I’m sure many of you wonder where we source our teas, as it’s a question I get asked a lot through clients and social media. As a green tea manufacturer, we literally can source tea from anywhere in Japan unlike others who have limited resources.
With our family background in green tea farming in Shizuoka, we are experts when it comes to selecting.
Each year we attend what we call “tea auctions” per harvest season! The busiest off course is 1st harvest in spring (usually April/May).
What happens at a tea auction?
For one whole month, once the tea leaves are ready for harvesting, the top Japanese green tea manufacturers (including us!) attend the tea auctions. In order to attend you must be part of the tea manufacturing industry and have a membership in agriculture and tea organisation of Japan, therefore, no ordinary person can attend them!
Each company has coloured hats and name tags to show which manufacturer we represent. (see below for image) These are no ordinary auctions either! Each company has its own tea masters and roasters who attend the early morning event. All the green tea farmers of the area produce their harvest on long lined tables and await for tasting and judging. For distant farms from other areas of Japan, they are express air shipped to reach the auction on time! Only for the tea harvest season there are special express transporters that do this! A very unique market place in Japan!
We start early too! as early as 4am! And it starts very much on time (typical Japan) with a announcement and bell. The hustle and bustle is all over by early morning about 7:30-8! And it’s every day for the whole month of harvest season! So you can imagine it’s very early nights for us! My eyes are usually hanging by 8pm!
Upon the opening of the auction, the popular or high demand farms are immediately swarmed by a group of people and the negotiating and auctions begin! Sales can be so quick, a matter of seconds or can take the duration of the auction. Negotiating is not done by mouth but we use a traditional number counting tool called “soroban”. Before digital calculators, we used these wooden instruments with beads to calculate numbers called soroban. The beads are moved up and down accordingly to the price being negotiated. Once agreed a hand is shook and the tea is taken away from further viewing.