Celebrating Sugimoto Tea's Highlights of 2023
As 2023 draws to a close, we at Sugimoto Tea are taking a moment to reflect on a year filled with memorable events, exciting collaborations, and significant milestones. From expanding our domestic storage with a second warehouse to painting our pallet jack bright pink, this year has been one of growth, discovery, and joy. In this blog, we'll highlight our remarkable journey throughout 2023.
Trade Shows and Tea Festivals
March 7-11 - Natural Products Expo West
This year, our company president, Masaaki Sugimoto, and Tomo-san traveled from Japan to participate in the Natural Products Expo West. It was a special moment as it marked our president's first visit to the United States in years. A memorable highlight was Masaaki and Tomo trying In-N-Out for the first time.
March 27-29 - World Tea Expo 2023
TheWorld Tea Expo is an excellent opportunity to connect with friends, both new and old, in the tea industry. It's exhilarating to witness the industry's developments. We were especially pleased to see the strong presence of Japanese tea at the expo, including fellow tea makers from Shizuoka.
June 9 - Tea Onigiri Challenge
In June, we hosted a contest to find the best rice ball recipe using green tea rice. Our team experimented extensively to discover the best tea-to-rice ratio and the ideal filling for the tea rice onigiri, resulting in nearly 30 different tea onigiri combinations. The winning filling was 'negi shio.' We invite you to try making ocha onigiri at home, following the recipe on our Instagram.
July 15 - Tea Fest PDX
Tea Fest PDX takes place every July in Portland, Oregon, just a three-hour drive from our office in Redmond, Washington. One of the benefits of a summer festival in the Pacific Northwest is the opportunity to enjoy the normally dry and mild weather. As such, this festival is held outdoors each year. However, this year was an exception with unusually hot conditions, as temperatures soared over 90 degrees! It was the perfect opportunity to break out the cold brew. We served cold brew all day, but the heat was so intense that the ice melted almost instantly each time. This year's scorching weather made the festival an exceptionally memorable event for us. Additionally, we discovered during our downtime at the hotel that Kyohei is a fearless Jenga master, adding an amusing twist to our experience.
September 23-24 - Northwest Tea Festival
The Northwest Tea Festival is our home festival. We've been participating in this event since 2013, marking this year as our ten-year anniversary, notwithstanding the few cancellations due to Covid. This year marked our highly anticipated return to the Northwest Tea Festival after a three-year hiatus since its last occurrence in 2019. Our good friend and Japanese tea ceremony instructor, Chiaki Ito, performed several tea ceremony demonstrations throughout the day, captivating attendees with the art and tradition of Japanese tea. Additionally, we served Wagashi made by Tokara, a renowned local Seattle-based Japanese confectionery. The festival made a strong comeback this year, and it was heartwarming to see many familiar faces and forge new connections. The robust tea community in Seattle is something we hold in high regard, and we are immensely proud to be an integral part of it.
October-November - Midwest Tea Festival and SanFrancisco Tea Festival
Tea festivals are always wonderful opportunities to meet our customers and connect with friends in the tea industry. At both the Midwest Tea Festival and the San Francisco Tea Festival, we debuted our chocolates before they were available online. It was gratifying to see some attendees return after tasting the chocolates, eager to purchase more.
Other Events and Accomplishments
Participating in the Mitsuwa Fair for the first time was a significant milestone for us. Mitsuwa, a chain of Japanese grocery stores located in California, Illinois, Texas, Hawaii, and New Jersey, provided an excellent platform to showcase our products. We designed a special end cap for our teas and ran a two-week promotion, visiting several Mitsuwa locations to conduct demos. This was a fantastic opportunity to engage with our customers across the United States.
In the Seattle area, we participated in an event at Uwajimaya, a local Japanese supermarket. During this event in October, one of our sales representatives donned the traditional chamusume outfit from the Kanaya region of Japan, where our headquarters are located, to serve green tea. A memorable moment was meeting a visitor from Kanaya, who was pleasantly surprised to see the traditional attire from their hometown.
Rare Tea Series
This year marked a significant expansion of our Rare Tea Series, moving beyond single cultivars. We proudly introduced our Japanese Oolong, Sobacha, and Kamairicha, all of which were exceptionally well-received. Our Japanese Oolong and Kamairicha are particularly special, as they are cultivated by our friend and farmer Jun Watanabe, who has been a close friend of our company president since their middle school days. One of our major goals at Sugimoto Tea Company is to support local farmers, and we are thrilled to back Jun in his continuous efforts to try something new and unique.
Additionally, we released five single cultivars this year: Asanoka, Sayama Kaori, Shizu-7132, Fuji Midori, and Kanaya Midori. Counting our single cultivar Kamairicha, that makes six unique offerings. These teas represent the best of what five different local farms, four in Shizuoka and one in Kagoshima, have to offer, showcasing the diverse and rich flavors of our local tea cultivation.
We engaged in several successful collaborations this year. In January, a local ice cream company in Seattle, Molly Moon's, released their seasonal Hojicha ice cream using our Hojicha Powder. In June, they released a Matcha Strawberry flavor. In October, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams launched their Genmaicha with Marshmallow flavor. In November, we collaborated with local chocolatier Wild Peaks Chocolates to release our first-ever non-tea item, our chocolate bars.
As 2023 concludes, we're grateful for every opportunity we had to meet and connect with you. If you had the chance to meet us this year, we'd love to hear about your favorite moments. Your stories enrich our community and inspire us.
Looking ahead, we hope to meet even more of you in 2024, sharing tea, and creating new memories. Thank you for being a part of our tea journey. Here's to another year of shared experiences and delightful teas.
See you in 2024!