Sugimoto America is a subsidiary of Sugimoto Seicha, a maker of Japanese green tea in Shizuoka, Japan.
Sugimoto Seicha started with the 1st generation, Zenichi Sugimoto peddling his handmade sencha on the streets of post-war Shizuoka in 1946. His teas were so well-liked by the locals, that soon it was necessary to build a factory to meet the higher demands.
Hiroyuki Sugimoto, the 2nd generation and current company president, is master-taster and winner of the Green Tea Connoisseur Award at the Japanese National Blind Tea Tasting Championships. His well-trained palate help him determine which leaves are of superior quality and which are not worthy of incorporating into his blends. Hiroyuki’s keen sense for tea quickly became recognized in the Japanese tea industry, and under his purview, the company grew exponentially.
Hiroyuki Sugimoto and his wife Kazue have built a name for themselves in the Japanese tea industry. Now, with the help of their two sons, they are growing the company to export quality Japanese tea to North America and beyond.
Meet the Sugimotos
Tea Maestro, Hiroyuki Sugimoto
Hiroyuki Sugimoto, known as Tea Maestro Sugimoto, is the 2nd generation of Sugimoto Seicha Co., Ltd. He inherited the company after his father, Zenichi Sugimoto, and created his original tea blend after hundreds of trials. In 1986, Tea Maestro Sugimoto received the Agricultural Minister Award twice over; one as an individual winning the national tea tasting competition as an individual and the other as the Sugimoto Seicha company for superior tea quality. Even after receiving these awards, he continues his efforts to improve the quality and flavor of Sugimoto teas. He goes into the trenches with his farmers working on improvement of the soils, assessing the environmental impacts of fertilization, and assessing the state of tea plants. On the factory side, Tea Maestro Sugimoto continually seeks to improve efficiency and product safety. His recent efforts culminated in solar power for the factory and FSSC/ISO22000 certification ensuring safe products and practices.
Tea Maestro Sugimoto says “I’m proud of the many awards I have received, but the most important thing to me is customer satisfaction. Ultimately, customers like you decide whether my teas are worthy of these awards; if my customers aren’t happy, these awards mean nothing to me.
Tea Maestro Sugimoto’s wife, Kazue Sugimoto, is a certified teacher in the art of Temomi, the traditional hand rolling tea method. Temomi has been identified as an intangible cultural treasure of Japan. When green tea originated, all production occurred by hand. Today, nearly all processes are mechanized, and the art of Temomi is all but forgotten. Kazue Sugimoto has worked hard to preserve this tradition since 1995. She has been part of a team who presented Temomi Cha (hand-rolled tea) to Japanese Imperial Palace in 1997 and 2013, and in 2006 she received 3rd place in a Temomi competition held by the Japanese government.
Tea Maestro Sugimoto’s first son, Masaaki Sugimoto, started working alongside his father at the age of 20. Since then, he has absorbed his father’s knowledge like a sponge, and now he is Chief of Operations and in charge of all tea blending. Like his father, he participates every year in tea tasting competitions, and advanced to the national competition as prefectural champion in 2006 and 2007. Masaaki works relentlessly to one day inherit the title of Tea Maestro from his father.
Tea Maestro Sugimoto’s second son, Kyohei Sugimoto dreamed of being a teacher until he visited Seattle with his father at 22. During the trip, he was shocked to realize that the green tea he took for granted in Japan was nowhere to be found. This radically changed his awareness of the importance of quality green tea, a beverage not only good for health, but also good for the soul. Upon returning to Japan, he began coursework and became a Certified Tea Instructor. Finally, after deciding with his father that the company should introduce authentic Japanese green tea to the American public as an element of a quality lifestyle, he expanded the family business overseas.