Today here on Kimberley’s Kyusu I’m going to be starting another new series. This series, titled “Insight’s Into The Japanese Tea Industry” will be based around a Q&A format. Once each week, I’m going to post a new instalment for this series and for each one I’ll be interviewing a Japanese Tea company, and hopefully at some point some producers and farmers as well. For each instalment of this series I’ll be asking each company the same questions to see how their answers differ from others around the world. If I do get the chance to interview some farmers, a few of the questions will probably change but some will definitely stay the same.
I wanted to start this series to help you all get to know Japanese Tea companies around the world on a little more of a person level and get an insight to what their experiences and opinions of the Japanese tea industry are. We’ll be starting today with a company by the name of Spilled Tea who are based within the USA. They state that they are “dedicated to sourcing organic tea from single origin estates because we believe that this is the best way to ensure exactly what you are drinking”. They pride themselves on having a strong relationship directly with tea farmers and all of their teas are all directly shipped from the farmers. They want to share who makes the tea, how they make tea, what kind of environment the tea is grown and what kind of fertilizers they use, to give their customers all of the information they want to know about the tea they are buying.
- When did your love for Japanese tea begin? Do you remember the first Japanese tea that you ever tried or the tea that inspired you to start your business?
I grew up in Japan. Given the importance of tea to the culture of Japan, I have been drinking tea since I was a young child. When I was little, my mom used to make pitchers of barley tea or black bean tea, which are both caffeine-free, and put them in the fridge. My mom was a licensed tea ceremony instructor, and she would make a bowl of Matcha when guests came. I have always loved drinking and making various kinds of tea. To be honest, when I was in my 20’s, I was not a big fan of Matcha. When I tried Organic Ishikawa Matcha for the first time, my view of Matcha changed completely.
- Why did you start Spilled Tea? I would love to know more about the story behind the company and how it began vs where it is now.
I started my business SPILLED TEA in 2019. I moved to the United States at the age of 17, I realized that it was hard for me to find organic tea from vendors who are transparent about their products. I have always tried to eat less processed food and I am curious about where the teas were from and how they were made. Just like buying vegetables or flowers at the farmers market, you can see where all of these products are from and who the farmers are. In order to answer these questions, I visited many tea farms in Japan and tried countless kinds of teas. I am just the bridge between farmers and consumers to deliver the most delicious tea.
- Could you give some good suggestions on how to choose the best Japanese teas. What are the most important things to keep in mind when buying tea?
Most of the Japanese tea on the market is made by blending tea leaves. The blending of tea leaves can control flavor and make them more consistent. There are so many different kinds of teas from Japan and various kinds of tea cultivars. Each cultivar has its own unique characteristics. I think that drinking single origin tea (teas from single estate and single cultivar) is the best way to taste the unique, pure and true characteristics of tea. Try different kinds of single origin teas to compare. It is fun and I am sure you can find your favorite kind.
- What do you wish more people knew about Japanese teas and the people that work hard to create them?
I would like more people to know that there are different cultivars with different flavor profiles, like there are with wine.
- Out of all the teas that you currently sell, which one is your personal favorite and which do you drink the most? Often when I ask people who run tea companies this question, their favorite tea they sell and the tea they drink the most are different so I always like to see if each company owner I interview is the same.
I am very carefully selecting what I sell on my website. I only sell teas from the farms I have visited, know exactly how they are grown and most importantly how they taste. These days I am in such a rush to send the kids off to school in the morning, so recently I have been drinking a lot of Miyazaki Estate Sencha Powder. The Sencha powder is in the single serving stick. I dump a sencha powder stick into my thermos, add hot water and shake or stir well. It takes less than 30 seconds to make a delicious Sencha. It is so easy, convenient and delicious.
- Where do you see the Japanese tea industry heading within the next five years?
I imagine that more organic single origin teas will be available on the market. Since the beginning of Covid, people tend to value more “tea time at home,” It is great to invest in good accessories to drink premium teas with.
- What do you think are the hardest challenges that the Japanese tea industry specifically has to deal with? Why do you think that these challenges don’t affect other tea industries around the world are are specific to Japanese tea
Many tea farms have a difficult time finding their successors. I wish more people in the younger generation would decide to continue growing delicious teas.
- Since starting your business what would you say is the most important thing that you have learned about tea?
It was amazing to learn how much effort organic tea farmers put forth to make delicious tea. Every sip I have, I truly appreciate the farmers’ hard work, love, and passion.
- When it comes to the preparation of Japanese teas, are you embracing the modern methods that have been becoming much more popular recently or do you stick with tradition and recommend others embrace those age old methods as well?
I would say both have their time and place. I truly enjoy making a bowl of Matcha or cup of Sencha as much as I enjoy drinking them. I also mentioned how I use my Miyazaki Estate Sencha Powder Stick to drink tea on-the-go.
- If money was no object what dream product would you love to create for your tea company?
I would love to work with wonderful ceramic artists and Japanese sweets makers to serve with my teas, thus creating the entire experience for my customers. I believe that drinking tea in a special cup can make your tea experience even more special. I also would love to give tours of organic tea farms in Japan so that people can experience how fascinating it is to grow this type of tea. It is truly a labour of love.
A huge thank you to Spilled Tea Brooklyn for graciously taking the time to answer these questions and be our first guest tea company for this series. There will be many more companies to come some of which you may know and some of which may be new to you and I can wait to share their answers with you. I really hope you’re all just as excited about this series as I am, I really loved planning this series out and I’m so happy to have been able to shine the spotlight on the Japanese tea industry directly and get personal input from the people who are directly involved in it.
Until next time, Happy Steeping – Kimberley