The Last Artisans of Japan: Tea
Meet the company making the blended scotch of the tea world
Director Jeremy Valender visited Japan’s independent, small-batch factories and breweries to capture the care that goes into making slow, labor-intensive versions of the country’s favourite edibles. Though such methods are disappearing fast, the Handred consortium—a loose collection of producers—has formed with the shared goal of protecting such time-honored traditions for the future.
Here, Valender travels to the Maruhachi Seichajo tea brewery:
“Although the most mechanised of any of the places we visited, the tea factory was amazingly refined and relied entirely on the palate and judgement of the workers. Instead of using the leaf, the tea here—kukicha or ‘twig tea’— is made from the stalk of the plant and roasted to give a deeper flavour. As it’s low in caffeine the tea is usually drunk in the evening. To get the right balance of flavors, the roasting is constantly changing depending on the stems and stalks being used and the speed at which they are passed through the roaster. The roasted tea is then blended in its dry form from different batches and taste tested to make sure the balance is right, a bit like a blended scotch. Seeing a tea ceremony and the care taking in the drinking of the product really brings home the craft and precision that these artisanal Japanese producers work to. It’s pretty insane considering how little regard I give a tea bag ”