A Team of 4 going from a dream to the top !
After years of painstaking work in his tea fields and tea factory, Ajizuki san had decided to retire. Then a new initiative to save the Kamairicha (pan-fried tea) technique motivated him to come out from retirement and join forces with three other friends, creating the Ureshino Southern Kamairicha Tea Industry Association, to produce top-quality Kamairicha in Ureshino, Saga prefecture.
Kamairicha is a tea specialty of Saga, but the number of factories had gone from 250 in the 1950s to only 10 in 1998. This drop was due to a rapid increase in the change of steaming method, thanks to technological innovation, but also because the required technique is very hard to master, leading to a decrease in the number of qualified tea producers.
As they witnessed the slow disappearance of Kamairicha factories, Ajizuki san and several other producers, all passionate about making Kamairicha, gathered together so that Saga-made "Kamairicha would not go extinguished." In 2001, they launched the "Ureshino Southern Kamairicha Association". In 2003, thanks to public and industrial support, including machine makers, a new production line was created to produce an improved and more stable tea quality, which was one of the major issues in the past. Their efforts and amazing skills were quickly recognised: in 2006, the Association won the 1st prize at the National Tea Fair. Since then, they have collected 8 other top prizes at national-level competitions.
In 2016, the association acquired GAP certification and focused on hygiene management and labor management. The association's principles are "safe and secure production of Kamairicha" and "creating an environment where people can work comfortably". In 2019 and 2020, the association was rewarded with Grade 6 from the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Award.
Proudly showing the new processing line and tools
The Kamairicha technique was almost lost but has been now recognised as a National Agricultural Heritage. Ajizuki san and his partners truly hope that you will appreciate the taste of their tea and also spread the word about Kamairicha. They would love to hear from you and how you enjoyed their tea so that they can make it again famous in Japan and abroad!