Boasting more than 140 years of history, Tateyama Shoten in Kumamoto Prefecture’s historic city of Hitoyoshi suits tea aficionados and novices alike. Its factory and shop are home to some of Japan’s most unique, high-quality leaves, and its introduction to tea is engaging and easy to understand.
Though the business was established in 1877 simply to sell tea grown on the nearby foothills, fifth generation owner Shigeru Tateyama and his wife Makiko want to promote the authentic taste of green tea, support green tea culture and grow the business in cooperation with the local community.
Their work is bearing fruit. In 2017, Tateyama Shoten became the first tea producer in Kumamoto Prefecture to receive the national Nihoncha Award for its tea brand Ten-yo. The company has also recently launched a range of tea-related experiences for tourists, and I went along to try some.
Makiko, a certified Japanese tea instructor, brought green tea and matcha to life with her detailed explanations of the history of these drinks in Japan.
After watching a simple tea ceremony, I was invited to copy her movements to make the tea myself, all the while provided with gentle reminders of what to do.
Finally, we were presented with freshly made matcha and a Japanese sweet to enjoy while looking out over the family’s traditional Japanese garden.
It is also possible to be dressed in a kimono before the tea ceremony and even to venture out for a stroll while wearing a kimono.
After picking a colorful silk kimono from the Tateyama family’s wide selection, a local kimono dresser helped me pick a suitable obi and showed me how to wear everything. I was also able to pick some traditional pins and combs for the dresser to put in my hair.
Tabi socks and zori sandals were also provided, so I could explore the family’s Japanese garden before enjoying the tea ceremony.
Time was limited on my visit, but Tateyama Shoten also offers green tea brewing, which highlights the benefits of the drink and how it can be enjoyed in daily life, and ikebana flower arranging, with instruction by a professional ikebana master. Prior reservation is required for the ikebana experience.