Greetings from Ron and Maria Kemp
Hello to all fantastic Sencha Green Tea lovers out there. We would like to share our tea journey with you. We are farmers in the Southern Forest region 5 hours drive from the capital city of Perth, located 15km from the small friendly town of Northcliffe.
The yarn begins with a meeting held by the Manjimup Agricultural Department in the late 80’s with tentative discussion about the possibility of set up a tea industry in regional Western Australia. The Southern Forests proved to have ideal growing conditions for Camellia Sinensis, coupled with high rainfall, acidic soil, and the added bonus of not having pests that usually eat the tea. Basically, we have a few hoppers chewing some leaves at the edge off the plantation, other than that we are thankfully saved from any insect damage. The plantation is completely organically grown, we do not use pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Core to our beliefs is a healthy drink must be free any unnatural contaminates.
It was not till 2004 that interested parties were called on again by the Agricultural Department. An idea was floated to set up a central processing centre in Manjimup, able to accommodate surrounding green tea farmers. At this point we were looking to diversify our farming, we already had small avocado orchard and cattle on our 150-hectare farm, farming is a tough industry and diversification is the key to survival. Three years later in 2007 we planted tea seeding sourced from a local Manjimup nursery. Soon after we realised interest in growing tea with other farmers waned and the central processing centre idea evaporated, it was either go it alone or plough it all back in. In 2010 negotiations began with companies in India, China and Japan to get a small processing plant set up on the farm. In the end we decided to go with Kawasaki in Japan mainly because we had decided to produce the Japanese style Sencha Green tea rather than the conventional green tea found on supermarket shelves.
All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis , the various processing methods give you the teas we have today. There are the green teas; pan fried or steamed, then there’s oolong, black, white and the fermented Pu’erh brick tea. The thing that sets all these apart is the amount of oxidation of the leaves, with Sencha tea that oxidation is frozen by steaming the leaves immediately after harvesting. This gives Sencha green tea it’s green-gold colour, its flavour is best described as briny, vegetal much like cut grass with a mild astringency.
The other product we were interested in is Matcha, finely ground leaves from the first harvest of the season. We call our powdered tea Pure Green Tea Powder; it varies slightly from traditional Matcha in that we do not shade our plants. A healthier form of green tea as you are consuming the entire leaf, absorbing the highest concentration of antioxidants, amino acid L- theanine and caffeine of any other type of tea.
In 2013 the processing plant arrived from Japan along with a crew of non-English speaking Japanese, we would have been lost without our interpreter, Hiroshi. We were given a crash course how to operate the machinery and discovered there is an art form to this process. The machine is fully automated but key decisions on moisture content, steaming and rolling times vary with every harvest and cultivar. It took a couple of seasons to get it right we were not happy with ok tea, the goal was to produce a fresh high-quality Sencha green tea. Eventually started selling the tea in September 2016.
The final process of packaging has also been carefully considered, we decided to go with foil pouches. To keep the freshness sealed and to reduce postal costs as most of the tea is sold online. We produce a loose leaf Sencha tea in 100g and 500g foil pouches. Pure green tea powder in 30g pouches, looking to add a 100g foil pouch now that we have a new tea powder grinding machine. Tea bagging machine turns out Biodegradable pyramid tea bags sold in pouches containing 25bags and 250 tea bags.
The pyramid tea bags, string and tag is made from corn starch a material called Soilon, the material completely decomposes into water and CO2 within a month. The tea is only packaged before sale, it needs to undergo a final roasting to achieve optimal flavor and freshness. The powdered tea is only ground as needed as it tends to yellow with age.