Located in Makizono Town, Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture, Koukien Tea Garden is a small farm where the whole family has been producing and selling tea since their great-grandfather's generation started making tea about 60 years ago. Today, the small scale family-run farm produces a nice variety of tea. The family neatly manages their tea farm with care from harvesting to processing their own tea. In addition to their asamushicha (i.e., standard lightly steamed sencha) and hojicha (roasted Japanese tea), the youngest farmers of Koukien, sisters Yurie and Akane have recently been experimenting with new cultivars and making delicious wakocha (Japanese black tea). They also produce and sell kakeboshi rice (naturally sun-dried rice) and log shiitake mushrooms.
Known as one of the major tea producing regions in Kagoshima Prefecture, Kirishima is a region that is rich with water resources such as hot springs, which also makes for delicious tea. In fact, Kirishima tea is infamous for its fragrance and sweet flavor. Koukien Tea Garden is tucked at the foot of the mountains of Kirishima mountain range where the legend of Tenson kōrin remains! While Kagoshima Prefecture itself may have a reputation for being one of the warmer prefectures in Japan given their southern location, Koukien’s teas are produced in a relatively cool climate at an altitude of about 300m.
As next generation tea farmers, the Kawaguchi sisters at Koukien Tea Garden Akane and Yurie are particularly putting their efforts into making delicious wakocha as well as coming up with creative ideas for their tea packaging. With respect to wakocha making, the two are constantly going through a process of trial and error in order to make tea with a pleasant aroma and teas that are enjoyable for drinking. While at Yunomi, we only had their asamushi senchas, this year (2023) we are expecting to have a collection of their wakochas so we hope that you will enjoy trying them (coming soon in the Koukien Tea Garden collection)! With the package design, the two brainstorm ideas thinking about how consumers may want to enjoy their teas.
A neat fact about Akane Kawaguchi is that during her studies in Shizuoka Prefecture, she learned the art of hand-rolling tea and has competed in hand-rolling tea competitions. She tries to share the hand rolling experience with others and even has a hoiro table with signatures of previous participants. Her vision is to have the back of her hoiro table full of signatures one day!