Umeharaen, a green tea seller that once stood at the corner of Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya typically conjures images of tall skyscrapers, neon lights, and the world’s busiest pedestrian crossings. Not tranquil tea plantations. But 150 years ago in the early Meiji era, Shibuya, as well as Harajuku and Yoyogi, were dotted with fields growing green tea. In fact, the famous Shibuya Crossing was once home to Umeharaen, a purveyor of fine teas. A new initiative hopes to revive the once-forgotten Shibuya-cha and bring it back to local cafes and bars.
farmers working in one of Shibuya’s tea palntations (Shibuya Folk and Literary Shirane Memorial Museum)
The Shibuyacha initiative, as it’s being branded, all started back in 2019 when a team from tea maker Ito En discovered 4 small seedlings of tea plants growing in Shibuya’s Nabeshima Shoto Park. As it turns out, the park and much of the land around it was once owned by the Nabeshima family, who had attempted to convert their land to tea plantations. (One of the plantations was named Shoto-en, which is where the park originally got its name)
With permission from the municipality, the Ito En team relocated the seedlings to Shizuoka where they could grow and multiply the tea plants. And now that the plants have stabilized, the initiative is shifting into its next phase. Ito En has partnered with urban farming company Plantio and restaurant operator Zetton to bring Shibuyacha back to the market. You can expect Shibuyacha to start appearing on menus sometime this year!
Shibuyacha seedlings growing in Shizuoka. Now that the plant has stabilized, they will be relocated back to urban farms in the city