Producer of the Moment: Kunihiro Yoshimoto
Kunihiro Yoshimoto, sencha green tea producer in Ashikubo, Shizuoka prefecture.
Our team is proud to present our producer of the moment, share the story of our first encounter, and the producer’s story.
Meet Mr. Kunihiro Yoshimoto, sencha tea producer in Ashikubo (Shizuoka), Japan. Hugo’s story with Mr. Yoshimoto goes back 15 years. They were first introduced by his brother-in-law, Mr. Morishita (the producer of our Sencha Nagashima Organic). As soon as Hugo stepped in the Ashikubo tea fields he was charmed by the gardens and then by the exquisite teas that were presented by Mr. Yoshimoto. Their relation has been developing since.
When and how did you first step into the world of tea?
The Ashikubo area where I live now is the “birth place” of Shizuoka tea. Tea cultivation started here about 800 years ago. So people have been living here with tea for a long time. From my early childhood, I remember running and playing in my family’s tea garden or in the factory. Like most people here, I grew to like tea. But at 21 years old, it became very serious. I had a strong desire to make people happy with good quality products.
Are you the owner of your tea garden?
Yes, I am the owner. I have been engaged in every step of tea cultivation in hope of people confidently drinking my teas and having a good experience.
What is the size of your tea garden?
My tea garden is located on a steep slope in the mountains. It is not on flat grounds. It is hard to keep a big garden on the slopes. Cutting the grass and preventing wild animal damage (boars and deers) takes much more time and efforts then on the plains. My tea garden size is 230 acres.
What are the cultivars you use in your tea garden?
90% of my plants are Yabukita cultivar. Yabukita is the favourite of Japanese cultivars. It has a very deep aroma with sweetness and rich flavours. I hope people like it as much as I do.
How many kilos of tea are you producing every year?
I have started the cultivation for the organic tea you are buying three years ago. The organic tea is certified by JAS. This year, I harvested about 300kg of it.
How many staff members are working with you?
My son and I are the only people permanently engaged in the tea work. When we need quick help for plucking leaves or other tasks, my wife and a few helpers support us. Also, we hire people with disabilities at my other business, a mushroom cultivating factory. They sometimes help me by cutting the grass, cleaning and spreading the organic fertilizers in the tea garden.
Which aspects of your work do you prefer?
The ultimate objective is to produce a good tasting tea. This, however, is only possible with healthy trees. The plant itself is the leaf you want to drink. The growth of tea is heavily influenced by the natural environment. Fertilizer, damage from disease or harmful insects, weather conditions… everything as its effect around the garden. I always take the tea trees’ needs into consideration and react quickly to their needs. So my top priority every day is to devote myself to tea cultivation.
Have you seen any changes since your beginnings in the industry?
Japanese lifestyle as changed a lot in recent years. People are now busier and families run on double-incomes. In the old days, the lifestyle allowed for more time, even for having tea together around the table. The demand for loose leaf tea has been going decreasing while the demand for bottled tea has been growing . Bottle tea is quick and practical, but it’s not very good quality. The market for quality tea is getting smaller and it makes things harder for farmers like me. Fortunately, I still know many people who drink quality leaf tea brewed in teapots. So I will endeavor to produce tea for them as long as they are willing to drink it.
What is your favourite tea?
As you know, we produce Sencha (both asamushi and fukamushi types), Gyokuro, Kabusecha, Genmaicha, Hojicha, Matcha, Kukicha and so on… Recently, the demand for Matcha has been rising. Personally, I prefer Sencha. It is the drink from the old days. Among Senchas, I prefer asamushi style rolled into needles. The liquor colour is not the best but I really enjoy the 'mountain flavours' it gives. I can also feel a great sweetness after drinking it.
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