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  • Writer's pictureHula Consulting

Japanese Green Tea Co. 75 Years, Still Innovating

Anyone who's talked tea with me knows how much I love Japanese green teas. It's hard for me to name a favorite tea, but a nice gyokuro is certainly high on my list! I have a deep admiration for Japanese tea and it is my complete pleasure to be able to share with you the highly prized Japanese teas of Sugimoto.

The teas of Sugimoto are remarkable beyond their beauty and flavor. Sugimoto Tea is a third-generation tea company began by Zenichi Sugimoto. Providing for his family and community in 1946, Zenichi hand-made and delivered tea to his customers by bike. Many people’s lives were changed drastically in Japan during this post-war era, and out of the ashes of war Sugimoto was founded. Their teas were so well-liked by the locals that soon it was necessary to build a factory to meet the high demands for Sugimoto tea.

Deep Roots

Sugimoto is truly unique in its longstanding relationship working with the local farmers for many generations. In Japan, tea makers buy crude teas or Aracha from farmers through governmental auction. Not many tea makers have a direct relationship with farmers. For 75 years, Sugimoto has been cultivating relationships with local farmers, ensuring a mutually beneficial partnership for the growers and tea company to ensure the best possible Japanese teas.

Hiroyuki, Zenichi's son, trained himself in Tokyo and realized that hi-ire, the final roasting process, was very important for quality Japanese teas. After he returned to Shizuoka, he specialized in locally-grown Fukamushi (deep steamed) teas with a very high hi-ire process.

This made Hiroyuki’s teas taste exceptional resulting in receiving Agricultural Minister Award twice in 1986. His teas attracted people outside of Japan, as well. Sugimoto started exporting in the 1990s (from just one small box), and the export increased little by little over years.

Third Generation

Hiroyuki’s sons, Masaaki and Kyohei, have been working hard as the third generation of the company, continuing the family tea-making tradition. In 2005, the company opened an office in Seattle, Washington when Kyohei came to the U.S. Since then, the tea company has continued introducing and delivering authentic, consistent Japanese teas to the U.S. market.

Along with the international business growth, Sugimoto improved food safety standards

and became one of the first few FSSC 22000 certified tea factories in 2014. This is an internationally recognized food safety certification.

'Sencha Mentioned It...

Sugimoto has a beautiful assortment of Japanese green teas. I am particularly fond of the Sencha Fukamushi. This deeply steamed green sencha obtains its unique taste from the final firing process.

At Sugimoto, the final firing process undergoes a higher temperature than the industry standard, which produces a full-bodied sencha that gives a beautiful balance of sweet and bitter with an outstanding nose.

The Sakura Sencha is also completely unique. The sweet taste and aroma of cherry blossom leaves and flower petals are combined with a beautiful deeply steamed sencha.

Gyokuro is a shaded green tea and is considered one of the finest green teas in Japan. Sugimoto's Gyokuro steeps a light green color and a deep, complex flavor. It has a unique sweetness since shade allows the tea to retain a higher

l-theanine content.

Organic Kabusecha is another shaded green tea, with rich umami and a delicate sweetness. The leaves are shaded roughly a week before harvest, making this tea a good balance between the flavor and appearance of sencha and gyokuro. This tea produces a light green color with a complex flavor and a buttery mouthfeel. Gyokuro is shaded longer than kabusecha tea. While gyokuro is typically shaded for approximately three to four weeks, kabusecha is shaded for approximately one week.

Sugimoto is also known for its prized matcha teas, offering a wide range of grades of both organic and conventional. Again, it's just so difficult to choose a favorite tea, isn't it?

In response to the market demands, Sugimoto has also obtained Kosher and Organic certification. In 2019, Sugimoto opened a new matcha factory in Shizuoka to meet the high matcha demands overseas. "In retrospect, I would say that the Sugimoto family was an authentic tea maker, but at the same time, we were open and innovative for the customer's satisfaction," said Kyohei Sugimoto.

"In retrospect, I would say that the Sugimoto family was an authentic tea maker, but at the same time, we were open and innovative for the customer's satisfaction," said Kyohei Sugimoto.

In February 2021, Hiroyuki retired, and Masaaki took over the company. He has carried on the tradition, strengthened relationships with local farmers, and now has a new mission - to save tea farmers. In Japan, due to the high demands of RTD tea products, the tea industry is struggling due to deflation. This is a serious problem, especially for farmers, and they are seeing many tea farmers are abandoning their fields. Sugimoto’s mission is to save tea farmers by showing people around the world the wonder of Japanese tea and its culture. Their challenge continues.

Thirsty for more?

The #teaexperts at Hula Consulting are honored to help with procuring these flavorful, award-winning Japanese green teas at wholesale from Sugimoto Tea for your own tea company. For these wholesale or private label teas, please email or call 561.600.7025 for pricing and samples. We look forward to discussing your tea business with you!

📸 Photographs and information used with permission provided by Sugimoto Tea. @sugimotoamerica

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