Aso City: Mr. Nagata's Steamed Green Tea
Even Americans Say, "Wonderful"
In America's largest tea contest, the North American Tea Championship, first place in the "steamed green tea division" was awarded to tea producer Koji Nagata (age 42), of Miyaji, Ichinomiya-cho, Aso City.
In the contest, held in late July in Las Vegas, U.S.A., over 200 teas were submitted in 15 divisions, which included matcha, white tea, pan-fried green tea, and blended tea. Mr. Nagata's "steamed tamaryokucha [curly green tea]" was chosen as the best through a judging in which each tea was scored according to leaf color and shape and the tea's aroma, taste, mouthfeel, and overall balance.
Mr. Nagata has been making tea for 23 years. He cultivates 1.7 hectares of tea plants and has emphasized making fertilizer from manure and reducing agrichemical use.
Eight years ago in Aso, he met Paul Kotta (age 45), who works at an American defense research organization and whose wife is also from Ichinomiya-cho. Liking Mr. Nagata's green tea, he entered it in the contest. [Editor's note: The reporter omits reference to Mellow Monk as his newspaper's rules forbid mentioning companies by name in such stories.]
Part of a trend toward health consciousness, green tea is undergoing a quiet boom in the United States. Mr. Kotta says, "Tea grown in Aso, with its large [temperature] difference between summer and winter, has a good balance of sweetness, bitterness, and savoriness." Says Mr. Nagata: "I was surprised when I learned about the first place win, but I'm glad to see Aso tea recognized overseas."
Koji and his wife, Miho, in their tea field.
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