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From Samurai to Tea Master

One of our favorite tea makers is The Otsuka Green Tea Co. located in Kakegawa City in western Shizuoka, Japan. This is a family owned company, whose matriarch is Mrs. Hiroko Otsuka, an expert in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Mrs. Hiroko Otsuka, an expert in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

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The Otsuka Green Tea Co. was founded in 1869 by Shinpei Otsuka. Around that same time the samurai were abolished in Japan, and many of the Otsuka clan were samurai. Apparently the next best thing to being samurai is becoming tea masters. 

Otsuka Japanese tea fields and tea workers.

For generations Otsuka grew and made their own green tea, with their own fields and tea workers.

Otsuka green tea fields in Japan

Until very recently they continued to get their own tea from their own fields. The above photo from Otsuka shows how mechanization is being introduced into Japanese tea cultivation. Astoundingly, mechanization, like the two-person tea-plucking machine above, does not reduce the quality of the finished tea. When most tea countries introduce mechanization, there is a corresponding drop in quality. Not so in Japan.

Hill and tea fields in Japan

The hills and fields that provide Otsuka with fresh leaf. The structures that look like light poles are actually fans which are automatically programmed to move air around in the direction and the speed that will best assist the health and growth of the tea plants. 

Freshly picked tea leaves coming to the factory

Just plucked leaf coming into the factory fresh from the field. 

Today, Otsuka is focused primarily on the production of deep steamed Japanese Green Sencha tea (Fukamushi-cha). This move toward specializing in the production of the finished tea (not the cultivation) is indicative of the Japanese tea industry over the last 30 years. 

President of Otsuka, 5th generation Mr. Yasuhiko Otsuka

Current President of Otsuka, 5th generation Mr. Yasuhiko Otsuka, proudly displaying the First Prize trophy won at the Tokyo Excellent Green Tea Fair sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. 

Cupping teas with the Otsuka folks at the TeaSource Roseville warehouse in 2015

Cupping teas with the Otsuka folks at the TeaSource Roseville warehouse in 2015. See more photos from their visit HERE!

Doing our favorite thing: drinking and talking tea with the folks from Otsuka in our St. Paul store.

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  • Posted by john zasada on

    why do you mean by “deep steamed” green sencha? is that part of the process of making the tea leave or making the tea for drinking? Thanks.

  • Posted by Sharon Stephens on

    Thank you for your lovely article about the Otsuka Tea Company. Would you inquire and share with us which chanoyu tea school or tradition Mrs. Hiroko Otsuka follows? The three primary tea traditions are Urasenke, Omotosenke and Mushakojisenke however there are several smaller schools that were favored by the samurai.

  • Posted by TeaSource on

    Hi Sharon, Thanks for your comment! Mrs. Hiroko Otsuka is trained in the Urasenke tradition. She started as a teenager and has been doing it for over 60 years.

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