Fujihara Tea Growers has preserved the tradition of Daito-cha for more than 150 years. Kaoru-san, the current owner of Fujihara Tea Growers, quit his job working for NTT (Japan’s telecom giant) and took over Fujihara Tea Growers from his father. It was not easy for him to jump into the tea industry after having worked in a totally different field. And tea making work requires more than 10 years to become professional. Yet, more than 10 years has been passed, and he says he keeps learning and continues to try out new experiments every day.
Several years ago, his shop and tea factory burnt down. He seriously thought about giving up on making teas at that time. But Kaoru-san kept hearing from other tea farmers who had worked together with him, “If you quit, we will quit too.” He realized Daito-cha was not only the tradition of Fujihara Tea Growers, but it also had a bigger place in the tea grower community. He was filled with a sense of responsibility and passion to overcome the hardship to accomplish his mission to uphold Daito-cha.
This hardship freed him to try new things and take on new challenges.
1st was organic tea farming.
He started organic tea farming on his farms to pursue tea safety and its assurance, disregarding the time and effort required to make this shift. He carefully chose organic fertilizers to use. He decided to not use cattle dung in order to avoid any chemical compounds in animal feedstuff that may contaminate the farm fields. He chose to use circulation-type farming – using weeds from his farms as fertilizer. And he handpicked insects one by one.
2nd was his use of local produce.
At one time, Japan’s major export items were green tea and silk. Unnan City, where Fujihara Tea Growers is located, had an active silkworm-raising industry in the past, and there were still some mulberry farms. But the industry was gone, and mulberry was not utilized well. Kaoru-san started producing Kuwa-cha by using mulberry leaves. The mulberry trees he grows are also organic and have multiple health benefits.
3rd step was to contribute to the local community.
He took over a number of tea farms, employing elder people to work on those farms, and helping local people and businesses. He was also active in teaching younger generations about teas. Today, Kaoru-san and his wife give kids special tea classes at school and offer hands-on lessons in their tea factory.
Kaoru-san sweats together with his staff.
He always stands at booths at events and talks with his customers. He values those experience because they give him hints about how to improve his tea making, opportunities to hear feedback from customers, and the chance to hear about the hard work his staff handle daily.
The challenge of Kaoru-san is to maintain the tradition of Daito-cha while producing safe and trustworthy green teas with their new organic tea farming attempt.
Kaoru-san, who is diligent and a calligraphy lover, commented
“We never compromise on our Tamaryokucha. We are confident in our taste. We hope customers buy our teas at a price that meets the value. The value includes the quality, taste, knowledge about our work to make this tea, the process the teas went through. And we hope our customers enjoy our teas.”