Authenticity & Innovation
The Sugimoto Tea Company is not your average Japanese green tea company. Yes, we produce authentic Japanese green teas, including everything from sencha to matcha. And yes, we have a multi-generational history of tea making. But, unlike many other Japanese companies, we have long embraced innovation to bring the best tasting tea to our customers.
Why do customers love our tea?
Is it because we’ve been making tea for three generations in Shizuoka?
Is it because of our awards?
Not quite. All of these qualities have something to do with it, but at the end of the day, most of our customers do not know these things and have still enjoyed our tea for years.
Because our tea tastes delicious.
Our tea does not taste delicious just because we have won competitions. It tastes delicious because we craft tea for tea drinkers to enjoy daily, not for awards that just favor the tastes of a select few.
As Hiroyuki Sugimoto said, “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.”
The First Era
The history of Sugimoto Tea Company starts with Zenichi Sugimoto. In 1946, Shizuoka and the rest of Japan was just at the start of a long road to post-war recovery. Looking for the best way to help his family and his community, Zenichi decided to hand-make tea and delivered it to all of his customers by bike. His teas were so well-liked by the locals that soon it was necessary to build a factory to meet the high demands for Sugimoto tea. And so, Sugimoto Seicha was born.
A Dissatisfied Taste
In 1967, Zenichi’s son, Hiroyuki Sugimoto, started preparing to take over the family business and moved to Tokyo, apprenticing at a famous Japanese tea shop near the Tsukiji Fish Market. Not only did he meet his future wife here, but he also was able to experience selling tea directly to consumers and learned their flavor preferences.
After returning to Shizuoka in 1978, Hiroyuki took over the family factory and became the second generation head of Sugimoto Seicha. Then, in 1986, Hiroyuki Sugimoto’s hard work and skill was recognized when he won two awards, the Shizuoka Prefectural Tea Competition as well as the National Blind Tea Tasting Championship. This resulted in him receiving the Agricultural Ministry Award twice in the same year.
These awards cemented his place as one of the best tea professionals in Japan. However, receiving these awards was also the start of a drastic change to his tea making. By reaching the pinnacle of tea in Japan, Hiroyuki realized that there were two types of tea: tea esteemed by tea industry professionals, and tea loved by everyday tea drinkers.
Authentic, But Innovative
Instead of following the same tea making process everyone else was using, Hiroyuki decided to go against the grain in order to make tea with an exceptional taste. He prioritized making tea that was most beneficial and delicious to everyday tea drinkers instead of strictly staying on the traditional tea making path. He decided to innovate.
High roasting (火入れ, hi-ire) is the key to making our exceptional Sencha Fukamushi. The Sugimoto style of high roasting easily burns most tea leaves, but Hiroyuki knew of teas grown in the mountains of Shizuoka that could stand up to the high temperatures.
In order to consistently obtain those special tea leaves, we source our leaves farm-direct. Traditionally, the government is a middle man between tea farmers and tea producers like us. However, since the time of Zenichi, Sugimoto Tea Company has always cultivated strong relationships with farmers, ensuring access to high-quality tea leaves that can withstand our special high-temperature roasting.
The Next Generation
In the last few years, Hiroyuki’s sons, Masaaki and Kyohei, have been working hard to continue on the family tea making tradition.
Masaaki Sugimoto started working alongside his father at the age of 20. Since then, he has absorbed his father’s knowledge and is now in charge of all tea blending. Like his father, he participates every year in tea tasting competitions, and has advanced to the national competition as prefectural champion in 2006 and 2007.
Until 2002, Kyohei Sugimoto dreamed of becoming a teacher. At 22 he took a fateful trip to the US with his father and 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 that is not only good for health, but also for the soul. Seeing this deficit as a problem he could help solve, Kyohei became a Certified Tea Adviser in Japan and moved to the US in 2004 where he founded the US branch of Sugimoto Seicha to bring high-quality Japanese tea to the American public and beyond.
Together, Masaaki and Kyohei have made their own marks on the Sugimoto Tea Company. Through their efforts, Sugimoto Tea Company has obtained internationally recognized certifications to ensure product safety and became one of the first companies to produce and import certified organic matcha into the US.
Today and into the future, we will continue to work hard to produce authentic and innovative Japanese green teas that are environmentally friendly, delicious, and beneficial to the lives of tea drinkers and farmers alike.