KOYABUEN CHAHO, a 70-year old tea wholesaler in Kawane selling directly from a famous tea area
KOYABUEN CHAHO is a 70-year old tea wholesaler in Kawane focusing on direct delivery from a famous tea area. For their tea Kawanecha, roasting is important. They take time and ‘roast tea for aroma and umami’. The aroma and flavor are special. They are a traditional tea wholesaler who provides a slow time with Kawanecha.
After booking by phone, I visited KOYABUEN CHAHO. They suggested me to try tea samples on the menu. The manager Hisayuki Koyabu welcomed me.
Hisayuki Koyabu “It’s best to have your favorite tea, so how about trying our teas? Here are the items. Take anything you like.”
↓Hakuju 100g with 2,000 yen in the right picture and Fujikawa 100g with 1,000 yen in the left picture. Hakuju has a bit more yellowish color.
Hisayuki Koyabu “The buds are soft, so the color is a bit light. Which do you prefer?”
— “Hakuju has stronger umami, but I can’t choose one because the taste changes from the second to the third brew. Could I also try Genmaicha (green tea with roasted rice)?”
Hisayuki Koyabu “We have Genmaicha with and without Matcha. The Genmaicha uses tea leaves from the second harvest, which has rich catechin as exposed to the sun. I like to drink it after having the strong taste of Chinese cuisine.”
— “Great. I like to drink tea after having Yakisoba (stir-fried noodles). I feel comfortable as if the tea washes my mouth. Genmaicha is good too. What is this, Kukicha?”
Hisayuki Koyabu “It’s a tea made from the stem, not the leaf. Some guests decide to only have Kukicha.”
↓ Kukicha. A great refreshing aroma came to me.
I talked with him while tasting.
Hisayuki Koyabu “Nowadays, bottled tea is common while tea by kyusu is not. I had 100 households take a survey before. The result showed no one had kyusu. To promote tea, we donate one year’s tea to Kosai Elementary School every year. In Kosai City, Hamamatsu, there are no tea farms, so we’re doing lots of work like instruction to have tea and other tea promotion activities.”
— “One year’s tea is amazing. If this tea is served at companies including my workplace, I’m sure our proficiency will improve. This is because genuine tea contains rich nutrients. I went to Moriuchi Tea Farm before. They told me guests often visited them from other countries, being moved by the tea taste. They express the impression in a unique way like ‘silk-like drink’ and ‘the water of life’.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “Indeed, tea has a unique taste, haha.”
— “People consume money and time to brew coffee and black tea, so I hope Japanese tea is the same. I always drink tea before going to bed. It’s helpful I can drink it even after brushing my teeth, as tea has an antibacterial effect. Coffee is not the case.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “Tea is good for our teeth too, haha”
Current situation of the tea industry from the view of Hisayuki Koyabu, KOYABUEN CHAHO
Hisayuki Koyabu “The harvest amounts are not so high in this area because we only pluck the first harvest. Plucking the second harvest will damage the tree. However, the tea trees around Makinohara soak in the sun more, which makes them much stronger. So, tea farmers in Makinohara can pick tea leaves even in autumn and winter for a long period, namely Shuto-Bancha. Having said that, if Kawane was a sunny area, the quality would change. That means it wouldn’t be the Kawanecha’s taste anymore.”
— “Makinohara is a flat land catching the sun while Kawane is an unsunny area with many mountains and steep slopes. This creates the unique flavor of Kawanecha. There’s no perfect situation.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “Yes, Fukamushicha (deep-steamed tea) of Makinohara is good surely. But the competitor of tea in a flat land is tea processed on a larger scale in Kagoshima Prefecture. Definitely, Makinohara will lose.”
— “I heard they mechanize the process of Kagoshima’s tea rapidly and largely. Nowadays, some farmers cultivate tea 24 hours a day. No one can beat such farmers in the scale competition.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “The scale of Kagoshima’s tea is another world. The baseline is different from Shizuoka. Kawanecha is processed on a steep sloping farm with a small harvest amount. We should push a high quality at a high price. Otherwise, we would have no future. The cultivation environment has just changed. We’re in a tough situation.”
— “Do you mean climate change?”
Hisayuki Koyabu “Yes, it is, but rather the Oi River’s water has decreased. An electric power company divides the water into the Fuji River and the Oi River and stores in their dam. In the past, the river had a higher volume of water, which produced the morning fog. The mist attached to tea leaves, so it was easier to grow better leaves.”
— “I see, the tea farm got the right amount of water, which led to a higher quality.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “It’s just a tendency though. The morning fog led to good tea. However, there is no scientific evidence. No one can prove the causality because the tea taste is different every time.”
— “I see, some tea farmer told me the same thing. I mean the quality of tea is different every time and they can never process the same tea.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “The residents around here have water from the arm of the Oi River, so no problem even if the volume of the downstream changes. The water is abnormally low in winter, when wild boars and deer move across the river from the other side. It never happened in the past. Moreover, the climate is changing definitely.”
— “Is it hotter than before?”
Hisayuki Koyabu “Obviously. It’s been hot for two years, which damages the tea tree. The wind is also strong. Strong wind makes the leaves hold on, which results in harder leaves.”
— “I’ve heard the tea taste changes just when the wind blows. That’s how it changes.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “According to the Shizuoka Prefectural Research Institute Agriculture and Forestry, it is scientifically proven that Kawanecha in higher location has a better taste. For tea farms located in a higher area, the harvest season is later. However, tea leaves in earlier harvest can be sold at a higher price to wholesalers. This is because they already store tea leaves enough in the later season even though you try to sell the better leaves. That happened before.”
— “Isn’t it tough?”
Hisayuki Koyabu “It’s the past. Such an event may be rare today. KOYABUEN no longer acts as a wholesaler. We’re engaged in direct sales and mail order only. With the tea industry is automated, some farmers have machine even evaluate tea leaves recently. They digitalize even judgment of the taste using the ingredient table, so fewer tea farmers can judge the taste.”
— “It’s difficult to digitalize everything, If possible, we could process a large amount of best teas. In fact, we can’t because an authentic thing cannot be digitalized. The amount of genuine sake is limited because they cannot mass-produce it. After all, it’s challenging to get famous sake.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “That’s right. Besides, we would aim at tea with the best figure in the data, in which good tea could be replaced by ‘good tea for sellers’.”
— “My concern is that ‘good tea for sellers’ may be ‘bad tea for buyers’. Obviously, buyers will leave from the poor quality of tea.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “Yeah, I agree with you. Forced mass production can lead to an irreparably negative rebound. Possibly, the time has already come to us. I’m most afraid of a negative reputation about tea. ‘Tea is a symbol of Shizuoka’, but the day will come when individuals consider ‘tea affects the development of Shizuoka’. Shizuoka has many other crops, so people may begin to feel ‘it’s better to produce wasabi, yuzu, and other various crops. Tea just disturbs the development of Shizuoka’. That’s the most terrifying scenario.”
— “That’s their choice, whether to drink tea or not. If they knew the true taste of tea and still didn’t drink it, nothing we could do. However, everyone doesn’t know the true taste in the first place.”
Hisayuki Koyabu “Exactly. It’s a shame that no one knows the taste. I’m glad if more people are curious about tea :)”
The established technique of KOYABUEN CHAHO is trusted by many tea farmers, who have given over their important tea leaves to this tea wholesaler. They mainly offer mail order, but you can also purchase their tea while tasting in the shop by prebooking. Why don’t you enjoy various good quality teas of KOYABUEN CHAHO?
Thank you for reading the report of KOYABUEN CHAHO by our chief editor.
|Address||376, Moto-Fujikawa, Kawane-Honcho, Haibara-gun, Shizuoka Prefecture, 428-0311, Japan|
|Phone number||0120-395-820 *Domestic call in Japanese only|
|E-money and credit cards|
|Open||Contact KOYABUEN CHAHO
|Access||Go north on Shizuoka Prefectural Road Route 64 from Mukuya IC of National Route 1. Or get off at Shimada Kanaya IC of Shin-Tomei Expressway. Go north on National Route 473 (20 minutes), turn right at Kawane Koban Nishi, and go north on Shizuoka Prefectural Road Route 64 through Kawane Onsen to Shizuoka Prefectural Road Route 77. Then, enter National Route 362 at Kawane-Honcho Shimo-Nagao (13 minutes). In about 15 minutes, cross Mansei-Bashi and turn right 50 meters ahead to Moto-Fujikawa Ave. (150 meters).|