Green Tea Homestay

greentea_homestay_green_tea

Photographer IT&IP

We have created a new form of eco-tourism in the town of Higashi Sonogi called “Green Tea Tourism” to promote exchange between rural and urban communities.

Green Tea Tourism began thanks to local tea farmers in 2014 with the goal of welcoming visitors from across Japan and abroad to learn about the flavors, health benefits, and qualities of Japanese green tea. In this way, the farmers could share their products with a greater audience around the world.

We want to invite visitors into our picturesque tea fields and share with them the best ways to prepare and enjoy green tea, the relationship between the tea farmers and the tea they grow, the history of tea in Higashi Sonogi, and how our tea is produced.

Our plans going forward include broadening our hands-on experiences and cultural exchanges throughout the town of Higashi Sonogi so that in addition to tea farming, visitors can learn about other types of agricultural industries such as rice and vegetable farming, livestock farming, fishing, and forestry.

We hope that through these initiatives, visitors can join our community to grow and learn together.

Our regional heritage

Nakao Village in Higashi Sonogi is a rural tea-farming community. The land of Nakao Village is located in a belt of hills which were created by volcanic activity long ago. It is at an elevation of around 250 meters, with Omura Bay to the southwest, Mount Kokuzo to the north, and Mount Tara to the south.

The valley in which the villagers reside was cut into this rock by the Sonogi River. The foothills of the mountains are often shrouded in fog, with warm afternoons and cool nights, which is perfect for growing tea.

The rows of stone terraces built by early farmers for growing tea combined with the views of Omura Bay create a breathtaking, uniquely Japanese landscape. The produce of the land, including tea, oranges, rice, and vegetables has been tended by generations of the same families. The bounty of the land has brought sustenance and enjoyment to residents and visitors alike. The village’s patron gods at Inari Shrine have protected the people over the ages.

The Festival of One Thousand Lanterns held in the fall is an ancient custom that brings the whole village together.In the local dialect, there is a word, “Unbantsukura”, which describes the warmth of a bright sun on a cold, windy winter day. It is a word evocative of the warmth and peace an infant feels when held at the bosom of their mother.

We hope visitors to Higashi Sonogi can also feel the comforting glow of “Unbantsukura” throughout their stay.

History and culture

Higashi Sonogi has a long history of growing tea that stretches back over 500 years. In the Edo period (17th Century), Lord Omura organized the cultivation of tea fields, laying the groundwork for today’s industry.

This tea was first brought to the outside world in the mid-19th Century by a woman merchant, Oura Kei of Nagasaki, who was able to export the tea with the help of a British trader.

Higashi Sonogi is the largest producer of tea in Nagasaki. The leaves of “Sonogi Tea” are kept whole and rolled to gather up each leaf. This process, which makes a type of tea called “Tama-Ryokucha (Steamed Rolled Tea)” borrows from traditional tea roasting methods which came to Japan from China and Korea. This method reduces the bitterness of the tea leaves for a smoother finish.

By carefully preparing young tea leaves in this way, they unfold slowly when steeped in a teapot, bringing out a sweetness and rich flavors and aromas to enjoy.

Accommodation – Meet your hosts

Our association provides accommodations for guests to stay with farming families instead of at inns or hotels. (Approval for this activity has been granted by the Nagasaki prefectural government.) Guests will be able to enjoy time spent with farming families and join them in their daily activities. Guests who stay with farmers of Sonogi Tea can learn the best ways to brew delicious tea while sharing meals with them.

Breakfasts and dinners also become hands-on experiences as you help your host family set the table and prepare and serve meals. You can choose between different accommodation settings and host families.

Program and activities

Tea Fields Guided Walk

The course, led by local tea farmers, starts at the town’s most beautiful tea field, named “Tabunoki”, and continues until the Oyama Tea Farm.

During the peak tea-growing season from mid-April until Mid-may, the tea bushes are covered with black tarpaulins which concentrate the color and flavors of the tea.
At this time the tea fields are almost completely black-colored, and it is not an ideal time to visit. This is why we recommend visitors come in early April.

■ Available: Year-round
■ Time required: About 30 min.
■ Cost: From 500 yen/person
(Minimum 10 participants).


How to brew Great Tea

Learn how to brew delicious tea at the tea cafe “Charaku” run by Mrs. Eiko Oyama, a certified Japanese tea instructor. She will provide a lesson on how to bring the best flavors out of Sonogi Tea.

■ Available: Year-round
■ Time required: About 60 min.
■Cost: 500 yen /person
(Including the service of Japanese sweets


Tea Picking and Processing

In the town of Higashi Sonogi, there are several opportunities to take part in tea-picking throughout the year, from the first picking that takes place on the 88th day of spring, to second pickings and picking in the autumn.
The picked tea leaves can then be rolled by hand and roasted in a pot using traditional methods, and you can take the resulting prepared tea leaves with you to enjoy later.
Overnight guests will also have the opportunity to ferment their leaves to make Japanese-style black tea.

■ Available: Upon request
■ Time required: Flexible
■ Cost: Varies
* Visitors can also enjoy only tea-picking, and have the tea they picked processed and sent to them by post at a later date. Please contact us with any questions you may have.


Tea Factory Tour

Take a guided tour where you will learn about each step the tea takes from fresh leaves to finished tea.

■ Available: Year-round
■Time required: From 10 min. (flexible)
■ Cost: Free (for farm stay guests)

 


Cooking with Sonogi Tea

Participants will learn how to incorporate tea into their cooking as tea farmers share their recipes for using fresh tea leaves in sweets, tempura, and savory seasonings.

■ Available: Year-round
■ Time required: About 60 min.
■ Cost: Free (for farm stay guests)

Testimonials

The trip really was a great experience and I was really touched by how nice and welcoming all the farmers, officials and villagers were. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to meet Nakayama-san and his family…truly wonderful. I would very much like to send them a thank-you card. I have been telling many people about the wonderful tea tour and all of them want to know more…Thanks again for everything!
Mr. G.B. from the US


I had a very good time and was very happy to meet so many interesting people in such a short time. I really hope many people will come to discover this beautiful place and its great people. I will let all my friends know about my experience in Higashi Sonogi.
Mr. S.C. from FRANCE


Today, less Japanese people know how to brew green tea at home. We do not even what actual green tea tastes like. I was really shocked when I tried the green tea brewed by Ms. Oyama at their tea shop “Cha-raku”. Deep green color, Umami-rich taste and sweetness were perfectly balanced in one small tea cup. From there, I became a big fan of their tea and have been ordering dozens of packages every May since.
Ms. M.M. from JAPAN


Although we have been staying in Japan for such a long time, we have never had the chance to interact with the locals that much, especially in rural areas. Higashi Sonogi gave us this opportunity.


The purpose of this tour is not shopping but having truly rare experiences about Japanese culture. It was great to experience traditional Japanese green tea brewing.

Fee

Overnight stay with dinner and breakfast

Adults : 7 500 JPY
Children (12 or younger) : 5 000 JPY

Inquiries / Contact

mizu-trans

Contact person: Ms. Mizuho MIZUTANI

1-14-1-302 Shiobaru, Minami-ku, Fukuoka, Japan, 815-0032
(2-minute walk from JR Takeshita Station)
TEL: +81 (0)92-408-9277
FAX: +81- (0)92-408-9559
Mail: mizutani@mizu-trans.jp
Web: http://mizu-trans.jp

 


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