can even experience picking and preparing the tea leaves yourself.
Approximately one hour by train from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo lies the area of Sayama in Saitama Prefecture where you can enjoy the unique experience of tea harvesting.
It is said that Sayama tea originated from the tea plants grown in Kawagoe and that its cultivation began to prosper during the middle of the Edo period (1603 – 1868) in Saitama Prefecture.
Originally tea plants were grown in warm climates so they are weak against the cold. In the area of Sayama they created genetically modified tea plants that were able to withstand the colder weather.
For a long period of time they have been using the leaves from tea plants grown in cold areas to make tea. The flavour of the leaves on these plants is more important than the shape.
The defining characteristics of Sayama tea are the final heating process called Sayama Biire which is used to create a fragrant aroma and the sweet and rich flavour of the thick leaves taken from tea plants grown in harsh climates.
Enjoy the best of Japan’s refreshing climate, surrounded by the lush green leaves of tea plants while appreciating the taste of freshly picked and prepared tea in Saitama Prefecture.
Miyanoen (Sayama City)
Throughout the months of May to October new leaves can be seen on the tea plants used to make green tea. Here you can enjoy a relaxing day in nature with family or friends while learning all about tea and experiencing a traditional tea harvest or even a matcha (powdered green tea) event.
< Tea Harvesting Experience >
Once you arrive at Miyanoen check in at the shop and let them know you’re there for the tea harvesting experience.
Then head over to try on your traditional tea-picker outfit which consists of a lightweight kimono with a bright red collar, a brightly coloured sash, as well as arm and leg guards to protect against bugs and sunburn.
The outfit is worn over your clothes and a member of staff will help you put it on. After you’ve transformed into a traditional tea-picker return to the front garden to learn more about tea plants and which leaves are best to pick for the most delicious cup of tea.
Pick up a woven tray to collect the tea leaves in from the pavilion and walk over to the rows of tea plants. You’ll have to enter sideways as the rows are narrow in design to allow the tea-pickers to remain close to the leaves at all times.
Enjoy walking around the garden searching for the best leaves to pick to fill your tray.
When you have enough tea leaves you can start the process of drying them. First, you’ll need to wash the leaves in cool water to remove any impurities.
To make our tea experience more enjoyable we’ll be following a quick and easy method to prepare the leaves.
Next, place the leaves in a plastic bag (provided) and pop it into the microwave for a short time. (Of course if we were to follow a traditional method to prepare the leaves we wouldn’t be using plastic bags or a microwave.) Remove the leaves and dry them slightly with paper.
After that, you’ll need to heat them in the microwave again followed by gently rolling them in your hands to crush the leaves.
This process must be repeated several times but with each exposure to heat the aroma of the leaves will begin developing more and more into the fragrance of freshly steeped green tea and you’ll begin to notice a pronounced crunching sound as you roll the dried leaves in your palms.
After you have received the approval of the tea master you’ll be able to learn a bit about how to pour a cup of tea following traditional etiquette and enjoy the delicacy of tea prepared by your own hand.
You’ll also be able to take home any extra tea leaves you’ve prepared to enjoy later.
To conclude your tea experience you’ll even be able to try tempura (battered) tea leaves served with crushed tea and salt for seasoning.
Before leaving Miyanoen be sure to take a look around at the various types of tea available at the shop. They even sell unique Sayama tea flavoured sweets and cola as well as kyusu (Japanese teapot) and souvenir tea containers.
Miyanoen – Tea leaf Picking Experence –
Dates: May – October
Prices: Starting from ¥1000
Times Available: 10:00～, 13:30～
*During May tours are offered 3 times daily on weekends only.
Tour Length: Tea harvesting experience tours are conducted for 90 minutes
*Please note that tours are conducted outside and may be cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
*Reservations are required.
Address: Kitairiso 25-2, Sayama City, Saitama Prefecture
– Option 1. Take the Seibu-Shinjuku line to Iriso Station and walk 30 mins.
– Option 2. Take the Seibu-Shinjuku line to Sayamashi Station then take a bus for Danchi via Sayamadai Minami bus stop, then walk 10 mins.
Araien Main Branch – Café Musashi Rikyu ‐ (Tokorozawa City)
Make sure to stop off at Araien Main Branch’s café to sample a variety of their delicious green tea sweets and drinks. You can even find green tea flavoured soba noodles if you’re looking for something a bit more filling. This is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a taste of Japan’s traditional culture.
They also sell a variety of types of tea (including seasonal and limited editions) and sweets to complement.
Business Hours: 11am – 5pm (last order 4:30pm)
Address: Kotesashicho 1-15-5, Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture
Access: Take the Seibu-Ikebukuro line to Kotesashi Station, follow the North exit and walk 3 minutes.
URL: https://www.araienhonten.co.jp/rikyu.html (link available in Japanese only)
Sayama Green Tea School (Iruma City, Sayama City, Tokorozawa City)
There are many different courses available at Sayama Green Tea School and it’s also possible to correspond in English.
Please take a look at the videos available on the site (with English subtitles) to learn the best ways to enjoy tea especially made by craftsmen in the area of Sayama.
Sayama Tea Made by Craftsmen (video)
An Introduction to Sayama Green Tea School
TEL: +81 (0)4 2941 6700
Asamien (Sayama City)
Another place to relax and enjoy the opportunity to try picking tea leaves wearing a traditional tea-picking kimono is Asamien. If you’re looking for a cosy shop this is the place for you.
An Introduction to Asamien
Nearby Places of Attraction
Iruma City Museum ‘ALIT’ – Tea Museum – (Iruma City)
This is a museum with the main theme being tea. Ample resources for learning are available on a range of topics starting from the Sayama tea, tea’s history and culture, Iruma City’s nature and history. Within the large garden, there is a tearoom, copse, restaurant, and a square with lawns. It is an ideal place to get some rest.
An Introduction to Iruma City Museum ‘ALIT’
If a tea harvesting experience alone won’t be enough to fulfil your heart’s desires be sure to take a trip to Chakobo Hirumaen. During the 2020 Japanese Tea Selection Paris competition their ‘Karoyaka’ roasted green tea (houjicha) won the Grand Prix. Throughout the years they have won a number of other awards as well and can help you find the perfect gift for yourself or your loved ones.
An Introduction to Chakobo Hirumaen
URL：http://gokuchanin.com (link available in Japanese only)
There are plenty of resources stating the many health benefits of drinking green tea such as lowering blood pressure, preventing cavities, fighting against cancer, and aiding the absorption of nutrients just to name a few. While in Japan take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about how to remain healthy with the aid of green tea.
Saitama is just next door to Tokyo and offers you the chance to learn about the heart and culture of Japan through green tea. You can even take part in a traditional tea ceremony and learn the intricate details of manners regarding tea.
Why not take a trip to the area around Sayama, Iruma, Tokorozawa and relax in the tea fields while enjoying the subtle taste of a cup of green tea?
Other Links about “Sayama Tea”
“Tea-growing district of Sayama’s Miyano-En”
“Sayama Tea Plantations”