U.S. falling for healthy green tea from Japan

JIJI

Americans are increasingly turning to Japanese green tea on the back of rising health consciousness, with U.S. tea imports from Japan growing about tenfold over the last decade.

Ippodo Tea Co., a tea retailer that began business in Kyoto about 300 years ago, opened its first overseas store in New York in April.

Americans, who account for 60 percent of the new store’s customers, are “eager to learn about Japanese tea,” said its manager, Riichiro Kato.

Seeing steady growth in Internet sales to overseas customers since 2001, Ippodo had been seeking to launch overseas stores.

Tea company Ito En Ltd. plans to open three green tea stores in California as soon as this month after launching an outlet called Matcha Love in a Japanese supermarket in New Jersey in 2013.

Ito En, which once had a store in New York, is now seeking to open a new outlet in Manhattan.

Major U.S. coffee chain Starbucks Corp. acquired tea retailer Teavana Corp. and opened a Tea Bar shop in New York in October.

U.S. imports of Japanese green tea totaled $28.6 million in 2012, up sharply from $2.8 million in 2001.

The recognition that Japanese tea is good for the health is spreading among U.S. consumers, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.

Tea in convenient bottles and cans is also helping to increase Japanese tea’s popularity, an association official said.

“Japanese tea is being sold at high prices, and there are increasing business chances surrounding it,” said expert Atsushi Semimoto.