Hello Everyone! I’m back today with the latest instalment of my newest series here on my blog which is of course titled Insights Into The Japanese Tea Industry. Like I said in the first post for this series last Friday, each week I’m going to be doing a Q&A with either a Japanese tea company, a Japanese tea producer or a Japanese farmer. My aim with this series is to help people learn more about Japanese tea, to help people get to know the people behind these companies on a bit more of a personal level and to give them a platform to share their view and opinions on the Japanese tea industry from within it so we can see how their answers to my questions may differ compared to someone who is not involved with the industry. This week my guest for the Q&A is Senbird Tea, and if you have been reading my blog for a while you’ll know they’ve been featured here before and that I really enjoyed what I tried from them so I wanted to make sure they were featured as a part of this series as soon as I could.
The Senbird logo is inspired by Japan’s flag, red for the sun (Hinomaru; 日の丸) that rises and sets each day. At the centre, a bird with wings shaped like a leaf, represents the power of tea in supporting a healthy mind, body, and spirit. Together, they state that it “represents our vision to inspire more moments of appreciation every day through the goodness of tea”. I’m sure that if you are subscribed to my blog you’re probably a fan of Japanese tea and because of that you probably know of Senbird Tea and their fantastic teas already, but I wanted to give both people who already know them and people who have not heard them a chance to get to know them and the work they do behind the scenes of the business a bit more.
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? Shota grew up drinking Japanese tea all his life. When Celia met Shota, she was already a big tea lover and just beginning to explore the world of Japanese teas. We are huge fans of deep steamed Sencha green tea.
Why did you start Senbird Tea? I would love to know more about the story behind the company and how it began vs where it is now. During one of Shota and Celia’s earlier trips to Japan together, they had deep steamed Sencha green tea. It was the most vibrant, rich, and flavorful cup of tea they had ever had. After coming home to the US, they had a hard time finding high-quality Japanese tea locally. So they went directly to the source of Japan’s best green teas, Shizuoka, and eventually travelled around Japan exploring different varieties, including herbal tea like Soba Buckwheat tea and Kuromame Black Soybean tea. That trip inspired the start of Senbird. Now, Senbird is available to Japanese tea lovers globally, carrying a range of green tea and herbal tea varieties as well as handcrafted teaware.
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? Every tea is unique and enjoyable in its own way. However, important factors to consider include farming practices and location. Each of our farmers practices sustainable farming techniques and some even use yogurt in their soil to bring out a richer flavor in the tea plant. The majority of our teas come from regions like Shizuoka, Kyoto, and Hokkaido, which are known to have optimal climate conditions for growing delicious and nutrient-rich tea.
What do you wish more people knew about Japanese teas and the people that work hard to create them? Harvesting tea is hard work! Especially during the first harvest of the year, the farmers work morning to night to harvest and produce the tea to ensure optimal freshness for Shincha. After picking the tea leaves, they must be steamed immediately to maintain the fresh flavor and bright green color.
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. Our favorite in our line-up is our Sencha Matcha Hime, which is a Sencha with Matcha powder for a nice boost of mental clarity. The one we drink on a daily is Fukamushi Sencha Moriki (Deep Steamed Green Tea) to start the day with a rich, umami-filled cup of green tea. It’s our favorite choice during our morning meditations for an energy boost. A close second is Sobacha Aiji (Buckwheat Tea), which is our go-to for an evening cup of tea since it’s caffeine-free.
Where do you see the Japanese tea industry heading within the next five years? Globally, there has been a growing demand for green tea like Matcha, Sencha, and Hojicha. Even more people know about Genmaicha brown rice green tea as well! However, locally in Japan, many smaller tea farms are unable to maintain their business for long, due to a decline in successors for the business and steady demand for convenient bottled tea drinks. Support local farms and buy loose tea – it tastes better, is healthier for you, and helps the livelihood of tea farmers.
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 that are specific to Japanese tea? It’s the average age of tea farmers and lack of successors. Since there is no one to continue the demanding work of tea harvesting, some farms are discontinued. In addition, the demand for convenient bottled tea drinks competes with the demand for loose tea. Many large corporate tea brands source from more cost-efficient sources.
Since starting your business what would you say is the most important thing that you have learned about tea? Tea is truly one of the most simple and fulfilling ways to support a healthy well-being. The ritual of brewing and drinking tea is a moment to connect with yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually and connect us with the world. After all, we would not be able to enjoy tea if it weren’t for nature and the people who create the tea for us. Whether you need something to energize you, relax you or bring joy to someone, tea is here to do that. That is why we believe there is a moment in every cup.
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? We respect and value the traditions of Japanese tea brewing and encourage others to embrace it as well! The time, energy, and focus that goes into preparing a cup of tea will make you cherish each sip even more. Rather than thinking of the experience as inconvenient or complicated, welcome it as a time for you to practice, appreciate and enjoy. However, we do enjoy seeing the modern methods of Japanese tea prep since they meet certain lifestyles and situations. In the end, the result of enjoying a delicious cup of tea is still the same. 🙂
If money was no object what dream product would you love to create for your tea company? Tough question as there is so much we’d love to continue offering to our customers! We would want to expand our teaware selection to match a variety of budgets, styles, and needs of our tea lovers. We want to make the authentic and traditional Japanese tea experience more accessible and welcoming to all.
Some really interesting and insightful answers from the team at Senbird Tea! I’m so glad I could have them be a part of this series as I think they are doing a great job of promoting Japanese tea, especially in the USA where the Japanese Tea Industry could definitely do with a boost in fans. Once my currently buying ban is over I will definitely be making sure I order from them as I would love to try some more of their teas and feature them more here on my blog. With the copious amount of tea businesses out there that recycle the same wholesale teas into their own packaging it’s fantastic to see companies like Senbird Tea walk their own path and keep their beliefs at the forefront of their work with tea. It’s very clear to see from the work that they do that they clearly have a passion for tea and want to make high quality Japanese tea as accessible as possible to as many people around the world.
Until Next Time, Happy Steeping – Kimberley