Our aim for 2018 is to discover and offer to you teas that are made, as they likely were for generations, before the advent of modern farming techniques, without the use of chemical fertilizers. Teas that are grown in harmony with the environment that reflect the unique qualities of the land and the people who produce them.
I received a sample recently that truly was 'tea for thought'. It caused me to reconsider what is of value when appraising the quality of tea and to reconsider what we include when we use the word quality. Our criteria for quality produces something often lacking in character. I had the top three grades of gyokuro from another company prepared for a side-by-side tasting comparison when I noticed the other sample in a shiboridashi from earlier in the day. The first three were superb, meeting all the criteria by which we judge gyokuro. Fine, dark green needle-like leaves, thick mouth feel, umami and sweet in balance. But this other sample stood out with it's unrefined, aracha look and strong floral aroma. Like a fine wine, it created a mental image of the land on which it was produced.
I certainly don't claim to be an expert when talking about the ins and outs of the Japanese tea industry but, through reading, I've come to see what the current state of the industry seems to be. Its mirrored throughout our entire modernized agricultural industry. You can see it when we buy apples or bananas at the grocery store. Conformity. And consistency.
It's something akin to a piece of music that is played perfectly in a technical sense but which lacks soul. I guess what excites me is the discovery that goes along with the actual taste of the tea. There are many superb tasting teas available out there but I want to find the ones that stand out based on unconventional standards or perhaps, more accurately put, traditional standards.
With all luck, Yannoko will be stocking this superb, and pricey, gyokuro this year in June after it has been harvested and processed entirely the family who grew it.....along with our other discoveries.
I hope you will join me on this journey.