STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 8, Number 2

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 23 of 75

24 STiR coffee and tea / Issue 2, 2019 (April / May) JAPAN Matcha Chocolate and Gelato Susuki Shigehiko is the eighth-genera- tion owner of Marushichi Senchai, a tea wholesaler. It makes the strongest matcha green tea chocolate and gelato that physics makes possible, which it sells mainly through its Tokyo store that has become a prestige landmark and winner of international awards. The eight levels of the sweets begin with a low concentration of matcha powder, 1.2%, and escalate through to the mid-range 5.1% and second most intense, 13.3%. Then comes the leap to Matcha 7, 29.1%. Beyond that, chocolate loses consistency and crumbles. Matcha 7 is intensely bitter which adds to its newsworthiness. This pushing the limits reflects the branding strategy of the firm's owner, Suzuki Shigehiko, who aims to make the Fujieda region's matcha competitive with the better-known Uji tea and help restore the erosion of tea farming that marks Japan's industry. "Everyone associates matcha with Uji in Kyoto. Fujieda is Uji-cha's equal in quality and price, but it just doesn't have the name recognition. Our own locals didn't recognize the quality of the matcha we produced here." Suzuki set out to communicate the quality to his customers. He needed a unique value proposition. "In the era of social media, it's hard to stand out from the crowd unless you can claim to be the best at something," he said. Hence, the world's most intense matcha ice cream and chocolate bar. The gelato brings out the richness and smoothness of flavor with all the complexity and lingering taste of a top rate matcha. A lower quality one would be overwhelmingly bitter. The strategy worked superbly, with plenty of coverage in social media, TV, and magazines. The company added two stores with heavy traffic and sales despite high prices of as much as $20 for 2.5 ounces. The product line has expanded to include hojicha-infused chocolate sticks and dairy-free craft chocolates made solely of cocoa butter, sugar – and tea. Suzuki's broader goal is to restore Fujieda's tea growing. It was once the center for gyokuru, a green tea that ranks among the best of the best of the best in the world. The market shrank in the 1970s as consumer tastes shifted and lower-priced competitors nibbled at its luxury position. The growers switched to tencha, the base on which matcha production is built. Changes in Japanese lifestyles and preferences have moved away from high end loose tea. The old and awful demeaning of women as servers of tea in offices has gone, along with all the brewing equipment. The farmer popula- tion is aging and workers both expensive and not enthusiastic about working in the tea fields. Land prices have pushed many gardens to being sold off. Suzuki's family led the shift from gyokuro to tencha production and he is leading the move from selling loose tea to using it as a value-added ingredient in foods and beverages, including tea- infused alcoholic drinks. This raises the obvious question: is matcha's future as a food or a tea? KENYA Mombasa Upgrades Auction A $1.5 million upgrade announced by the East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) will for the first time automate the world's highest volume tea auction. Mombasa is a critical hub for black tea as it aggregates the production of 10 African countries. Buyers are concen- trated in five countries that purchase 75% of the tea. Traders in neck ties who address each other as "sir" currently employ an "out cry" method to place and close bids, an inefficient and exclusionary means of price discovery. Gideon Mugo, ETTA vice-chairman said technicians are in the final stages of rolling out a prototype that will "wholly computerize the auction process." ETTA, a non-government association of 190 traders founded in 1956, operates the auction. Work will be complete within the next few months. Expanding bidding to include online buyers is expected to cushion farmers from reduced earnings as a result of surplus production. Auctions worldwide report lowered warehouse expense and greater transparency. US Tiesta Tea: Branding Function Tiesta Tea is built on a concept of branding that is directly opposite that of the tea industry norm. Rather than brand the company product, it brands its function. This is its founders' reaction against the confusion of the specialty tea market, with so many varieties of stores, names and origins, "absurd" prices, too much jargon and "stereotypes of stuffy tea parties." "Finding the right tea should be simple: what will it do for me and what does it taste like. By focusing on function and flavor, we make tea approachable and easy to understand. We created five functional categories based on the health benefits that each blend naturally gives you." The Tiesta site highlights the focus in the branding on the buying process. The opening two pages send a clear message here: FIND YOUR FUNCTION. PICK YOUR FLAVOR and SHOP BY FUNCTION Energizer Slenderizer Eternity Immunity Relaxer By organizing the individual products within these brand categories, Tiesta makes it easy to browse a wide range of very different choices Here, for example, is the Energizer summary and examples of blends from its list of nine: "Our Ener- gizer blends contain black and mate teas, which help you deal with fatigue by giving you an added mental and physical boost": Black Chai Tropical, Passion Berry Jolt and Earl Grey de la Crème. Eternity blends "contain herbal, white and green teas with an abundance of superfruits for an antioxidant boost" and include Blueberry Wild Child and Citrus Detox. One major impact of the functional branding has been that Tiesta targets grocery stores in its distribution. This fits into its easy to find focus and attracting the average consumer to fine loose tea rather than the educated specialty tea customer. The company's revenues have grown substantially, albeit from a small base.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of STiR coffee and tea magazine - Volume 8, Number 2