Today, we’re really excited to introduce you the IKKYU Team, specializing in premium green tea in Japan.
First of all, thank you for your time! Can you please introduce yourself, and give us a little background about IKKYU?
Thank you for having us here! We’re delighted to be in touch with you and all the passionate Japan lovers who want to learn more about the country.
My name is Joelle. I’m from Switzerland, and I’ve been in Japan since 2009. I am one of the co-founders of a company called IKKYU, based in Fukuoka (Kyushu, southwestern Japan). Since 2017, we export and promote premium green tea exclusively from Kyushu Island. A few years ago, we realized that local green tea farmers struggled with reaching out to overseas green tea lovers for many reasons (language, lack of IT skills, lack of time, etc.). At the same time, we discovered the incredible quality and diversity of green tea grown in Kyushu, thanks to its milder climate and diverse geography. So, we started IKKYU, and after just a couple of years, we are thrilled by the reception of our teas by overseas tea connoisseurs – and the echo that our work got in the local press!
You focus on premium grade teas from Kyushu, Japan. Can you please tell us how you choose the producers and tea farms that you partner with?
It’s a combination of personal introduction and chance meetings. We traveled a lot around Kyushu and had the opportunity to visit many farms and talk with so many producers. In the end, we decided to work only with small to middle-sized farmers as they focus on top quality, much like top-end wine makers.
We also love telling the stories of the people behind each cup of tea, and show how much hard work and skills honed over decades were poured into it. It is a privilege to support them and give them new avenues to explore, given how much domestic demand is struggling to changes in demographics.
Can people order from overseas? Can you please briefly explain the process?
Yes, of course! Our online shop is aimed at overseas customers who make up 99.9% of our customer base. Right now, with the COVID crisis, we ship only via FedEx, so this means we can still deliver worldwide (with a couple of exceptions). We cover part of the shipping fees to make it affordable for our customers. Typically, it starts at 13-15 USD for our customers, but shipping is free starting from 150 USD.
The ordering process is super easy. Depending on stock, we ship within 2-3 business days, and nowadays it takes 5-7 days for the order to arrive (again, COVID situation – later on, it should become faster again). The teas are packed by the producers, and we keep only a small stock on our end to guarantee the highest degree of freshness.
Why do you think Japan is one of the best places to cultivate tea?
So many factors come together – its climate, of course, and geography. The amazing quality of ground water used for steaming green tea is a big factor, too. And of course, a thousand years of experience and practice, combined with passion and dedication from the farmers that is so Japanese!
In your opinion, what food is the best to pair with delicious green tea?
If I want something sweet with my tea, chocolate goes amazingly well with green tea. If it’s about dishes, of course fish-based dishes are great. Nothing too spicy, though, more like food with subtle tastes, or with high umami contents, like parmigiano cheese or tomatoes.
What tea do you recommend for “beginners”?
Well, bitterness is what usually scares newcomers away from green tea. It’s actually easy to control with water temperature and timing. But when you’re not used to it, it’s good to start with something easy to make and naturally sweet like a ‘shiraore’ (also called kukicha). A pan-fried green tea (kamairicha) is also great because it can be brewed at 80 °C and doesn’t have the grassy taste of usual green tea. It’s a bit more like oolong tea.
Another great way to begin is with cold-brewed green tea (sencha, or shiraore for example) because bitterness (linked to caffeine) isn’t as strong with cold water. You need a bottle with a filter at the top to block the leaves when you pour, but it’s lovely to enjoy delicious and naturally sweet green tea.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Green tea is delicious and fun! It’s a world to discover, much like wine. Each region has its specificities, like wine terroirs. It’s great to step off the beaten track even with green tea and discover those little hidden gems that open wide doors to a universe of flavors and tastes.
Thank you for your time. It was great to learn more about IKKYU! We’re proud to have you as a partner and happy to let our readers know that they can get a 10% discount on your website thanks to the code “ArigatoJapan”.
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