San Francisco and Tamaryokucha

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San Francisco – nostalgic, historic, creative, and innovative city. And San Francisco is a special city for Japan and Japanese tea.

In 1869, a group of Japanese immigrants escaped the Boshin civil war in Fukushima prefecture, landed in San Francisco and started Wakamatsu Tea & Silk Farm in Cold Springs, Placerville, CA. They brought thousands of tea seeds with them to attempt tea farming in Northern California.
In 1870, the San Francisco Consulate, the first Japanese consulate in the U.S., was opened.
In 1894, the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest Japanese garden in the U.S., was built at Golden Gate Park. Today, the Japanese Tea House in the garden offers a variety of Japanese teas.

SONO ORGANIC participated as vendor at the International Tea Festival. It was such a special honor to see so many tea lovers in Northern California. Thank you so much for those who came to our booth and tried our Tamaryokucha tasting, picked up tea samples, and answered questionnaires.

This is the summary report of the answers.

Q1. What is your favorite Japanese tea? (Multiple answers allowed, valid responses: 54)

Please let us comment on the top 3 Japanese teas on this chart.

No.1 Kamairicha may be flattered, but we are still happy. We think the major reason is it is sweeter and has a refreshing taste. Please allow us to promote Kamairicha here.

1. Oldest green tea in Japan
The roasting tea-making process was imported from the Asian Continent to Japan. And it spread around Japan and became common until the steaming process was invented during the Edo period. So Kamairicha inherits the oldest green tea manufacturing style in Japan.

2. Rare tea
Making Kamairicha requires techniques and skills that are reliant on the 5 senses. Currently, Kamairicha makes up less than 0.3% of green tea production in Japan (Tea-related statistics 2018, Japan Tea Industry Central Association). And only 2 regions in Kyushu make this kind of tea. Kamairicha products produced where Miyazaki Sabo is located, are also called Aoyagicha.

3. Only green colored tea with roasting method
Most current Japanese green teas are processed with steaming. Kamairicha by contrast is the only green colored tea processed by roasting, not steaming in Japan. Just to clarify, Hōjicha is a re-processed green tea. (Sencha, or Bancha, is roasted to make it brown colored Hōjicha.)

4. Sweet, clear, & refreshing taste
The roasting method suppresses the amount of catechin infused in the liquid, which makes the tea taste sweeter, clearer, and more refreshing. If you are drinking Japanese tea for the first time, you must start from Kamairicha.

5. Kamairicha is a part of Tamaryokucha
Tamaryokucha has 2 different making processes – roasting and steaming. And Fujihara Tea Growers produces steamed Tamaryokucha, while Miyazaki Sabo produces roasted Tamaryokucha (=Kamairicha). Fujihara Tea Growers’ product name “Tamaryokucha” happens to be the same as the tea type name. Both Kamairicha and steamed Tamaryokucha are part of the Tamaryokucha tea type.


No.2 Sencha implies that some people know and enjoy Japanese teas. Yes, Sencha takes more than half of total Japanese tea production. Similar to taste, but we want to highlight the difference between Sencha and Steamed Tamaryokucha here.

1. Tea leaves are curved in a jewel shape
“Tama” of Tamaryokucha comes from 玉 in Kanji, which means curved jewel. The tea leaves don’t go through the final rolling process to be stretched out to a needle like shape seen in Sencha.  So, the Tamaryokucha tea leaves are slightly curled.

2. Material is young tea leaves
Young fresh tea leaves are generally used as steamed Tamaryokucha material. Tea leaves of Fujihara Tea Growers are delicate, thin, and small. The nature of Okuizumo is the large temperature differences between day and night, summer and winter, create such leaves. Therefore, Fujihara Tea Growers require less rolling and drying time to process their Tamaryokucha. It gives you more original tea leaf taste and flavor. If you are looking for a strong tea taste, then this is the tea to try. It tastes like crude tea.

No.3 Matcha implies it is popular in the U.S. as well as in Japan. Kamairicha-Powdered looks similar to Matcha, even though it comes from different tea leaves and production process.

  • * Nutrition More/Less: comparison of this 2 teas

Q2. Major interest in Japanese teas (Multiple answers allowed, valid responses: 204)

The far most important thing SONO realized through the San Francisco International Tea Festival (SFITF thereafter) was that we haven’t offered our customers what they want. This is our biggest apology yet – unable to offer good tasting tea, sell it at the event, and explain our teas well. And we want to know more about you – your taste and aroma preference, what you like, and your interest. Our promise is to continue making the effort to transform ourselves to get closer to what you want from us.

SONO ORGANIC saw a small tea seed in San Francisco through this event. And we hope it will grow, like the fortune cookie that was initially brought from Japan by Makoto Hagiwara, gardener of Japanese Tea Garden, transformed by a vanilla flavored taste and is now loved by so many people.



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