A New “Tea-Generation” in Japan – Kenji Fukuya

We often talk about the many challenges that Japanese tea is facing nowadays. One of which, is the lack of young people involved in the tea sector. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions that make the whole situation promising again. That is why some time ago we started to publish interviews with young Japanese people that work in tea and that have been bringing excitement and passion to the Japanese tea world nowadays.

The guest this time is our friend Kenji Fukuya. He is originally from Tokyo and is 41 years old. Even if he drank tea probably since he was a kid, he really started to dig into it some years ago, when he started to work as a seasonal worker in Wazuka town in Kyoto. Since then, Kenji never stopped working with tea – at different tea farms and even in a tencha factory – becoming passionate about it. In the past few years, every harvesting season he has been working at Morii Farm in Kamo, Kyoto prefecture. During his free time, he designs his original brand of t-shirts (DOIT!) or grows rice in paddies. But lately, he has even started to manage his own tea fields! Let’s find out a bit more about Kenji.

Kenji Fukuya while harvesting tea.

Q: When did you start drinking tea?

KenjiI don’t remember it clearly. However, my parents used to drink tea, so I think I must have had tea for the first time when I was little. I started drinking it on a daily basis since 2013, when I started seasonal tea work in Wazuka, Kyoto prefecture.

Q: When did your passion for tea start?

Kenji: It was about time to be interested in tea, and it was when I started harvesting sencha. In the first year of my seasonal work, we were harvesting only tencha. The year after that, I remember how surprised I was at the taste of the sencha, that I drank for the first time since I started the seasonal work.

Q: How long did you work as a seasonal tea worker? 

Kenji: Every year since 2013. Of that period, one season and a half I was working at a tencha factory. Now since about five years ago, I work with organic farms: harvesting, processing at factory, and selling the tea at markets.

Q: How and when did you decide to have your own tea fields?

Kenji: Some of my friends have a cafe nearby Morii Farm, they always use our tea. Moreover their friends want to make blended tea like earl grey tea or tea sweets – all people that want to use their own tea. So we have started our own tea field, since spring 2022.

Q: What do you like the most about working in tea?

Kenji: The actual process of tea making – seicha (製茶): because I like cooking, seicha is sort of like cooking for me. Also, the time spent working in the tea fields; there sometimes I feel a sense of unity with friends.

Q: Would you like to say something to all the Japanese tea lovers around the world?

Kenji: Hey guys please be my friends!

Kenji handpicking the tea from his tea field.

Thank you, Kenji! We are looking forward to helping you make tea next time!

PS: If you want to read the past interviews, type “new generation” in the search bar. 

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