For those of you who are up to date with Japanese tea anniversaries, happy Japanese tea day (Nihon-cha no hi)! As a way to celebrate and bring recognition to some of the outstanding Japanese teas out there, I would like to highlight recent awards some of the tea farmers that we are connected with at Yunomi received from the Leafies awards 2022.
The International Tea Academy Awards (“The Leafies 2022”) took place last Wednesday on October 26th in London’s famous Fortnum and Mason. This event was organized by the UK Tea Academy (UKTA), an organization founded in the year 2015, dedicated to offering education for tea professionals and enthusiasts worldwide. Additionally, due to the realization that in the hospitality realm, people did not know how to serve their high quality loose leaf teas (in shark contrast to their knowledge for brewing/serving coffee), the UKTA also works to raise standards of tea hospitality. I found out about the UKTA due to the Leafies Awards, but for those who are curious, it looks like the organization has a diverse array of interesting tea offerings. Well, onto the exciting news...
For the Highly Commended Tea Awards:
Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden (Shimada city, Shizuoka Prefecture) received recognition for their Sakura-wood Smoked Black tea. If you aren’t familiar with 3rd generation young tea farmer Hiroki Matsumoto’s smoked teas, you may be missing out!
Tea Farmer Matsumoto-san’s Cherry Blossom Wood Smoked Black Tea. Photo by Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden.
Matsumoto-san is always challenging himself to create unique and unusual teas. His inspiration comes from the fact that many tea farmers around him in Shizuoka Prefecture (one of the major tea producing Prefectures) are already making delicious and high quality tea. While the focus of the generations before him was to sell cultivated tea to wholesalers, during his time as a tea farmer, Kaneroku Matsumoto Tea Garden began to make their own products, which allowed Matsumoto-san to directly interact with customers (i.e., the people who drink his tea!). These interactions shifted something in him as began thinking about creating his own style of tea, one which wasn’t limited by the labels placed as "Shizuoka-cha" or "Shimada-cha". This sakura wood smoked black tea is just one of his exemplar teas.
Below, scene from the awards ceremony although Matsumoto-san couldn’t physically be there to receive his award:
For the Gold Awards:
Atelier Sueyoshi Seicha (Soo, Kagoshima Prefecture) received a Gold Award for their kabusecha called Furusatonohana, Saemidori. This single cultivar tea from 3rd generation tea farmer Mataki Takefumi is an impressive awards-winning tea (see all of the previous awards it has received!). Takefumi-san practices the chagusaba agricultural method for growing tea leaves in which grass grown around the fields are cut, dried, and laid between the tea hedges to prevent weed growth and to fertilize the soil.
- 2020 Superior Taste Award (International Taste Institute’s jury of the world’s best Chefs & Sommeliers)
- Great Taste Awards 2019 (2 stars)
- Great Taste Awards 2020 (1 star)
- Great Taste Awards 2021 (3 stars)
- Great Taste Awards 2022 (3 stars)
- Teas of the World 2019 Gourmet Medal
- Japanese Tea Selection Paris 2019 (Silver Medal)
- Japanese Tea Selection Paris 2020 (Gold Medal)
- Japanese Tea Award 2018 (Fine Product Award)
A recent photo from tea farmer Takefumi-san of the osmanthus blooming this month (October 18, 2022). These flowers have a sweet smell, comforting, like Takefumi-san's award winning kabusecha.
Kajihara Tea Garden also received a gold on their Benifuki 2022 Summer Harvest in the natural black tea division. This tea farm is cultivated by Toshihiro Kajihara, a 3rd generation tea farmer based in the 9-family hamlet of Tsuge in Ashikita Village, Kumamoto Prefecture. Personally, I am a huge fan of their kamairicha (pan-fried tea), especially their refreshing blend with lemongrass (note: the lemongrass is grown by Kajihara-san himself!). But having seen this acknowledgement, I am now eager to try some of his Japanese black teas. Perhaps, even more exciting for Kajihara Tea Garden was that they were awarded the Ultimate Tea Award, the Best in Show. Apparently, this is an award selected from all of the category winners through an unanimous vote from the judges. Basically, the best of the best. Keep shining on, Kajihara-san!
Tea farmer Toshihiro Kajihara in his beautiful tea farm in Tsuge, Ashikita Village, Kumamoto Prefecture. Photo by Kajihara Tea Garden.
That’s all I have to share with regards to the Leafies! As I just found out about this event (thanks to the tea farmers who received awards), updates will come if I hear any more exciting details. For now, I send my sincere congratulations to all of our tea farmers. Oh, and if you are feeling especially drawn to award-winning teas, don’t forget to check out the award-winning tea selection on Yunomi!
Featured image: 3rd generation tea farmer Hiroki Matsumoto practicing the chagusaba method. Photo by Kaneroku MatsumotoTea Garden.