The Possibilities of Green Tea
Every morning I prepare and drink Uji matcha tea. It is a key part of my morning routine that helps settle my mind and allows me to prepare to take on the day.
Green tea, matcha in particular, is high in the amino acid theanine. Theanine has been shown to stimulate production of alpha brain waves. This promotes a relaxed but alert state in the brain. It has also been shown that theanine and caffeine (also present in green tea) have a synergistic affect allowing for enhanced concentration while simultaneously negating the over-stimulating side effects of caffeine. While it is currently unknown, some preclinical studies seem to suggest that theanine may improve memory and stave off Alzheimer's disease.
In our modern, fully connected and blazingly fast moving lives, green tea can both offer a bit of natural healing while giving you a good excuse to slow down for a few minutes each day. I would be very happy if this small part of green tea culture becomes part of your life as well. When this happens, this tea culture transforms from a nice, old fashioned thing to a new cool and helpful trend.
Aracha: The Tea That Farmers Drink
Aracha is the first tea made from the leaves once they are harvested.
After harvesting, the leaves are steamed, then dried (by the way, this all creates an incomparable fragrance in the workshop). That is the only processing which is done to get to the aracha stage. This is the tea that is enjoyed daily by the tea farmer. The aracha is then brought to wholesalers where they remove any stems, cut leaves to the same lengths and dry via heat. This is usually then blended with other teas and sold to the consumer. For this reason, aracha is rarely available to the consumer.
It is a rustic tea with stems and such being included, but it is a wonderful experience and one that is not currently available to most. We are considering making some aracha available to consumers in the future.
The Current Situation of Tea Farmers in Uji Shirakawa
Sadly, there are now only seven tea farmers left in Uji Shirakawa. The younger generations tend to move to the big cities for work leaving the farms with no successors. Even if a few of the younger generation decide to stay on and farm, the financial situation for tea farmers is hard to maintain.
The price for wholesale tea has not changed much in the past thirty years yet the cost for fuel, electricity and labor certainly have. With this in mind it is not hard to see why the tea farms are dwindling.
Fortunately, our generation now has access to the internet and smartphones. We farmers are now able to connect directly to customers. We can now foster a more direct relationship between the tea farmer and the tea drinker. Through this new use of technology and customer relationships I believe that we will find a way to survive.
Making Tea with a Pot is Cost Effective
You may think that Uji tea would be an expensive brand, but if you calculate the cost based on how many cups of tea you will get per bag of tea you will find it is quite reasonable. An average tea pot needs only 10 grams of tea leaves and this pot can often be filled with water five times before the all the flavor has been extracted from the leaves (naturally this depends on the quality of the tea). Kitamura family’s tea leaf is less than 500 yen for 10 grams, so almost same price as a cup of coffee in a cafe.
Keep in mind our teas are completely free from additives or preservatives which plastic bottled teas cannot claim. So with all this in mind, I suggest you get together with friends and have a happy and relaxing time with a nice pot of Uji tea. I think you will find the rewards well worth the cost.