A Perfect Location
Hidden in the rugged mountains of Shikoku Island, one of Japan’s southern islands, is an area where the air is crisp and clear and temperatures rarely dip below freezing. There near the source of the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture is where Manten-hoshi grows and processes its tea.
Taking advantage of this perfect tea-growing climate, residents began producing Japan’s favorite beverage during the Edo Period (1603-1868). The town and region quickly became synonymous with good Japanese tea. Later,with the development of houjicha (roasted green tea) in the 1920′s, the region soon became famous for this green tea alternative. Made with bancha (leaves from the last tea harvest of the season) roasted at high temperatures, houjicha’s distinct nutty flavor and low levels of caffeine made it a popular after dinner drink. Tsunocha (tea made in Tsuno, a town central to the tea growing region) soon became synonymous with houjicha.
Disappearing tea plantations
Lush and green, the wide-ranging chabatake of Tsuno are said to soothe the viewer’s soul, filling them with peace and serenity. Yet, as bottled teas gain in popularity, the demand for whole tea declines forcing the children of many historic chabatakes (tea plantations) to move to larger cities in search of work. The verdant fields tended for generations have begun to slowly fade away as a result.
Preserving a regional tradition and culture
Manten-hoshi is determined not only to support and re-energize the region’s ailing economy, but to preserve these fields integral to our local and national culture. Headquartered in an old school building, we purchase at-risk tea fields for twice the fair price. Education programs for young people share not only the importance of tea, but our passion for preserving Japan’s distinct chabatake culture. Our motto is “Let’s preserve the beautiful tea plantations for future generations.” While most people think of green tea when they think of Japan, it is our goal to share our region’s unique culture and flavor, and help the world fall in love with houjicha.