Teas & Botanicals

Sugimoto Tea Company: A Legacy of Authenticity and Innovation in Japanese Green Tea

Sugimoto Tea Company stands out in the realm of Japanese green tea - not only for its rich history, spanning three generations, but also for its commitment to authenticity and innovation. Unlike conventional tea producers, Sugimoto Tea has consistently embraced innovation to craft not just award-winning teas, but blends that delight the palates of everyday tea enthusiasts.

The history of Sugimoto Tea Company traces back to 1946 in post-war Japan. To help both his family and community, Zenichi Sugimoto embarked on a mission to deliver high-quality and delicious tea to his community. Starting out by hand-making and delivering tea by bike, his teas soon gained popularity, prompting the need for a production facility to meet the growing demand.


In 1967, Zenichi's son Hiroyuki took over the family business. His career took a pivotal turn in 1986, when he began winning prestigious awards (including the Shizuoka Prefectural Tea Competition and the National Blind Tea Tasting Championship). However, these accomplishments ignited a realization — there was a divide between teas esteemed by industry professionals and those loved by everyday tea drinkers. While winning tea competitions could be considered the highest pride of a tea producer, the teas in these competitions were judged more for their appearance than the way they tasted. Instead of making teas just for the purpose of winning competitions, he decided to focus his efforts on making teas that were beneficial and delicious for everyone.

Hiroyuki accomplished this by embracing innovation instead of adhering strictly to tradition. One of the last steps in tea making is hi-ire, a final drying of the leaves. The Sugimoto family's unique hi-ire uses high temperatures that most tea leaves can't handle. However, Hiroyuki Sugimoto discovered that tea leaves from Shizuoka’s mountainous regions could endure this heat. By closely collaborating with local Japanese farmers, he was able to foster deep relationships based on mutual respect, ensuring only the finest leaves were selected for his exceptional teas.

Within the world of Japanese tea, conventional wisdom dictates that the appearance of the leaf must be maintained through a moderate use of heat during the hi-ire process. In contrast, the Sugimoto family specializes in sencha fukamushi, a deep-steamed tea which is known for its finer leaves, and their signature high hi-ire breaks up the leaves even further. Just by taking a glance, tea professionals and judges in the past had deemed the Sugimoto family’s tea lacking competition-grade quality. Despite this, Hiroyuki was confident in the flavor and quality of his teas. He strove to satisfy the tastes of the people, resulting in a tea with a profound aroma and rich umami.

In recent years, Hiroyuki's sons, Masaaki and Kyohei, have assumed prominent roles within Sugimoto Tea Company and carried forward their father’s legacy. Masaaki, the current president, is a master tea blender who worked alongside his father since the age of 20, keeping the traditions of the Sugimoto family alive. Kyohei, who originally dreamed of becoming a teacher, was inspired to join his older brother and father after a vacation to the US. While there, he realized the tea he had taken for granted in Japan was nowhere to be found. To fill this gap and share the wonderful tea he enjoyed since childhood, he became a Certified Tea Advisor in Japan and moved to the US to establish the US branch of Sugimoto Tea Company. Together, the two brothers have led the company to international recognition.


Today and into the Future: Authenticity, Innovation, and Sustainability

Even now, Sugimoto Tea Company remains committed to producing authentic and innovative Japanese teas. The unique hi-ire process sets Sugimoto’s teas apart, showcasing the family's dedication to delivering a blend of environmental friendliness, deliciousness, and benefits to both tea lovers and farmers alike. By working with farmers directly, they can provide them with better income stability and support eco-friendly initiatives (such as Chagusaba farming and transitioning fields to organic). In addition, both their production facilities in Japan and the US office run on green energy. Their tea is not only delicious, it also supports a better quality life for those who work hard to produce it and helps preserve the natural environment where it is grown.

As Hiroyuki Sugimoto aptly puts it, "Delicious tea over beautiful tea — just like people, it’s what’s on the inside that truly counts." Sugimoto Tea Company's journey, marked by authenticity, innovation, and a commitment to customer satisfaction, continues to redefine the landscape of Japanese green tea. With a focus on deep-steamed teas and a strong hi-ire, every cup of Sugimoto tea invites individuals to savor the profound aroma and rich history with each cup—a legacy transcending generations.

The editorial staff had no role in this post's creation.