Steeped in Tradition
The Sugimoto family aims to preserve the long-standing traditions behind growing and producing tea in southwestern Shizuoka. Whether it be hand-rolling Shin Cha or maintaining a balance between tea fields and neighboring grasslands, the Sugimoto family and their partners actively maintain the methods of their ancestors.
Tea farming in Shizuoka has a history dating back to the 12th century. The Buddhist monk Eisai (1141 – 1215) brought the first tea seeds from China, and some of them quickly found their way to the fertile mountain slopes of Shizuoka, an environment very similar to tea’s origins in China. Eisai’s book, Kissa Youjouki (“Drink Tea, Live Healthy”), contributed greatly to the spread of tea drinking as a custom in Japan.
In 1738, the processing technique for sencha was invented by Soen Nagatani (1680 – 1778), and sencha continued to be steamed and rolled by hand for around two hundred years. With increased mechanization of industry and agriculture in Japan, nearly all steps of tea harvest and processing have become mechanized.
The Sugimoto family is one of the few to practice and support the old temomi (traditional hand-rolling) method of creating sencha. Tea Maestro Sugimoto’s wife Kazue is a licensed teacher of the Temomi method, and she has participated in several ceremonies preparing tea for the Imperial Palace. Every year, our headquarters holds a special event, marking the beginning of the spring harvest, where temomi artisans come together to make the finest tea of the year. This Temomi Shin Cha has long, fine needles made from hand-picked tea leaves of only the youngest spring buds. The painstaking care taken to make this tea is reflected in its small quantities: 10 artisans assemble each year and spend an entire day making what amounts to only four pounds. At Sugimoto America, we carry a limited supply of this special entirely hand-processed tea every spring. We are pleased to share this Japanese tradition with those who truly appreciate great tea.
For more information on traditional farming, please see the “Green” Green Tea