Although the Cafe Latte will always be in style, there are people a plenty converting to tea, in particular, the Green variety. Anna Tamvakis chats with an Aussie leading the drive to grow some of the best in the world right here in our own back yard.
Anthony Somers is a quietly spoken man with a passion for Green tea. He is also a crusader for Viticulture, the cultivation of grapes often used for the production of wine. "The easiest way to understand Viticulture is to consider this, agriculture feeds the planet by providing resources for consumption while horticulture encompasses plants, orchards - the pleasures of life". Viticulture is an extension of the latter according to Somers.
While enjoying a freshly brewed pot of Green tea you could be forgiven for momentarily drifting away to the "Land of the Rising Sun" however may be surprised to learn it has been produced in a town called Medowie, "Place of many Trees" in the Hunter region of New South Wales.
A self confessed nomad, Somers suggests he's returned to the town because that's where his job is, however as he turns toward me and continues talking about the project his underlying knowledge and excitement is overwhelming. "Japanese Green tea has been cultivated in Tasmania for over ten years now and we are working with Japanese counterparts on experimental growth on the North NSW Coast. The reality of an ageing farming population in Japan coupled with a lack of desire amongst their younger generations to continue the tradition, represents real opportunity for us to be exporting to the Japanese and other Asian markets".
The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of Green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression. Today, scientific research in both Asia and the West is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking Green tea. A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded "Green tea consumption is associated with reduced mortality due to all disease excluding cancer".
Somers has personally experienced the benefits of enjoying Green tea and confirms that he has developed a healthy addiction. "My cholesterol levels have decreased dramatically since I started drinking it".
Although Somers' transition from grapes to tea has been a smooth one, communication with Japanese business associates is sometimes lost in translation. The way Australia and Japan conduct themselves professionally is very different and the language barrier is a real one, yet the desire to create "Ichi Ban Cha" (which translates to Number One Tea) is a priority for all involved. Somers description of the processing of the leaf indicates the tea is treated with the utmost care and consideration. "The processing is not done by hand yet the machinery replacing the manual process is such that the leaves are pressed together, even the temperature is regulated to match that of a human being" Somers says.
The pureness of energy in the mission undertaken by Somers is apparent and his commitment unwavering. He is very proud of the product he is helping create. "Being involved in this makes me feel good. Rather than producing a product that harms or creates negative social impact, I feel I'm contributing in a positive way".
It sounds as thought the humble cuppa is in excellent hands.
Excuse me, it's time to put the kettle on.