The city of Uji, located between the two ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara, is blessed with the soil quality and environment needed for one of Japan’s most famous products, matcha (powdered green tea).

The history of Uji

Tea cultivation in Uji can be traced back to the early 11th century, and this tradition has been kept in the utmost standing until today. Although the tradition of tea cultivation in Japan originated at Kozanji Temple in Kyoto, tea from Uji has come to be renowned for its premium quality. Eisai — a Japanese Buddhist priest who imported both Zen Buddhism and green tea to Japan from China around 700 A.D. — in fact advised the priests in Uji on how to cultivate and produce the beverage. Over time tea cultivation became popular among nobility and later the masses around 1400. Tea from Uji came to be considered one of the most prestigious gifts.

Uji matcha
A tea plantation. | Photo by iStock.com/TokioMarineLife

Top 3 tea shops in Uji

Nowadays, you can enjoy Uji tea and the associated culture in many ways. From matcha-flavored soba to ice creams and sweets — the people of Uji have made the most out of their delicious product. Here are our top picks for the best tea shops in Uji.

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1. Nakamura Tokichi

Nothing like a fresh cup of matcha. | Photo by iStock.com/HIROSHI_H

Nakamura Tokichi is a tea shop that attracts many visitors to Uji. It’s conveniently located near JR Uji Station, with a second store located near the river. Nakamura Tokichi is a family business with a longstanding tradition of trading Uji tea and promoting its good flavor. In 2001 they decided to renovate their old tea factory into a café/restaurant offering green tea sweets as well as their home blend, Nakamura tea. The café has a small terrace watching over the garden, perfect for tranquil tea-sipping. Cold matcha soba is by far the most popular menu item, which is served with several side dishes such as rice sprinkled with green tea powder.

You can even book a private matcha experience at Nakamura Tokichi. You’ll enjoy a tea ceremony, and even get to try your hand at grinding matcha leaves.

2. Taihoan

Byōdōin Temple | Photo by Maria Danuco

If you’d like to try a traditional tea ceremony, why not do it at one of Uji’s most renowned tea houses? Across the river from Byōdōin Temple you will find the tea house Taihoan. Its name translates to “Tea house across from the Phoenix” (referring to the Phoenix Hall of Byōdōin Temple). Here you can experience an authentic tea ceremony performed by some of the best trained tea masters in the region.

While seated in seiza, the ceremony lasts about 30 minutes. During the ceremony you can not only learn about the tea being prepared and the ceremony itself, but also savor some freshly made green tea. If you’d like to join a ceremony it costs ¥1,000 and can be booked online.

Taihoan is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

3. Fukujuen Ujicha Kobo

Fukujuen store front. | Photo by Maria Danuco

At Fukujuen Ujicha Kobo, just across the river from Taihoan, you will not only find a restaurant, but also tea rooms, tea workshop studio, and a gift shop to fulfill all your tea-related needs. Matcha grinding workshops cost ¥1,650 and can be booked online.

Fukujuen Ujicha Kobo is open for business between 10 a.m. and 5p.m.

How to get to Uji

Uji is conveniently accessed on the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station or on the Keihan Uji Line. From Uji Station, it is just a short walk to most of the major attractions and tea houses in the town. If you would like some more information to plan your trip in Uji, just walk into the tourist information center east of Byōdōin Temple.

While we do our best to ensure it’s correct, information is subject to change. Post first published in November 2016. Last updated: January 2024.

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Filed under: Food and Drink

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