Modern Matcha

Eijiro Tsukada was born and raised in Tokyo. He studied at the University of Tokyo and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Eijiro worked for Suntory, a global beverage and wellness company in Japan, for over two decades. Following his career at Suntory, Eijiro became a successful entrepreneur in the Japanese green tea/matcha business niche. Nicknamed “The Steve Jobs of Drinks” by Financial Times, Eijiro started Cuzen Matcha in 2020 to pursue his passion for making authentic, freshly ground matcha more accessible to all. Cuzen Matcha offers an easy-to-use home matcha maker machine that delivers a high-quality matcha drinking experience right to your own kitchen. The product was heralded as one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2020, named a CES 2020 Innovation Awards Honoree, and awarded the iF Design Award in 2021.                                                            


Iroha: Please tell us about your past work, projects or initiatives.

Eijiro: I spent almost 20 years working for Suntory, a company known for their whiskey, wine, beer, and non-alcoholic beverages. I worked in the non-alcoholic drinks side of the company managing tea programs as their international brand manager. I led the successful launch of Iyemon Toku-cha green tea in 2013 as part of Suntory’s FOSHU: Food for Specified Health Uses initiative. I was the project leader and marketer of Suntory’s Gokuri and Dakara drinks. In 2018, I also opened the Stonemill Matcha Cafe in San Francisco.

Iroha: What are you currently working on?

Eijiro: I left Suntory in 2019 with the personal mission to bring more matcha to the world. The name Cuzen Matcha comes from our world mission. Our innovative home matcha system, designed by Naoya Edahirogrinds fresh tea leaves into powder so that the consumer can experience the taste of fresh matcha at home. There is a tiny ceramic mill inside the machine that has a magnetic whisk which mixes the freshly ground powder with water and results in a super fresh taste of matcha. You can drink it straight, pour it over milk, or, one of my favorite options, pour your matcha shot over sparkling water to make sparkling matcha!

Our fresh tea leaf delivery is a much superior option to dehydrated matcha powders because fine matcha powder oxides easily and is very difficult to keep fresh. Just like freshly ground coffee tastes better than stored grounds, freshly ground matcha tastes significantly more full-bodied and flavorful than stored powders.

Iroha: What are your plans for the future?

Eijiro: So far, Cuzen Matcha has sold over 8,000 units globally. We are now developing industrial matcha machines for cafés, restaurants, and bars for businesses that would like to serve high quality matcha. In the consumer space, processing time is important. The industrial commercial use machine must process faster than our home maker. To accomplish this task, the industrial machine will have two matcha grinding systems so that it can make two shots at a time. It also has two mills so that it can process twice as the home machine in the same amount of time.

Cuzen Matcha is not only a business that sells machines. We also work directly with tea farmers in Japan to source high quality leaves for our international supply system. Matcha should be organic. We only source organic and high quality leaves with high umami taste, and we deliver them right to our customers’ front doors!

Iroha: What are your thoughts regarding Asian hate and Asian glass-ceiling issues? 

EijiroI am in San Francisco, and I feel that the situation here is different from the rest of the United States. Asians are a great majority of the San Franciscan community, making up about a third of the population. I have seen a lot of news regarding Asian hate out of New York and the East Coast, but my honest answer is that I have not had that experience because of this area.

Further, my occupation is to sell Japanese heritage and culture to those who are interested in Japanese culture. I do not think everyone will be our customer, only those interested in our culture and cuisine. Overall, the people around me, and especially our customers, are people who want to learn more about Japan, especially from me, so I just have not been in that situation.

When it comes to the Asian glass-ceiling, I founded my own company and am CEO, so I have not had to experience that either.

Iroha: Based on your background, do you have any advice or a message for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

EijiroBe unique. Making yourself unique is very important. There are some people who want to sell matcha powder or tell stories about Japanese culture, such as tea ceremonies. There are people who want to make home appliances like coffee makers or tea makers. But in my case, I have combined the two small niches, and additionally added in the sourcing of fresh, organic, high quality tea leaves. These things require completely different supply chains for the leaves and machines and also require engineering and production. Networking and bringing it all together makes this product unique. By becoming this unique, we do not really have any price competition because we are the only company offering the leaves with the machine. Fresh ground also leads to sustainability because there is no waste of oxidized and discarded grounds.

Uniqueness is important. I spent 20 years at Suntory learning all about the tea business. I know about the bottled green tea business, and I know the limits of bottled green tea. It requires a one year shelf life at ambient temperature. It is uncommon to have a freshly brewed taste with that length of shelf life and the length of shelf life can only be obtained by putting the product under extreme heat which kills bacteria, but the heat also kills off the nutrients and fresh taste during this pasteurization. Thus, to make tea that does not have a bitter taste or lose its nutritional value, I created this company. Tea that is freshly ground on-site is better than ground and bottled, whether in glass, plastic, or cans.

Knowing both consumers and combining all of my own unique experiences, I developed a unique business that I do not think other people could easily do.

Iroha: Outside of work, what are you most interested in right now?

EijiroSports. I like rugby. I played rugby for 10 years from middle school to university. In general, I love watching sports like basketball, baseball, and American football.

I also like drinking whisky and wine. I appreciate fine alcohol.

written by Jessica Woolsey 

Eijiro Tsukada LinkedIn 

Cuzen Matcha