Mr. Sato is the manager of the tea market in Shizuoka, where 110,000 to 220,000 metric tons (100,000 to 200,000 t) of tea are traded every day during harvest time.
How long have you been working in the world of tea?
It has been at least 40 years.
What led you to choose this profession?
My father was a tea grower, and when he came to sell our leaves at the market, I was always glad to come with him. Despite coming here so often, I realized that my interest, curiosity and desire to work in this field only grew. I did what I needed to do to apply, and I have been working here now for several decades.
What are your everyday responsibilities?
I supervise trading, make sure that the rules are respected and record sales.
What part of your job do you prefer?
I love to see and to taste all the beautiful teas! I also enjoy the pace of the work, which is often frantic in the high season.
Can you tell us a story related to your job?
During 40 years in the business I have been able to conclude some very large deals, but I remember my first major transaction. I was young, quite new to the market, and I negotiated the sale of 100,000 kilos [220,000 pounds]! That's a lot of tea. There's a lot of pressure in those circumstances, and the seller and the buyer are often pretty tense... Once the deal was concluded I was very proud to have been able to control the situation.
What challenge will the Japanese industry have to face in the coming years?
I must tell you that we are mainly concerned about the excessive popularity of iced teas sold in bottles. Now there are vending machines everywhere. It's a good product, cheap and healthy (in Japan we don't add sugar). However, it is obvious that people, especially young people, are no longer taking the time to drink tea made from leaves in the more traditional way. We must strive to promote interest in high-quality teas that are savored rather than drunk. We would like young people to taste good tea while they are young and remember it all their lives.
What is your favorite tea?
Japanese green teas that have particular and unique characteristics, whether jt's a Sencha, a Gyokuro or a Bancha.
How would you define a good tea?
For me, a good tea is often a combination of things: the color of the liquid, the shape and the look of the leaves, a pleasant aroma and a rich taste.