January 29, 2014
by Mochizuki Ayana and Yuki Kurisu
Morihan (森半) is the name of a well-established tea company in Uji, a small town just south of Kyoto. Uji is famous for the tea grown in the surrounding hills and so naturally many tea companies and tea shops are located here. Morihan offers many different tea products that, according to its motto, “are safe and can be trusted.” They sell powdered green tea (macha), other varieties of regular teas, coffee and also other macha products that are used in many foods and implements that are connected to the tea ceremony. Morihan has always tried to maintain their company tradition of producing high-quality tea ever since it was established in 1836. And it always consider show its tea is suited to Japanese tea culture and life style. Morihan also has a tea shop in Uji that serves teas and sweets and tea souvenirs.
We talked with Yoko Morishita who is has worked at the company for many years. She taught us about Morihan’s history, how tea is produced, how it is sorted, and how teas taste differently from each other. She is a knowledgeable person and was exceedingly kind to us. She also works as a Chado (tea ceremony) instructor, teaching students how to make and serve green tea, and how to conduct a tea ceremony in a small teahouse or anywhere. We asked Ms Morishita a few questions.
Tell us about Morihan…
“By adhering to a high standard that is from our tea cultural inheritance and a very long history, Morihan reflects that spirit, and has been developing a wide range of products that utilize powdered green tea in new ways. They make green tea tea bags, and sweets that contain green tea like dorayaki (sweet-bean paste between cakes—popular TV anime character Doraemon’s favorite food), daifuku (mochi with bean paste), ice cream and cake. Our products all have high quality and have great reputations both domestically and internationally.”
What does the company’s name, Morihan, name mean and what is its history?
“The name comes from Morishita Hannzaemon, who was the first president of our tea company. The first part of the last name, MORI (森), is combined with the first part of the first name, HAN(半). This tea company was established in Tenpo era (1830-1844). At that time, they grew tea in nearby fields and sold tea leaves in Uji. Right now Morihan has been merged with the Hankyu department group and another tea company named Matsumoto.”
What is rewarding about your work.
“These days, the tea world has been split in many parts. Some companies produce high-grade tea for use in expensive tea pots. Others produce cheap teas, instant teas, and teas that are sold in plastic bottles. Still others focus on tea products that are used in baking, and other kinds of foodstuffs. Now great effort is being put into this aspect of the tea business. But I like being an instructor of tea. To make macha familiar to a lot of people with my work is very worthwhile.”
Does Morihan export to the foreign countries?
“They export almost all of their macha powder to foreign countries these days. They export to the USA, Taiwan, Hong Kong and also some countries in Europe too. The USA uses it in cafes; in Taiwan and Hong Kong they sell it in big supermarkets. Many countries in Europe want to drink green tea or eat Japanese foods because they think it is healthy. These foreign companies contact a Japanese food buyer to obtain our green tea powder.”
Thank you for talking with us.
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