On my quest to learn more about tea I came across a Free Matcha Mini course. This lead me to the Tea Crane website. Immediately I wished I was in Japan so I could visit the shop and have a real tea session with Sosen-san. His expertise, smile, and products are all amazing.
Location: Kyoto, Japan
- Specialty Store for Organic, Natural and Pesticide-free Japanese Tea
Most popular company tea(s)?
- This seed-grown sencha from Nara is one of the very first teas that I included in our tea selection at The Tea Crane. The farmer of this tea is also the person who taught me most about organic farming and the real value of organic and natural tea cultivation. Together with his Roasted Bancha this sencha literally opened my eyes to the beautiful world of organic Japanese tea and inspired me to found The Tea Crane Specialty brand for exclusively organic, pesticide-free and natural Japanese tea. It has been and still is one of our favorite teas on the list.
Does the company name have a meaning?
- The Tea Crane is derived from our logo. Initially I was looking for a Japanese house crest to include on my formal kimono. This was necessary because proper Japanese dress was required in order to receive my instructor license at the Enshu school of tea ceremony. Having a passion for tea I looked for a crest that had a tea related theme and discovered that there were various designs with the tea seed as motif. The crane with tea leaves for its wings and a tea seed on the back appealed to me most for its elegance, and as well because the crane is considered as a symbol for longevity, which I feel goes hand in hand with tea. So I chose this mark for my formal kimono, and later when I started this organic tea brand I decided to use the same logo for it and derived the name “The Tea Crane” from this logo.
Do you participate in any charities?
- No. I don’t participate in any formal charities. My endeavor to support organic and natural farmers of tea in Japan through making their tea accessible worldwide is the true value and reason why I founded The Tea Crane and thus also choose to invest all resources and time into achieving this goal. At the current I am only able to support the farmers I work with in modest ways and aim to grow this significantly in the future. To me there is no greater charity to the world than the efforts of these farmers because their efforts will help the world maintain a healthy, environmentally safe, and sustainable approach to tea cultivation.
What is you and/or your co-workers’ favorite tea?
- It is difficult to say because each season calls for a different tea, and each moment of the day is different too. I love to have matcha in the morning and as part of a tea ceremony during the day. Before noon I lean more towards green tea, while in the afternoons I prefer to wind down with black tea or a refreshing oolong. When I am working outside and need to quench my thirst I can really enjoy several liters of hojicha or bancha. In summer I lean more towards green tea in general, while in winter I prefer darker, more warming teas. I think this shift of preference in tea types is common for devoted tea lovers, and should be pretty recognizable by most.
- But if I have to point out one specific tea that is an all-time favorite, then I think I’ll go with one of our oolongs. The Minamisayaka oolong is a really fragrant, lightly oxidized, refreshing tea. It is great if you have some time to enjoy multiple brews of it and observe the variations in taste and aroma you get throughout the brews. While the tea itself is already very relaxing with its soothing aroma, the moment for brewing and savoring it as well allows you to settle down and calm the body and mind. It’s a great tea to simply calm down with.
What are your thoughts on transparency in the tea industry?
- Transparency is mandatory. Unfortunately transparency and traceability is hardly present in Japan’s tea industry due to its many blending practices. Some firms blend so many teas together that it is really hard to find out where they came from and who produced it. It is simply not the norm in Japan and it will take a huge adjustment to make transparency possible.
- With farm-direct, single origin, single cultivar teas this becomes easier to do. However single-origin teas are uncommon in Japan. More farmers are beginning to provide single origin teas directly to the public, but via the traditional wholesaler route this is almost unthinkable.
- At The Tea Crane I focus on single origin (single-cultivar, single-farm) teas only. To me rather than transparency, or sustainability, or the benefits for the environment (which are also very important), I am attracted by the natural diversity of the tea plants. For example, a same cultivar growing on a different tea field where the soil composition is different can turn out quite opposite to each other. I find this natural diversity intriguing, and enjoy having the opportunity to savor many different teas. It also becomes more natural and personal. Each tea bush has its own unique characteristics. Just as with human beings, I like to look at everyone as the individual they are and respect and appreciate them for who they are. The same with tea. My general motto is “let tea be tea”.
What role does tea play in our lives?
- The meaning of tea in someone’s life is different for each person individually. The question is how do you approach your tea moment and what do you get out of it. Some people can’t leave the house before having had a cup of warm tea. It functions as a transition marker from one activity into the other.
- Other people mark specific moments throughout the day as designated tea moments and approach them as a moment of meditation or relaxation, similar to how someone might make time for seated meditation or a 15 minute yoga session. Such a moment can be whisking your morning matcha to start the day, or brewing a very special tea in the afternoon in silence, sipping the brew and savoring successive steepings of that tea. These are mostly moments to regain focus, or relax, and thus are conducted mostly alone.
- But tea also has the vital function to connect people and strengthen interpersonal relations. In the tea ceremony for example people are joined together mostly in silence, but simply by being in the same space for a long time you feel that the trust and appreciation for one another is raised and that after the event you have grown more familiar and close to the other participants. In a more everyday setting sharing some tea provides a great reason to sit down and have a chat. The tea provides food for conversation and is the connector between two or more people around the same table. In the end, tea can play many roles and have many functions in our lives, but what you get out of it depends on what you want to get out of it.
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TeaTiff Picks: Asamiya Natural Kabusecha and Yame Matcha. Seeing and tasting is believing. Both of these teas are delightful because they will all of your senses. They are both gorgeous hues of greens, an adventure in aroma land, the taste is divine. すばらしい