Friday, September 16, 2011

New CSA Offering : International Tea Farms Alliance

It felt like a divine hand reaching across the the midst of a busy and hectic week, a small, unassuming white envelope arrived in my mailbox and it was chock full of farm-fresh Japanese green tea in nearly all of it's most appreciated forms : Gen Mai Cha, Gyokuro, Superior grade Sencha, Houjicha, and a Yakubita Midori sencha.

I had already received my expected and appreciated Obubu Tea shipment several weeks earlier, so this was a true surprise. It was a complimentary inaugural shipment from the International Tea Farms Alliance Global Tea Tasters Club - a seperate organization of which Obubu Tea happens to be a strong founding member.

The ITFA have been working hard in recent months to organize and garner support between themselves and the world's tea consumers, particularly in the wake of the Tohoku region earthquake and tsunami in March of this year. It's more important than ever to seperate myth from reality and to increase awareness of biodiversity in what we human beings consume, and tea is no exception.

What can you, the humble North American tea drinker, learn from the ITFA?

1. First - take a peek at their web site to meet the individual farmers that dedicate their lives and careers to growing every tea leaf from the ground up and learn more about what actually goes into producing a simple cup of tea.

When was the last time you saw a photograph of the Iowa farmer who grew the corn you ate with dinner last night? Chances are good that you may not even know the name of the farm where your barbecued chicken was raised. Yet the ITFA are offering you the opportunity to meet the farmer halfway across the world who spends each day tending your tea leaves and ensuring that you're getting the best-tasting beverage they can offer.

How different would your tea mug and dinner plate look if you knew where and how everything you put in it was made and that your grocery budget was an investment in sustainability?

The ITFA web site has ambitious plans to offer you that kind of information, everything from articles and pictures, to video greetings from the farmers themselves. Most recently, they supported a panel discussion on the impact of radiation on the Japanese tea farming industry after the 3/11 earthquake. You can watch an archived webcast of that discussion here : (presentation begins at 25:00)

2. The ITFA Global Tea Tasters Club is a subscription service whereby you receive bi-monthly shipments of tea from participating ITFA farms. What's most exciting is that these farms are in different countries and growing regions, meaning you'll be discovering not only quality Japanese green teas, but teas from Taiwan, India...the list seems as though it will only continue to grow. Click here to learn more details about GTTC membership and their scheduled shipments for 2011.

Rather than parsing the internet to find these teas as sold and re-packaged through secondary markets, you're receiving these from the farms. There can't be enough said about what an advantage that is for the tea consumer. And there's the assurance that your subscription funds are helping to educate others about tea and supporting the efforts of these farms to continue to cultivate the tea that grows best in their soil.

3. What does an ITFA shipment look like?

Check out August's shipment above. Along with the tea samples, there are color pages featuring introductions and biographies of the farms and farmers who produced the tea. I will be featuring tasting note reviews and information on these ITFA teas individually here on the blog as well as continuing my journal about the Obubu CSA Club. Check out my page dedicated to tea CSA's for an overview of both as time goes on.

With special thanks to Ian Chun, PR liaison for Obubu and ITFA, for answering several questions and for the information he supplies on the different web sites for both organizations.


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