Matcha (Green Tea Powder)
In the Western part of Kyushu (in Fukuoka Prefecture) is Yame, one of the most well-known smaller green tea producing areas in Japan. It’s famous for Gyokuro, the highest classification of loose leaf tea in Japan. This is where we source our Matcha. Picturesque Yame has the perfect climate and soil constitution to produce some of the finest Matcha and Gyokuro in Japan. The tea plants used for our Matcha are grown alongside the plants selected for Gyokuro and are shaded in the same way.
Our farmer is one of the last few remaining who uses an ancient technique involving handmade straw mats to cover the plants about a month or longer before harvest. The straw not only provides shade for the plant but it filters the rainwater, something the modern method using black netting has lost. Shading allows the nutrients to swell in the leaves, and is one reason why Matcha is the superfood it claims to be. The tea leaves are plucked by hand under the shaded straw roof by delightful giggling ladies.
After harvesting, the best green tea leaves are separated at a certain point in the production process. One batch heads out to become Gyokuro, while the other is destined to become Tencha, the tea that is then milled into Matcha. Tencha becomes Matcha! While you can certainly enjoy Tencha as a loose leaf tea when it’s steeped, it’s rare to serve it this way because the value is in the finished milled Matcha powder. This powder is finer than the smoke of a cigarette. Imagine that! Just one 40g can of our Matcha takes 2 hours to mill and more than double that for our 100g can of Silk or Muse.
Here’s a secret: most of the best Matcha never actually leaves Japan. It’s created by artisan farmers from tight-knit family businesses that have been producing Matcha for generations and their in-crowd are the Japanese tea ceremony masters. But these small enterprises either don’t know how or simply don’t want to export their amazing tea. It’s too complicated and the language barrier, as well as the cultural barrier, is too high. Sure there are big brands that dominate the market, hailing from Uji, but that's not what we are all about. We want to know WHO exactly is handling the leaves that end up in your cup!
So you’ve got to go deep into the country, meet these farmers, build relationships, and then maybe, just maybe, they’ll open up to the idea of selling their best green tea to you and creating a unique product. And this is exactly what we’ve been doing to bring our stunning Matcha to you.
Loose Leaves Green Tea
Our loose leaf teas come from Kyushu. Some of the best green tea comes from Kagoshima Prefecture and Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu.
Kagoshima is a Prefecture as well as a city. The city of Kagoshima overlooks the ominous active volcano, Sakurajima, sitting proudly in Kagoshima bay. In fact, Kagoshima Prefecture has eleven active volcanoes and much of the area is covered in a layer of ash known as “shirasu”. This ash contributes to the abundance of minerals in the soil and coupled with the perfect climate, ample and rainfall, the tea and agricultural produce from this area are some of the healthiest in Japan.
Kagoshima is at the forefront of producing new varieties of camellia sinensis cultivars and this is celebrated in our green tea selection. The Yabukita cultivar is the most well-known cultivar in Japan, representing 76% of all tea plants, but over the past three decades, Kagoshima producers have created an astounding variety of cultivars, including Saemidori and Asatsuyu. These cultivars are not widely seen in other tea growing regions.
Our kabuse teas are grown in the small samurai town of Chiran, the most famous tea district in the Kagoshima Prefecture. As we drive through the town up to the mountaintop to view the tea farms below, we pass by hundreds if not thousands of stone lanterns lining the street, each a memorial for fallen kamikaze pilots (the secret squadron originated in Chiran).
Yame City in Fukuoka Prefecture is another area where we have family...namely our Matcha farmers and our Hon Gyokuro farmers. And Yame is where it all began. It is here where Zen priest, Eirin Suzui planted the first tea tree imported from China. It is such a famous region, especially deemed the first true birthplace of Japanese tea, that around 45% of Japan's gyokuro comes from here. Gyokuro is the top classification of tea, so it's no wonder Yame has perfected the art.
The reason Yame continues to be such a producer of some of the best and award-winning green teas is not only the rich soil constitution but also the climate. Think foggy mornings that are chilly then the sun comes out to heat everything up for a short period before it all cools down again. There is plenty of rainfall to refresh the leaves but the mist and fog are what you will particularly notice. When we make our morning drive to Yame, about 9:00 AM or so, we see steam rising from rooftops as the sun is evaporating the morning dew. It's quite a sight indeed and looks as if the entire area is up in smoke! All of this fog is a beautiful thing because tea leaves can't handle sharp sunlight. The climate is responsible for creating the flavor-producing elements in the leaf, theanine, in particular. Theanine is the amino acid responsible for giving the tea its sweetness and is why Yame is synonymous with sweet tea. We absolutely LOVE it!
Artisan Japanese green tea! It’s why we first moved from London to Kyushu, the heart of the action: where artisan tea farmers in Yame, Chiran and other places in Kyushu, produce some of the most exquisite teas you’ll ever taste.
For us, Japanese tea symbolises adventure and exploration as much as it does fabulous flavours.
As a green tea merchant, our job is to deliver this adventure to you one cup at a time. A high grade Matcha or Sencha, when made right, can change the way you experience tea altogether, or any food or drink for that matter. And that’s because of the range, complexity and depth of flavours these teas possess.
How could such a drink come from anywhere other than some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, and from a rich culture steeped in glorious craftsmanship and tradition?
Welcome to the world of superior tea!