Thank you to Ian Chun, founder of Yunomi, for today’s interview! Yunomi is an online marketplace for Japanese tea. For more information, visit Yunomi.com.
YUNOMI is a lifestyle brand and online marketplace centered around Japanese tea. We work with small-scale, often family-owned growers, producers, artisans, and merchants in Japan to bring you an authentic slice of Japanese culture through tea.
My involvement in the tea industry is very specific to Japan, and comes from an angle that is perhaps unique in the global tea industry. I have always wanted to promote Japanese culture having fallen in love with it in college through the novels of Kawabata Yasunari, a Nobel-prize winning Japanese novelist.
Utilizing skills in online marketing and e-commerce management, I sought to become a consultant for producers of items that represented Japanese culture. My first client just happened to be a tea farm, and they basically infused me with their passion for and knowledge of tea.
Tea can be a moment of solitude in your busy day, to find peace, to reflect. But, what I love about the culture of tea is that it is social. Whether we are talking about tea in China, Japan, or England – whether in a casual or formal setting – tea is what you do with your friends and family.
Experiment! How tea is steeped plays a huge role in the resulting flavor. Experiment first with temperature and time. In general, start with water at 70˚C / 158˚F degrees, and steep it for one minute. From there, see how your tea changes if you increase or decrease time and temperature.
Once you start to learn how this affects the leaf, you can find a recipe that works best for you and then begin experimenting with different types of green tea leaves as well as water.
The steeping recipe depends on the tea, but in a casual setting at home, I prepare tea in a medium-sized pot, one that can fill two cups, and always prepare for both myself and my wife… I’ll need a bigger pot in a few years as my son grows up though!
On the weekends, we might drink sencha in the afternoon and hojicha at night after dinner.
As a company we are still quite a ways off from breaking even, but I hope we can one day publicly support local charities in our corner of Japan.
You see this in many developed economies, but Japan has a wealth of traditions that are dying. Tea is actually one of them. While the global tea industry is expanding, the domestic tea industry in Japan (which represents 97% of the Japanese tea sold in the world) is shrinking.
Shrinking production is a result of a decline in consumption of tea leaves as a shrinking number of consumers switch to ready-to-drink tea which utilizes less tea leaves.
In addition the tea industry suffers from a lack of young people in the work force. In Kyoto, for example, over 80% of the tea farmers are over 50 years old. Sons and daughters of farmers move to the cities and pursue jobs that are more financially stable than farming.
The recent expansion of the global tea industry, particularly the trend in premium tea leaves, gives Japan’s tea industry an opportunity to become more global. And we see Japanese tea and tea culture as a gateway to other aspects of Japanese culture from the ceramics traditions to Japanese cuisine.
Utilizing e-commerce, we hope to provide a comprehensive gateway to these wonderful products representing Japanese culture, starting with the rich culture of tea in Japan.
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