The perfect harmony of tea fields and tea professionals nurturing the ultimate tea with love and pride
Mr. Hironori Inagakivice president of the union
Born on February 4th 1970 President, Yamafuji Seicha tea production company Vice president, The Nishio Tea business union Recipient of the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award, the 45th Aichi prefecture Tea Competition in 2014 Recipient of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Production Bureau Chair Award, the 70th Kansai tea competition in 2017
Natural Environment in Nishio
All agricultural products are largely dependent to the environment. How is Matcha in Nishio cultivated?
The Yahagigawa plays a major role. The well-drained soil keeps an ideal level of moisture from the river in the soil. The morning fog keeps a good level of moisture in the air, and it also blocks the direct sunlight. We can say that the soil has chosen the plant and the plant has chosen the soil.
Nishio Way of Matcha Cultivation
I hear that in addition to the nature’s blessings, the Nishio way of Matcha cultivation is known to be rigorous. Can you tell me more about that?
We build a Tana framework over trees and put a cover over the Tana framework to shield the trees from the direct sunlight. I assume that’s what people call as the rigorous practice. Over 90% of production employs this Tana framework method and this makes us special.
What does the covering do to tea?
Tea leaves would grow larger to increase the surface area, so they can capture more sunlight because their exposure to the sun is limited by the cover. Leaves also increase its production of chlorophyll so they can effectively absorb the sunlight. Leaves that have a larger surface area grow thin and sweeter. Thinner tea leaves have more vibrant green color – providing the clarity to the tea in the end.
I see. The tea leaves are grown based on the environment and become the ingredient for the flavorful tea. What is the “cover”?
It is called Nijusha and is a double layered gause that only let limited light pass through. A single layer gause can block 70 to 80% of sunlight and double layers can block about 80 to 90% of the sunlight. Growers determines when to place the cover based on the weather and the leaves’ growth. Blocking the sunlight increases Theanine and Amino Acid and makes tea sweeter. The yield would increase by 10 to 15% if we choose not to cover them with the Nijusha double gause because without it, leaves would grow thicker and the leave counts would increase. If we want to increase our production, we are better off without the cover. However, we purposely choose this Nijusha double gause method because our mission is to produce the best quality Matcha at the expense of sacrificing yield. As for the material, we regularly work with a textile company to custom design the Nijusha double gause to create the best cover possible.
I understand. Why not just cover the trees to block the sunlight? I’ve seen other tea fields with a cover directly placed over trees. Why do you build a framework over it in Nishio?
When you put the cover directly over the tea leaves, the tea leaves that are in contact with the cover would grow thick. That’s not just because the cover irritates the leaves in contact, but also because of the heat from the cover transferred to the leaves. This makes the laves stiff. Stiff leaves make bitter and astringent tea and deteriorate the quality. Even if the quality is sacrificed for just a small portion of tea leaves, it is not acceptable for the high level of quality that Nishio Matcha is after.
That’s impressive. Leaves are very delicate, so the attention to detail is paid across the tea fields to protect the growth of these delicate tea leaves.
Indeed, it is. While checking the weather and the temperature, growers visually and physically check the leaves for the growth progress and the harvest timing.
How gorgeous it is that the sun shines through the leaves. I can tell from this picture that the leaves are very delicate.
Best Tools for Best Matcha and Our Culture
I’d imagine the harvested tea is then processed for the tea production. What is special about the tea processing in Nishio?
We have a Mikageishi granite mine in the area which is the best material to make Chausu, a stone grinder, to grind tea. After looking into various options, we believe Mikageishi granite grinds tea the best. Last but not least, the Tencharo, a Tencha tea furnace, plays an important role.
I didn’t know you use the famous premium Mikageishi granite to grind tea! What does the Tencharo do?
Infrared from bricks which a Tencharo is made out of and how the leaves are moved in the Tencharo efficiently bring this great aroma to the tea. This process makes the noble and elegant aroma tea.
I hear that the Nishio Matcha have a special relationship with the region and the people. What does that mean?
Yes, we do. Matcha is not just another industry in Nishio, but it is a part of “life and culture” to the people. Many local residents and schools volunteer on tea picking. We serve Matcha for those who attend our events. We often host tea parties. Matcha is not a special concept to us, but the Matcha culture is deeply rooted with the locals. We think that this relationship is rather special in Japan. While we have no control over the weather, we are constantly reminded and treasure that our tea making is heavily supported by our Matcha culture and our local people. This, in essence, why Matcha is not another industry but is deeply rooted in our “life and culture”.
Please tell me your outlook and commitment as a tea maker.
As the 5th generation of the tea maker, I want to pass on the heritage that I received from our seniors to the next generation. And I have no intent to stop there. I feel passionate that one day I want to grow my dream tea. I have not yet seen the tea that is perfect in all aspects - the look, the flavor and the aroma - even though I’ve continuously challenged myself to produce better tea. In fact, I enjoy this journey of seeking for the best tea. And of course, at the same time, I sincerely enjoy seeing people enjoying my tea. Nishio Matcha today may be the gift of all our hard work and love, but we do not want it to be so grand that people only consume it for special occasions. At the end of the day, more people enjoying our Matcha is the best reward we can possibly have. We want people to feel close to Matcha and casually and nonchalantly enjoy our premium Nishio Matcha.