September 28, 2020
How tea is drank matters. An Eco Farmer thinks about consumers | “Segawa Tea Farm” in Minamikyushu City, Kagoshima

Mr. Segawa is a very unique-minded tea producer. After exploring the tea production methods that met the needs of the users, he chose the two cultivars “Yutakamidori” and “Asatsuyu” as his main products.

He rather has a sense of a marketer. What he cares is how the users brew tea, what kind of tea the users want, etc. A tea producer with such a mind is very rare.

This time I visited Segawa Tea Factory, a tea producer in Ei, Minamikyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture.

Two cultivars selected to be savored all the drinking ways

Asatsuyu and Yutakamidori are the only single origin teas Mr. Segawa makes.

While he grows other cultivars such as “yabukita,” “okumidori,” and “kanayamidori,” he chose only the two of them for special reasons.

Tea taste varies a lot by brewing manners. Temperature, brewing time, water amount, and many others should be minded for a desired taste. That means tea taste changes variously according to how the drinker brews tea, regardless of the producer’s careful intention. If that’s so, Mr. Segawa’s idea is he just needs to make the tea that can be savored in every brewing manner.

Segawa Tea Factory’s Asatsuyu and Yutakamidori

Tea farm of Segawa Tea Factory

Asatsuyu is also called Tennen-gyokuro (Natural jade dew). It has rich umami and an elegant aroma. A lot of yutakamidori is grown in Kagoshima. This cultivar has strong and clear astringency.

The typical mistake to spoil tea flavors is the excessive temperature of hot water. Tea’s bitterness and astringency come from caffeine and catechins, which can be extracted more at higher temperature. If you compare the tea brewed at 60 ℃ with the tea brewed at 80 ℃, the latter provides much stronger bitterness and astringency.

However, not many users have this understanding to drink tea. Sencha (steeped green tea) is recommended to brew at 60–80 ℃, but you may have seen sencha brew in boiling water.

This is why Mr. Segawa chose Asatsuyu and Yutakamidori.

Farm of Asatsuyu

Farm of Asatsuyu

Farm of Yutakamidori

Farm of Yutakamidori

”My questionnaires on a favorite type of tea shows that most people like either sweet tea or bitter tea. It was like, if they wanted bitterness and sweetness among my products, I had this and this.”

Asatsuyu is a cultivar with weak bitterness and astringency. It cannot be so astringent even by brewing at high temperature. Yutakamidori is a cultivar originally meant to provide rich astringency. It can be delicious by brewing at high temperature. The selected two had no room to control their tastes.

Mr. Segawa became an Eco Farmer without planning

”Eco Farmer” is a title to certify a farmer who is working on human- and environment-friendly agriculture, which includes soil preparation, the reduced use of chemical fertilizers and agrochemicals, etc. Mr. Segawa is one of the certified Eco Farmers, but his background is a little different from others.

Mr.Segawa and CEO of FETC

”It was just business improvement. I felt my business was wasteful. This chemical is for ichibancha (first picked tea) and this for nibancha (second picked tea). It was like rules. But it was too hard to follow everything. It was also too hard in terms of prices. I also felt bad about that. I started wondering if it was really necessary.”

The production methods of tea have been established to some extent; how to grow branches, how to use agrochemicals or fertilizers, how to process, etc. These methods are based on the existing knowhow developed by ancestors.

But of course, agrochemicals and fertilizers are not for free. If you use more, the cost increases while the quality gets more stable.

”I tried a lot in my 20s. I checked all the leaves one by one to see the number of eggs and wormholes with a counter. Statistics proved that I could not reduce chemical fertilizers but I could reduce agrochemicals”

As a result of repetitive tests, Mr. Segawa reached the current methods. His reduction of agrochemical use was originally for business improvement, but at some point, he found himself a certified Eco Farmer regardless of his initial intention.

穴熊が掘った穴

A hole made by a badger. You can see insects and animals at Mr. Segawa’s farm thanks to less fertilizers.

Not a typical Kagoshima tea, but it’s delicious

In Kagoshima, the tea with punchy strong umami is often appreciated. Mr. Segawa’s tea’s lighter taste is totally opposite.

With chemical fertilizers, umami components increase in a tea leaf, which lends the tea clear and strong umami. It is recommended to savor it little by little rather than to gulp it. On the other hand, Mr. Segawa’s tea is seeking a good balance between umami and astringency.

In particular, his yutakamidori is outstanding. I myself have tried a lot of yutakamidori. The astringency of Mr. Segawa’s tea is awesome.

Yutakamidori is an early season cultivar a lot of which is grown in Kagoshima. It is featured by rich astringency and cereal-like aromas. While it provides strong and clear umami, its refreshing astringency tones aftertaste. This crisp cultivar is perfect for daily consumption

Mr. Segawa’s yutakamidori provides some nostalgic sense of security. It is perfect when you take a breath to relax or enjoy food and snacks. The tea comes into your daily life so naturally. Please enjoy Mr. Segawa’s tea by brewing casually and easily.