Uji cha (Uji tea) (宇治茶)
Summary of History
It is considered to have been produced since the Kamakura period, and in the Muromachi period, tea gardens were established by the powerful military commanders of the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) including the Shogun family. In the Sengoku period (Period of Warring States), its position as high-class tea representing Japan was consolidated by the ooishita chaen (covered tea garden), and in the Edo period, the tea pot journey to present Uji cha to the Edo Shogunate was seen marching on the streets from Uji to Edo.
It is famous as a souvenir representing the tourist spot, Uji. Tea stalls stand side by side on Uji bridge street and Byodo-in street in the center of Uji City, where tourists are often seen having tea. Generally it has the image as 'tea of Uji,' but recently the area of tea gardens in Uji has decreased along with urbanization of Uji City, and Uji City has a membership to 'National Tea Summit' imposing a condition of 'having tea gardens of 100ha in area in the municipality,' as an exception despite having tea gardens of only about 80ha. Currently, the major production areas of 'Uji cha' in Kyoto Prefecture are neighboring regions including Wazuka-cho, Soraku-gun, and Minami Yamashiro-mura, Soraku-gun, and Ujitawara-cho, Tsuzuki-gun.
Definition of Production Areas and Standards of Display
It is still a synonym for high-class tea mainly including gyokuro (refined green tea) and maccha (powdered green tea), but influenced by the recent tightening of standard of displays for food, Kyoto Prefecture Chamber of Tea Industry initially defined 'Uji cha' as 'tea leaves of Kyoto Prefecture produce occupying 50%, and those from any of Shiga Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, or Mie Prefecture occupying the other 50%,' then reflecting opinions in the industry, that this makes the amount to sell as 'Uji cha' decrease, in the situation that the ratio of 'Uji cha' in national tea production is only a few percent, this was modified to 'tea leaves produced from any of the 4 prefectures above and processed in Kyoto Prefecture.'
In an extreme case, 'tea leaves only from Mie Prefecture' can be 'Uji cha' only if they are processed in Kyoto Prefecture, and on the contrary, those processed outside Kyoto Prefecture cannot be sold as 'Uji cha' even though they are produced in Kyoto Prefecture. This is a very convenient standard only for tea distributors in Kyoto Prefecture. However, other production areas belonging to the Central Association of the Japan Tea Industry, the main association for Japanese tea industry, define 'unfinished tea production areas (Shizuoka Prefecture produce for Shizuoka cha, for example)' when calling so-and-so tea, so, such a definition of Uji cha has caused controversy.
There exist songs titled 'Uji Tea Dance Song' and 'Loving Tea Girl.'