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A glimpse into our producer's tea fields

Nestled among Camellia Sinensis-lined hills and quiet, winding roads along the Uchimaki River is Moriuchi Tea Farm, the home and fields of a 9th generation tea farmer whose family has been tea making since the Edo era. Owned and operated by Yoshio and Masumi Moriuchi, Masumi-san was the first producer we had the pleasure of working with in 2019—and their tea garden has remained as timeless and experimental in the years since.
At almost 70 years old, the couple works alongside a small group of neighbors (women over the age of 80 whom they affectionately refer to as their "tea grannies") to fertilize, hand-pick, and craft each year’s brief harvest. The fruits of this modest, longstanding operation are evident: both Yoshi and Masumi hold Japanese tea master certifications and have won national awards for their evocative teas.
We interviewed Masumi-san to learn more about the family’s tea making practice, how she and Yoshio met, and the future of their Japanese tea garden…
Yoshio-san tending to fields in early spring.
T:       When was Moriuchi tea farm established? What was the name of the family member who established it?
M:       It was so long ago that there is no record of it. It was sometime in the Edo period. My husband, Moriuchi Yoshio, is the 9th generation. We think the founder's name was Shichizaemon.
T:       Did you always know you wanted to inherit Moriuchi Tea Farm? Did you ever wish you could have a different profession?
M:       Yoshio always knew. I wanted to pursue another occupation, but I joined the farm when I married Yoshio.
The Moriuchi's "tea grannies"
picking tea during peak harvest in April
T:       How do you and Yoshio-san meet?
M:       We met at the Seinendan. It's a social organization for young men and women in their 20s and 30s, one for each region of Japan. They had one in our rural area, and we met there.
Masumi-san brewing tea during
Tekuno's sourcing trip in 2019
T:       Will you retire soon? What will happen to the tea farm when you do—will your children consider taking over?
M:       We're not sure when we will retire, nor is it decided what will happen to the tea plantation after that. We have two daughters, and they have other jobs. We've started looking for successors other than our children.
The Moriuchi's tea fields, taken during Tekuno's first sourcing trip in 2019
T:       Do you do anything differently from your ancestors when you pick tea? How do you think about "innovating" your teas?
M:       In the past, we used to pick only by hand, but now we are picking both by hand and by machine.
Nowadays, we also make a variety of teas, experimenting with unique cultivars and tea types. Whereas previous generations only made sencha, today we make kamairicha, black tea, and oolong tea. (Tekuno note: a selection of Moriuchi's oolongs will be showcased in this year's Cultivated Membership(!))
T:       Do you have any wishes or hopes for the coming year?
M:       We've planted a new variety this year, so we're looking forward to making tea with that variety. □
View the Moriuchi tea collection
Photos from Moriuchi-san and Tekuno. Header photo via The Atlantic. Interview has been translated and paraphrased.
Copyright © 2022 Tea with Tekuno, All rights reserved.

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