After moving from Tokyo’s fast pace and bright lights to Hokkaido’s quiet simplicity and value for nature, Gary was introduced to an organic tea farmer. He fell in love with tea and the culture around it – and started Ocha & Co. to share it with the world.
Why did you start Ocha & Co.?
We started Ocha & Co. in 2011 after moving from Tokyo to Hokkaido. When we started, it was almost impossible for people who didn’t live in Japan to get green tea from here. We wanted to change that.
What is the process for packaging your tea (starting with it being picked to it being in customer’s hands)?
We produce in very small batches, so the tea is fresh. The matcha for Togethr was ordered on December 19th, produced on the 20th, received on the 21st, packaged on the 22nd, and shipped on the 23rd.
How do you choose the tea farmers that Ocha & Co. partners with?
Fate lent its hand here. We met an organic tea farmer and I held on to his contact details. When we launched Ocha & Co., we tried so many teas but they didn’t compare to his. We’ve been working with him ever since. His service is unmatched. For example, he just called to remind us when he’s closing for the Japanese New Years. Small details like that make all the difference in running our business.
Japan’s culture defines modernity but is also rooted in tradition. How does that impact Ocha & Co.?
We’re a western tea company with deep respect for Japanese tea culture – without being too exclusive about it. We haven’t labeled any of our matcha as being ‘ceremonial grade’ because this term does not exist in Japan and our labels have the minimalist Japanese design that we love so much.
How do you feel when you drink a cup of Ocha & Co.’s matcha tea? What do you want your customers to feel?
We drink matcha before we start work for the day. It’s comforting, relaxing, and prepares us for the day ahead. A ten minute matcha break from busyness is a great way to refresh the mind. Our advice if you have a hard time drinking matcha straight – add some coconut or almond milk.