Otsuka: Tradition and Sustainability in Tea Production

Otsuka Green Tea is a Japanese tea producer that has been crafting high-quality teas for over 150 years. Located in Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, known for producing some of the finest teas in Japan, Otsuka is renowned for its commitment to tradition, excellence, and sustainability. The tea leaves are grown in the rolling Kakegawa hills facing the Pacific Ocean, which provide the perfect environment for tea plants to thrive. Otsuka Family has won the Prime Minister's Prize in the National Tea Competition and other prestigious tea prizes.

In 1868, when all samurai became unemployed due to the Meiji Restoration, samurai Shinpei Otsuka was given a piece of land in Nissaka (Kakegawa) by the last Tokugawa Shogun who hailed from Suruga Province (now part of Shizuoka Prefecture). At that time there was a large American demand for Japanese tea, so former samurai Shinpei Otsuka and several other samurai started tea farms in the Kakegawa region. The samurai spirit can still be felt in the present generation.

One of the teas that Otsuka is particularly famous for is their fukamushi sencha. Fukamushi sencha is a Japanese green tea that is known for its deep flavor and aroma. It is made by steaming tea leaves for 60 seconds or more. The fukamushi process breaks the cells in the leaves and allows all the aroma, flavor and nutrients to come out. The leaves become finer and dissolve to some extent in the cup, resulting in a deep-green tea, full of flavor with a long sweet aftertaste.

Otsuka is committed to quality and sustainability. The company uses natural farming methods, such as the chagusaba farming method. In this traditional method the tea fields are interspersed with semi-natural fields of grass (chagusaba). 

In the highly labor-intensive form of tea cultivation practiced in Kakegawa, grass is cut by hand from fall to winter and then dried. Once dried, the grass is matted and laid down in the furrows between the tea plants from winter to spring. The mulching of tea fields with grass from chagusaba aids in the production of high-quality tea and at the same time protects hundreds of species of flora and fauna that elsewhere have been lost to modern farming methods. The chagusaba method provides various benefits, such as improving the environment for root growth by moderating soil temperature and conserving soil moisture; weed control; prevention of soil and fertilizer runoff; and supply of organic matter and improvement of the soil. All these benefits contribute to the maintenance of a stable and sustainable tea business in which cooperation among local farmers is strong.

Otsuka has been certified for the production of organic tea since 2015.