This is part two, continued from yesterday.
Arahataen’s newest and biggest challenge now is the problem every industry is facing in Japan: Age. With young people leaving tea drinking and the tea culture, what can a company do to solve the problem which is getting more serious every year?
Mr. Arahata’s idea was very simple. “Let’s ask the young people about it.”
Although much of the population of Japan is aging, there are young kids who are full of energy for a better and brighter future. Mr. Arahata’s idea was to get help from the “future” of Japan.
Unlike other countries, such as the USA, Japan has many high schools and junior high schools that specialize in a specific industry. Many kids study to get into the high school of their dreams, which usually leads them into a university specializing in the industry. If a kid knows what they want to do in the future, Japan is a very good place for them because they get exposure to that industry from a very early age. (Side note: In fact, I also went to an architect-specialized school (Shibaura Institute of Technology Junior and Senior High School) for my junior high school and part of high school before I came to the USA.)
Arahataen approached the local high school specializing in business industry, Shizuoka Commercial High School (静岡商業高等学校). The school had 844 students in 2017 and is well connected to the local farming industry from a commercial perspective.
With a partnership with Shizuoka Commercial High School, Arahataen Tea Farm became the teacher of a course for the 8th grade students for a period of one year.
Arahataen’s job as a teacher is to teach kids the basics of tea farming, harvesting, and production. Students were exposed to the real everyday life of the tea industry for one year. As noted above, Arahataen is one of the oldest tea farms of the region, and they handle not only farming but also packaging, distribution, and marketing. Kids were very excited to get hands-on experience in growing tea and distributing into the mass market of the world.
As part of Curriculum, the goal of the year-long course was to find a way to market the tea to the youth.
After a number of brainstorming sessions, a student came up with the idea to add “something” to the tea so that young people will like it. Their idea was to look for ingredients by learning from drinks popular among students. They listed drinks they usually drink. The list included drinks such as Cokes, fruit juice, Calpis (popular Japanese soft drink) and cocoa drinks. What was common among all the products were “sweet” and often “sour.”
After the brainstorming sessions, with help from actual production facilities, students prototyped a number of different drinks and snacks. They shared the prototyped products and surveyed the entire region’s high schools to see which ones they liked the most.
The result of this one-year journey was: Green tea with Lemon.
With help from Arahataen’s wide and strong connections with local farms, students were able to source local lemon to add to the tea. Arahataen decided to use one of the most premium teas grown by the Chagusaba method (see above about this method) with sugar cane. They have powdered the premium tea so that it is easier to mix and drink with cold or hot water, as the kids suggested, since most of them don’t have tea kettles at home.
Powdered tea (Konacha粉茶) is usually made with the non-prime part of green tea. It is usually the result of using the “leftover” tea so that all parts of tea can be sold. Arahataen did not want to go with low-quality tea. Therefore, they powdered the most premium crops to preserve the healthiest and best part of the tea.
They have also partnered with a local orange farm of Japanese Orange Mikan to come up with the second product of the line called Green tea with Japanese Orange. Mikan is also known as Japanese Citrus which is very similar to mandarin.
Since the introduction of the product, both products have been catching boom in Japan now and are featured by national TV shows as well.
You can also try this in the USA from the Japanese Green Tea Company here:
Green Tea with Lemon:
Green Tea with Japanese Orange (Mikan):
Images provided by author.