Reviving Japan’s Tea Lands

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Masuda family patriarch Yoshimitsu Masada with Nodoka Tea founder Sunil Hong.
Japan holds tightly to its teas, exporting only 2% of the millions of metric tons grown and quickly consumed in this land of tea lovers. Through May, the tea Japan exported to the United States amounted to only 874 metric tons; compare that to Argentina, which sent 21,890 metric tons to the U.S. during the same period, according to stats compiled by the International Tea Committee in London. Nodoka Tea founder Sunil Hong intends to change the balance through the rebirth of Japan’s tea lands. Gardens dating back centuries are now abandoned, according to Hong. In some cases this is because the land became too expensive to farm, but a great deal of land has been abandoned because aging farmers simply cannot continue their work. “Our mission is to bring you a tea that is not only good for you, but even better for the producers in Japan,” writes Hong, an exhibitor at this year’s World Tea Expo. “We provide excellent organic Japanese tea directly from Japan’s premier organic tea growing places,” said Hong. Tea in the traditional Japanese tea culture is a symbol of peace, harmony, and happiness, he explained. “Japanese tea farmers have a great product with a long history, but they just aren’t able to sell it outside of the country. Nodoka helps to connect traditional tea farmers with the rest of the world — taking them into the new, connected economy, while helping to preserve their craft.” The company’s efforts were featured at Crew, an online a marketing venture. Crew described how Nodoka Tea worked with the Masuda family in Shizuoka Prefecture, where the average age of tea farmers is greater than 60. With “little incentive for a younger generation to take over, the traditional Japanese tea trade is at a critical juncture.”
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Yoshimitsu Masuda shows his carefully cultivated organic tea.
Before “organic” farming became a trend, the family’s patriarch, Yoshimitsu Masuda, took a stand against the chemical companies, choosing to go through the long process of converting all his tea fields to organic cultivation. Each plant is tended to delicately and when they find harmful insects on their crop, Yoshimitsu and his family remove them by hand, one-by-one. The Masudas are seemingly the perfect representation of Japanese tea culture — one of care, dedication, and respect for the land. But unfortunately, in today’s economy, families like the Masudas are struggling to stay afloat. The article goes on to describe how Masuda has rebuilt his tea production. The Masudas are one of thousands of Japanese tea farmers who are dealing with the ever-increasing shift toward convenience. In the past few years, the trend has moved away from small tea producers and ornate ceremonies and toward bottled green tea alternatives — often made from sub-par product. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, there were 59,248 tea farmers in Japan in 1995. In the 15 years that followed, that number dropped by almost half, reports Crew.WTN160906_ART_Nodoka_PackagedTeas-lores Learn more at: Sources: Suil Hong and