3rd generation tea farmer and CEO of Sueyoshi Tea Atelier, tea farmer Mataki Tatefumi believes tea brings forth connections. With this philosophy in mind, they strive to deliver their delicately and finely grown teas to as many people as possible. They also aspire to promote a meaningful way of living that will extend beyond one’s cup of tea.
The Sueyoshi farm and factory is located in the Soo district (pronounced “Soh-oh”) in Kagoshima Prefecture. A stunning volcanic mountain range rich with biodiversity, the region is on the southern end of the beautiful Kirishima Mountain Range. Mataki-san takes pride in selecting the highest quality tea leaves (harvested once a year), leaves that have been grown with time and deep care. He is also proactive in preserving the biodiveristy of the region through the practice of Chagusaba Agriculture from Shizuoka Prefecture, recognized as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS) in 2013 by UNESCO.
Chagusaba Agricultural Method
Chagusaba is a traditional farming method that dates back centuries, and is more commonly known for being practiced in Shizuoka Prefecture. It is a farming method in which grasses such as susuki (Japanese silver grass) and sasa (broadleaf bamboo) from grasslands surrounding the tea fields are harvested, dried, then spread in the furrows between rows of plants in the tea fields.Chagusaba, literally “tea grass place”, encourages increased biodiversity where practiced and helps to create healthier soil.
The method involves layering the dried grass by hand between the rows of plants to prevent weeds from growing, and adding to the microbiology of the soil, improving its quality. This results in soil that can better retain water, help control of weeds, and increase the effectiveness of fertilizer. Due to these benefits, tea bushes grown with the chagusaba method are less stressed, resulting in the healthy growth of tea plants, ultimately contributing to the improved flavor and aroma of tea.
While the flavor may be worth the effort, chagusaba is well known to be time consuming. It is truly a labor of love!
Soo region is located in Kagoshima on the border beside Miyazaki Prefecture. Located by the stunning mountainous regions of Kirishima known for producing arguably the best sencha in Japan, Soo region has an ideal topography and climate for tea cultivation, similar to that of Uji district in Kyoto (very famous for high quality Japanese tea).
Located in a valley, the climate of the Soo region features large temperature differences between night and day, a characteristic which encourages the tea plant to draw nutrients from the roots to the leaves creating delicious tea.
Recognizing the optimal tea cultivation characteristics of the region, historical records say Ikeda Teiki (1733-1802), a samurai and doctor of Miyakonojo, learned tea cultivation in Uji, Kyoto, and brought it to this area.