For Your Enjoyment of Delicious Tea

4/15/2016 Designer's Blog, Eriko Kawakami Last modified 3 years ago

DRAFT art director Eriko Kawakami won the 2015 ADC Award and the JAGDA New Designer Award for 2016. She won the latter award for her work with Marumatsu Seichajo, a well-established tea-processing wholesale company. Today, we would like to share with you Ms. Kawakami’s blog post about designing the logo, store and packaging of Marumatsu Seichajo’s tea brand “san grams.”


Located in Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Marumatsu Seichajo is a well-established tea-processing wholesale company that has flourished for more than a hundred years. The company has opened a new cafe for its tea brand “san grams,” with the cafe bearing the same name, because of its desire for offering delicious tea for the enjoyment of its customers.

The reason for my involvement in this project was a phone call from Mr. Miyata himself about two years ago. He mentioned that sales of loose-leaf tea brewed in tea pots were declining because of the new habit of people consuming tea drinks contained in plastic bottles.

I first went to Shizuoka to visit tea plantations and tea markets to see how tea was produced and processed. I didn’t know this beforehand, but I found out that most of the loose-leaf tea sold today are a mixture of leaves from several tea farms. The reason for this is that the quality of the tea leaves varies from year to year, depending on the weather. In order to have the same taste each year, tea leaves from several farms are blended while adjusting the amounts from each farm. Marumatsu Seichajo does the same – it buys crude tea* from farms, sorting stems, buds and leaves by grade and blending these.

sangrams_8▲Crude tea at a tea market

I drank both tea that wasn’t blended (tea from a single farm) and tea that was blended to compare, the taste and character of the tea that wasn’t blended was more distinct. I’ve always thought that all tea tastes alike, but the tea that wasn’t blended had a totally different taste.

At san grams, they focused on that tea’s character, changed each kind of tea’s production process and decided to make distinctly individual tea that brings out the characteristics of each farm. Just as a “single malt” comes from one malt whiskey distillery, they decided to call each tea a “single tea.” As I continued with my visit, I was greatly surprised by another thing. Apparently, a tea’s flavor changes greatly depending on how it is brewed. Each kind of tea is produced in a different manner, so each tea has totally different characteristics from the rest. If you brew tea according to the “amount of tea leaves,” “amount of hot water,” “temperature of hot water,” and “steeping time,” that suits its kind, the tea’s essential character emerges. Deep-steamed tea was sweet and almost viscous, while “gyokuro” or green tea of the highest quality was almost like dashi broth.

Based on the company’s desire for wanting people to drink delicious tea, san grams was created as a place that teaches how to brew delicious tea, so I conveyed this idea in the store’s interiors, packaging, leaflets, and workshops. The name “san grams” comes from the amount of tea that is needed to brew delicious deep-steamed tea, stem tea, mild green tea, roasted green tea, black tea, or oolong tea for one person. “San” means “three” in Japanese, so three grams is the ideal amount. The logo is a combination of “Mt. Fuji” on top, which is a symbol of Shizuoka Prefecture (to be read as “san” or “mountain” in Japanese), and a “g” at the bottom for “grams.”

900_DSC00471-1024x683▲san grams’ logo

It took about a year and half to determine the direction for the brand’s design. During that time, it was important for me to know as much as I could about tea. It took about half a year for the packaging and the graphics. I designed the outer box to feature the method for brewing delicious tea, and inside I put leaflets that explained the brewing methods for each tea. The labels feature each tea’s character, the characteristics of its taste, and the characteristics of the area where the tea was harvested.

sangrams_5▲The packaging of a single tea / An assortment of 6 kinds of single teas

Centering on its desire for people to drink delicious tea, the company also created a space that serves meals and sweets. Made in cooperation with a confectionery in Kyoto, the sweets are single-bite confections that encourage tea-drinking. For their packaging, I designed them in a more sensory, fun way to contrast with the tea’s packaging.

sangrams_6▲ The packaging for “Anmaru” (red bean paste balls wrapped in hard candy)

sangrams_7▲The packaging for “Usuharikoori” (agar-agar gelatin and sugar are boiled and hardened to make this Japanese sweet called “kohakukan”)

The meals served at the cafe feature locally-harvested, fresh vegetables that complement the tea, and menu items use ingredients that can only be found in Shizuoka.

sangrams_10▲Japanese dish of the day

They also created a garden with plants that change with the season where people can enjoy drinking delicious tea.

sangrams_9▲san grams green tea & garden

There are still a lot of things to do, and I want to continue getting involved in efforts geared towards the enjoyment of delicious tea by many.

*Crude tea is composed of half-processed tea leaves from a single farm.


▼san grams tea can be purchased here:
san grams online store

▼Products including the D-BROS 2016 calendar “the days” designed by Eriko Kawakami can be purchased at the D-BROS WEB STORE below:
D-BROS 2016 calendar “the days”

▼Back issues about Eriko Kawakami
Presenting “the days,” a Tear-off Calendar with Cutouts to Tear Off Each Day: The 1st Installment of D-BROS’s calendars for 2016!
Draft Art Director Eriko Kawakami Wins the 2016 JAGDA New Designer Award


About the Author

Eriko Kawakami

Art Director
Born 1982 in Tokyo Japan.
Graduated from Tokyo University of the Art.
In 2008, Joined Draft co,ltd.