‘Chabacco’ Tea-ses the World with Cigarette-like Cartons of Shizuoka Green Tea Sticks

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chabacco products add a touch of humor to tea.

Open what appears to be a carton of cigarettes, and you will find sticks of green tea powder.

“Chabacco,” a portmanteau of “cha,” or tea and tobacco, was developed by Shota Morikawa, 40, who founded Showtime Inc. in 2015 based on the idea of “chakasu,” or “‘tea’-sing” society. “I wanted to offer laughter through green tea and fill the word with green tea,” Morikawa said, smiling. The product name also plays on the word “chabako,” a box to store tea leaves.

The packaging of Chabacco products sold in Shizuoka Prefecture features imagery of green tea plantations and Mt. Fuji. Each pack carries a humorous notice parodying the health warnings printed on cigarette packs: “The flavor of Chabacco may have positive effects on the mood of people around you, especially your family, colleagues and business clients.”

The product contains eight green tea powder sticks, and prices vary depending on the grade of tea, ranging from ¥500 to ¥1,000. Morikawa chose powder sticks because they are easy to carry and can be enjoyed by simply dissolving the powder in cold or hot water.

Tea leaves used for Chabacco include those grown with the chagusaba farming method, which was designated as a globally important agricultural heritage system in 2013. A variety of teas are available from the product lineup, such as fukamushicha deep-steamed tea, hojicha roasted green tea and matcha.

Chabacco is available at facilities where a strong demand for souvenirs is expected, such as train stations, michi-no-eki roadside facilities and expressway service areas. Some places stock the products inside old tobacco vending machines. The product has grown into a hit, with more than 10,000 units being sold a year at major hubs in Shizuoka Prefecture such as Shizuoka Station.

Hailing from Fukuroi of the same prefecture, Morikawa previously worked for an advertising agency in Tokyo and led a life unrelated to green tea.

However, while traveling in the United States, he was surprised when an American was elated after Morikawa gifted them green tea as a souvenir. He had also heard green tea farmers in Kakegawa, also in the prefecture, lamenting that fewer and fewer people are drinking tea.

Morikawa, wanting to bridge this gap and contribute to his hometown’s green tea production, founded Showtime with the goal of creating a new product that could cultivate new demand.

The main target of the product is young people, who are said to be breaking away from green tea consumption. “When I founded the company, there were few green tea products targeting young people. I felt that the green tea industry was breaking away from young people, rather than the opposite,” Morikawa recalled.

Young people were amused by Chabacco, surprised thath the packs contain tea, not tobacco and began buying the product, just as he anticipated. It also drew attention on social media and is now sold in 30 different prefectures including Tokyo. Morikawa uses as many locally produced green tea leaves as possible and the packaging varies based on where it is sold. For instance, in Kagoshima Prefecture, a pack of Chabacco depicts the prefecture-native and nobleman Takamori Saigo.

Morikawa says his business is steadily expanding: An increasing number of companies are eyeing Chabacco for its novel potential for attracting people’s attention. Many have been ordering custom units of Chabacco as promotional products for their firms.

“I would like to offer an opportunity for young people to get to know the culture of green tea. I hope the product makes them curious about how delicious tea prepared with a kyusu teapot could be, and why powdered tea is so good,” Morikawa said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shota Morikawa holds packs of Chabacco in Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture.

For more information, visit the company’s website: Click here .