Japanese Tea Report – October 2023

AI has been a hot topic around the world, and it has not bypassed the tea industry either. In September Ito En released a TV commercial to promote its Oi Ocha Catechin Green Tea brand.  The commercial uses an AI generated female talent, who first appears with gray hair, and a few seconds later there is a younger version of her with brown hair. This was the first TV commercial in Japan to feature an AI talent that created ripples not only in the tea industry but across the whole of Japan.

In Shizuoka, Chubu Electric Power together with Kawasaki Kikou has developed an electric tea roasting machine that is expected to go on sale next year. Compared with the conventional roasting machine that uses gas, the new machine, only running on electricity, should have a much higher energy efficiency. In addition to that, it may help to address the challenges of the aging tea producer population, as due to the data collection and ability to fine-tune the machine, even those with little experience will be able to roast in a stable manner. 

Another piece of technology – vending machines that can keep bottled drinks hot or cold inside – has become so common these days that we don’t even think about it anymore. That was not the case before 1973 and this year “cold & hot” vending machine celebrates its 50 year anniversary.

Among the novelties of today, an auto parts manufacturer – Aisin together with a tea wholesaler from Shizuoka – Nagamine Seicha is developing a completely new product which they call a tea wine. Aisin already had a technology called AIR that collects tiniest water molecules from the air. This technology is then used to spray ultra fine water particles onto the tea leaves that activate the lactic acid bacteria, which then ferments the tea, making it similar to puerh, but much more sour. The new product is expected to go on sale next spring.

In Fukuoka, a wine maker Tachibana Wine, has also released a tea wine called “Midori no Shizuku” to commemorate the 600th anniversary of Yame tea. It is made with kabusecha from Hoshino Village in Fukuoka, and fermented the same way as regular wine. This resulting wine is dry with 10% of alcohol content and a noticeable aroma of tea. 

This year Yame City in Fukuoka is celebrating its 600th anniversary, since the tea seeds by a Buddhist monk Eirin Shuzui were first planted here in 1423. For this occasion a festival was held in October with a special ceremony, lectures and even fireworks. In addition to that, In October Yame also held the National Tea Festival, that accompanies the National Tea Competition every year and awards the competition winners.

The National Competition of Tea Evaluation was also held recently. The competition is organized by the Tea Industry Youth Association and tea industry professionals under 45 compete to test their tea evaluation skills, where they guess tea cultivar, region, harvesting season, etc. by comparing tea color, aroma and taste. This year there were 140 participants from 13 regions and the winners were from Shizuoka Tea Youth Association.

In October another interesting event was held in Shizuoka – “ Scream your love in the tea fields.” 63 people between the ages of 5 and 80 took part in this event. Some expressed love to their school or workplace, some to their romantic partner. This year it was the second time to hold it, and the organizers hope it will become the place to express love and gratitude.

In Shizuoka, Fuji City has been striving to become the capital of hojicha. Recently the city organized a collaboration with Asahi University in Gifu Prefecture. Students had a chance to learn about how high grade hojicha is made and then submitted proposals on various uses of hojicha.

At the beginning of October Uji City in Kyoto held a festival to show gratitude to three historic tea masters: Eisai, Myoe Shonin and Sen no Rikyu. It was held for the first time in four years. It started with the ritual of water drawing from the Uji river and then participants had a chance to take part in several tea ceremonies that day.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of sister city friendship between Hiroshima City and Hannover City in Germany, an exhibition titled “Samurai Tea Culture and Hiroshima” will be held in Hanover through November and December to introduce the charms of the Ueda Soko School. It is wonderful to see more tea culture traveling beyond the borders of Japan.


The article is based on the Japanese media articles


*Image source: Ito En

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