Toshihiro Kajihara (梶原敏弘) is a third-generation tea farmer, who has been making tea for around 40 years. He is dedicated to preserving the tradition of kamairicha in an industry that is increasingly moving towards steamed teas. He has also travelled to the tea-producing regions of Taiwan and China to learn more about oolong and black tea production techniques.
The mountainous village of Ashikita in Kumamoto is not typically seen as a tea producing area as tea grown here was mostly consumed within the town. Nonetheless, following World War II, the Kajihara family began began a tea business specialising in the local kamairicha (釜炒り茶) style, which is a green tea that is pan-fired rather than steamed in order to stop oxidation.
When founding their tea business, the Kajihara family discovered a plot of yamacha (山茶 - mountain tea), which are ’wild’ and uncultivated seed-grown tea plants. These plants have been preserved to this day, hand-picked to produce an exquisite tea. In addition to kamairicha, Kajihara also produces oolongs, wakoucha, from cultivars such as Yabukita, Okuyutaka, Izumi, Koushun, Benifuuki, and even the local zairai.