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Tea Break on SBS Radio

Posted by Harumi Oshitani on

Here is the English script for our interview on SBS Radio(You can listen my Japanese in the following link.

Japanese tea in Australia | Okei-san Japanese Tea Plus


Japanese Tea Ambassador – Harumi

We interviewed Harumi Oshitani who promotes Japanese green tea in Australia as a Japan Tea Goodwill Ambassador. Harumi is a certified Japanese tea instructor and offers workshops and tea tasting events. She also has an online store called Okei-san, Japanese Tea Plus.

“Harumi, you are a Japan Tea Goodwill Ambassador. I’ve never heard of it. So what kind of activities are you involved?”

“I was appointed as a Japan Tea Goodwill Ambassador this February by Japanese Tea Instructor Association. From June, I’m also associated with Japan Tea Export Council which is established under the Ministry of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The term is one year from February to 31 January next year. Japan Tea Goodwill Ambassadors aim to promote Japanese tea to overseas. In other words, our activities should lead and support Japanese tea export as well as increase the number of Japanese tea enthusiasts.”

“You are based in Melbourne, and travel various places?

“Yes I do.”

“Are there many Japan Tea Goodwill Ambassadors? How many people are there in the world?”

“There are currently 31 people over 17 countries.”

“So people who promote Japanese tea are in various countries?”


“Matcha is in boom in Australia, and I suppose that the number of Australian tea drinkers is increasing. Harumi, what was the motivation for you to start having interest in Japanese tea?”

“As I’m Japanese, tea was always closed to me since my childhood. I got more interested in Japanese tea after I migrated to Australia. That’s because it became difficult to get tea here. I had to think how I would get that. At the same time, I was curious how Japanese tea was appreciated here and realized that accurate information in English was hardly available. Then I decided to explore Japanese tea in more details and became more serious about it.”

“Harumi, when did you move to Australia?”

“It was in 2004.”

“2004? Back then, was Japanese tea widely available here?”

“Not really. We migrated in the countryside and as it was before the matcha boom. So that’s why I couldn’t find much.”

“At the Asian grocery stores, we can often find Japanese tea. Do you think the taste is different?”

“Well, when you look at them carefully, tea at those Asian grocery stores is often labelled as Japanese-style green tea. So it may not be a real “Japanese tea”, I suppose. They may be produced in China or other countries using Japanese method to create the tea. So, I think, the taste is slightly different.”

“How is it different?”

“The aroma is stronger as they are often pan-fired. They use different cultivars so I think they are lack of umami.”

“Compared to Japanese one?”


“Harumi, how do you select your tea?”

“I want to choose tea which Japanese people think it is delicious. Japanese prefer umami taste. So I select good quality tea which in addition to umami, also has full-bodied flavour and refreshing taste.”

“Teas sold on your online store are from Kagoshima and Nagasaki. As a Japanese, Shizuoka comes to the mind when one hears about green tea. What is special about tea from Kyushu region?”

“When we are overseas, we often hear about teas from Kyoto and Shizuoka. Surprisingly, Kyushu also has teas which are equally delicious. Especially tamaryokucha is produced a lot in Kyushu. To make green tea, after picking leaves from tea fields, tea leaves need to be stopped oxidization. There are several ways to do it. As for Japanese tea, oxidization is stopped by pan-firing by following Chinese tea method. After that, Japanese invented the steaming method instead of pan-firing. Sencha has the process to make leaves straight but Tamaryokucha does not have it. So that’s why tamaryokucha is slightly curly.”

”Oolong tea also looks like that, doesn’t it?”


“Tamaryokucha is popular in Kyushu region, isn’t it?”

“Yes. It is delicious. I also want to promote tea which are not well-known here and let people know about it. With these in my mind, I have selected teas from Kyushu region.”

“Do many Australian buy your tea?”

“Yes. Most of clients are local people.”

“Not local Japanese, but local Australian?”


“So Australian who love tea may know about Japanese tea than Japanese people?”

“Well, yes. When they come and buy, they ask “can I have Tamaryokucha?” When I hear that, I feel happy.”

“Of course, I understand your feeling. it must be rewarding for you who want to promote Japanese tea. There are many types of Japanese tea. Could you tell me about types of green tea?”

“Sencha and hojicha are very familiar in Australia. It seems like very smooth for them. Among Japanese tea, there is gyokuro which is full of umami. It is a prestigious tea. Surprisingly, there are many Australian who appreciate umami. I source some gyokuro for them. So gyokuro, sencha and hojicha.  As for powdered tea, there are matcha and finely ground sencha.”

”Do you sell matcha?”

”Yes I do.”

“Harumi, you have an online store called Okei-san. Could you tell me what it is named after?”

“Sure. Okei-san is named after a lady called Kei Oura who was from Nagasaki. She is the first person who exported Japanese tea to U.S.A, Europe and Arabic countries in 1858. I’m also from Nagasaki so love to continue her great work and want to expand it to Australia though the long time has passed since then. I have hence dedicated my shop to her name.”

“Do you think Japanese tea will be popular in Australia from now?”

“Yes. I believe it’ll be popular. Currently matcha is in boom, but more powdered tea such as hojicha powder will become equally popular in near future. You may see more hojicha latte and hojicha ice cream will be introduced in place of matcha latte and matcha ice cream. In addition, brewing tea from leaves using teapots may become popular. When the number of people who appreciate taste increase, they start to look for quality in tea and want to know appropriate brewing methods. So that’s why brewing tea from leaves would become more popular.”

“Tea is not only about taste, but the brewing method is also important.”

“It is true. Each tea has different brewing method. If you remember four important points about brewing from leaves, any tea can be delicious. These four points are the temperature of water, the amount of water, the amount of tea leaves and the brewing time which is a waiting time after you pour water. If you keep these in your mind, you should be able to prepare delicious tea at home.”

Thank you.

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