Tea: Local business evokes Japanese culture
SEI MEE TEA
By Kana Oliver
For Wallowa County Chieftain, April 10, 2019
Kiyomi Koike, owner of local business, Sei Mee Tea, came to the United States 25 years ago from Japan and now is a United States Citizen and proud Wallowa County resident.
“In Japanese, Sei Mee means ‘Pure Beauty,’ which reflects our desire to provide our customers with pure, beautiful, and authentic tea,” Koike explained. “We want to encourage a healthy lifestyle through the products and information we provide.”
With Koike leading the way, nine adventurous travelers from all over the United States embarked on a week-long journey to Japan along with Koike’s business, Sei Mee Tea. Although each was diverse and unique, the travelers came together through their love for and appreciation of Japanese tea.
Sei Mee Tea was honored to have Tea Master Bruce Richardson from Kentucky join their exploration. Richardson has authored a dozen books on tea culture. Also, he masterfully edited an expanded edition of, “The Book of Tea,” written by Okakura Kakuzo.
Sei Mee Tea’s ambitious group of travelers dressed up in traditional kimono for a tea ceremony demonstration.
Photos courtesy of Sei Mee Tea
Together, they explored selected cultural sites and tea fields in Kyoto and Kagoshima. They even ventured to the mountain Koya-san, which is the sacred home of Shingon Buddhism and 117 Buddhist temples.
The trip was carefully planned by Koike, whose passion for her business, Sei Mee Tea, is undeniably apparent. “This has been on my bucket list since I started the business 15 years ago,” Koike expressed. “I wanted to show people the beauty of Japanese culture.” Koike continued, “When you see a tea farm for the first time, your eyes are opened to the delicate and precise nature of tea making. We often take our cup of tea for granted and don’t think of all the work that has created it.”
During their tea exploration, the travelers learned one of Richardson’s favorite phrases: “beautiful foolishness,” taken from “The Book of Tea,” along with Richardson’s scholastic additions. “Japanese culture is full of beautiful foolishness,” said Koike. “They are constantly going the extra mile to achieve perfection. Often, their actions aren’t necessary but they are what makes Japan so special.”
Like Japanese culture, Sei Mee Tea itself also evokes “beautiful foolishness”: Always ambitious and going out of its way to provide the best experience possible. As Okakura said, “Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”
After returning home, one of the travelers from Florida told the owners of Sei Mee Tea, “thanks for each of your family members’ contributions to my knowledge, safety, comfort, and spiritual fulfillment.”
Another traveler from Virginia remarked, “I didn’t really know Kiyomi or her business before this trip, but I will surely be buying tea from her. I feel confident that she carries this level of dedication, care and kindness to her products.”
Koike is now expanding into the realm of Holistic Health and Business Coaching to share what she has learned from her 15 years of experience. She will be teaching a four-week-long class at the Vault Fitness Center in Enterprise on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.
Her class will focus on the relationship between tea and holistic health. She will target inflammation, energy, immune system, and how to use tea and other practices to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
The class is $10 for non-members, $5 for friends of members, and will be offered free to all Vault members. Please contact The Vault at 541-426-7883 to sign up.
Sei Mee Tea will be giving out free samples at the Joseph Market Place Fresh Foods on Friday, April 12 from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Don’t miss out!
For more pictures, visit their Facebook page “Sei Mee Tea.”
Meet the Author: Kana
Kana Oliver is a Senior at Joseph Charter School. She lives in Enterprise with her family who own and operate Sei Mee Tea.
New tea buds are forming — it’s almost time to harvest!