The History of
Marumatsu Tea Co.,
and Its Tea Growers


Kenzo Takabayashi and the Foundation
of Modern Tea Production

Around the middle of the 19th century, after 300 headings of isolation, Japan re-opened its ports to outside nations. Japan, however, needed to strengthen its power to avoid being colonized as had happened to neighboring Asian countries at that time. One way to strengthen the country was by way of foreign trade. Japan’s main export products at the time were silk and tea. Tea production, however, relied on an inefficient method of processing which was hand-rolling.

At the time, Kenzo Takabayashi, a practicing physician who also grew tea leaves in Saitama Prefecture, felt the urgent need for Japan to increase its tea production volume in order to stabilize the national finance. So, Takabayashi closed his medical practice and began focusing on the invention of an automated tea processing machine. Tea processing requires that the leaves be dried while maintaining their unique aroma and luster. It took more than ten headings of his dedication and research to accomplish these complex tasks and invent the Takabayashi-style tea processing machine.

Shortly after the invention of the machine, a competition was held at an agricultural experiment station in Tokyo. Takabayashi-style machinescompeted in tea processing against Otozo Oishi, the tea master who was known at the time to have the best hand-rolling skills in Japan. By far, Takabayashi-style machines beat the tea master in quality and processing time. Kenzo’s machines, unrecognized until then, became well-known in Japan. Interestingly, Otozo Oishi is said to have placed the very first order for Takabayashi-style tea processing machines.

Kenzo Takabayashi


Tea Manufacturing Machines Receive
Japanese Patents # 2, 3, 4

Takabayashi also invented a tea-steaming machine and a tea-roasting machine. He applied for Japanese patents as soon as the Japanese Patent Act came into effect in 1885 and was granted Patent No.2, 3, and 4. He was the first civilian inventor to be granted a patent in Japan (Patent No. 1 was granted to paint used on battle ships invented by an engineer of the Imperial Household Agency). Recognized for their high performance, Takabayashi-style tea processing machines became widely used, building the foundation for Japan’s modern day tea production.

Tea Processing Machine


Kousaku Matsushita and the Spread of the Tea
Processing Machine: The Matsushita Company
(The Present Day Marumatsu Tea Corporation)
Establishes its Machinery Division

After fierce competition, the rights to manufacture and sell Takabayashi-style tea processing machines went to Kousaku Matsushita, chairman of the marketing cooperative in Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture. In 1899, construction of the Matsushita Company began in the Horinouchi area of Kikugawa City, where it is located to this day (although the current name is Marumatsu Tea Corporation), and soon thereafter Matsushita and Takabayashi began production and sales of Takabayashi-style tea processing machines.

Kousaku Matsushita


Creation of the Tea Production Division
(Marumatsu Tea Co., Ltd.)

Through the sale of Takabayashi-style tea processing machines, Kosaku Matsushita developed ties with the farmers of various types of tea leaves throughout Japan. Later on, Matsushita began buying crude tea processed by Takabayashi-style machines, and this became the foundation of the tea leaf procurement system operated by Marumatsu Tea Co., Ltd. that we know today.

At Marumatsu, high quality tea leaves were processed using Takabayashi-style machines, and the processed leaves were further improved using unique finishing techniques. Marumatsu’s tea was sold in numerous distributorships throughout the country, and Marumatsu Tea established its position as a tea producer/wholesaler.

Matsushita Company


Seikichi Sano Takes Over business operations
forming Marumatsu Tea Co., Ltd.)

Seikichi Sano took over the Marumatsu Tea Co., Ltd. during the turbulent post-World War II period. Determined to “bring smiles back to people’s faces through tea”, Sano dedicated himself to promotion of the tea industry. In the area of tea production, in particular, Sano developed close partnerships with a number of excellent tea farmers in order to improve product quality and expand the consumption of green tea. Seikichi Sano’s wish lives on with Marumatsu Tea.

Today, Marumatsu Tea has business relationships with superior tea farmers and its annual volume is equivalent to over 1,200 hectares of tea farms Marumatsu Tea Co. Ltd. has received the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries’ Award, the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry’s Award, and various other prizes at tea competitions and shows.

Seikichi Sano


Launch of Single Tea Brand “san grams”
to Highlight Growers' Unique Tastes

As a tea maker with a long history, Marumatsu Tea Cororation created the “san grams” brand in 2015 to help spread awareness of the deliciousness of green tea. “san grams” is aimed at bringing to light each grower’s singular aspect, and therefore each tea remains unblended so as to highlight its unique flavor. At the site where Matsushita Company stood, Marumatsu opened a shop where you can taste the different “single” teas.

san grams