The Japanese tea history cannot be told without NAGATANI Soen.
In this article, I’m going to explain NAGATANI Soen, who invented “Method for producing green Sencha (Green Sencha Method)” and contributed greatly to the spread of Sencha (steeped green tea).
About NAGATANI Soen
NAGATANI Soen was born in Kyoto in 1681. The ancestor of the NAGATANI family was samurai, but in 1592, they cultivated the land of the village in Kyoto, made a tea garden, and started a tea manufacturing business.
NAGATANI Soen, who was engaged in the family business of tea manufacturing, was also a “leader of the village” who led the improvement of farmland.
Even after his death in 1778 at the age of 97, he was respected as the founder of Japanese green tea and enshrined as “Chaso Myojin (god of the tea)” in the Daijingu (Shrine) adjacent to his birthplace.
Connection to the company everyone knows
Some of you may have heard the name of NAGATANI Soen. NAGATANI Soen has a deep connection with “Nagatanien” which is famous for its “Ochazuke seaweed”.
Nagatanien was established by NAGATANI Yoshio, the 10th generation of the NAGATANI family.
By the way, “Nagatanien” is the company name of the NAGATANI family.
In the early days of the company’s establishment, Nagatanien was engaged in the tea manufacturing industry and the sale of tools for the Sencha tea ceremony.
With the launch of “Ochazuke seaweed” in 1952, the company’s business became immovable.
Today, most of Nagatanien’s products, such as furikake and instant miso soup, have nothing to do with tea, but the ingredients of “Ochazuke seaweed” are made with Matcha (powdered green tea).
The achievements of NAGATANI Soen
There were two NAGATANI Soen’s achievements in tea.
He produced “Green Sencha Method” which became the basis for the current Sencha production method
The “Green Sencha Method” led to the production and widespread use of tasty Sencha with good color, so that the common people can also enjoy delicious tea.
He succeeded in selling Uji tea in Edo.
The company focused on Edo (Tokyo), which became Japan’s largest consumption area, and succeeded in expanding the sales channel of Uji tea, which had begun to decline due to high nengu (land tax) and other tea production areas.
Another famous company “Yamamotoyama” with close ties to NAGATANI Soen
At first, there were no tea traders who appreciated the new method of tea production in Edo.
However, it is said that when Soen visited Yamamotoyama in 1738, which dealt in Japanese paper, tea and tea utensils, YAMAMOTO Kahee, the fourth liked Soen’s tea and bought it immediately.
Later, when this Sencha was named “Tenka-ichi (the best in the country)” it became very popular and spread from Edo to the whole country.
There is a story that Yamamotoyama, who made a huge profit from NAGATANI Soen’s tea, gave 25 ryo of koban (former Japanese oval gold coin) to the Nagatani family as a reward every year until 1875.
What is the Green Sencha Method?
Before the Green Sencha Method, the tea leaves were heated and then dried, so the color was dark and the taste was not very good. It was called “Black method” because of the color of the tea.
Soen’s idea for the Green Sencha Method was to add a “rolling” process to the steamed tea leaves before they are dried, giving it a beautiful color and a rich flavor.
Without NAGATANI Soen who invented the Green Sencha Method, it would not have been possible to enjoy the beautiful colors and taste of today’s Sencha.