Koji Nagata runs an independent artisanal tea estate in Aso City, Kumamoto. There, Koji crafts tea that has won multiple awards, including a first-place win in the North American Tea Championship for Top Leaf. He has also been selected by Aso City for its exclusive "Zen" list of the region's top craftspersons.
MELLOW MONK® TRAVELS THE HILLS and valleys of Kumamoto to find the best grower–artisans. We cultivate lonng-term, face-to-face relationships with them.
These independent grower–artisans have been making tea for generations, crafting their single-estate tea only from leaves they harvest themselves on their own tea estates.
Until now, these hidden treasures have been available only in Japan, but Mellow Monk® now makes this exclusive, exquisite tea available to the entire world for the first time.
Connecting you to recognized artisans
We also seek out green tea estates with impeccable reputations in their own local markets — estates owned and operated by artisans recognized as masters at growing and harvesting tea and carefully crafting those leaves into green tea of exceptional and consistent quality.
When our tea buyers visit a tea-producing region, they visit many estates and talks not only with the artisans themselves but also with people in the surrounding community, to sound out their opinions. We seek out tea that is already popular where it's made, in the belief that teas that please local palates have already passed a rigorous test.
Choosing tea popular in Japan may mean limited quantities for the outside world, but it also assures not just quality but also continuity: The first step in establishing long-term relationships with grower–artisans is to select estates that will be around for a long, long time.
Putting the environment ahead of profits
Aso's farmers don't just work in Aso—they live there. So taking good care of the environment isn't just the ethical thing to do—it's the sensible thing, too. After all, they all breath the same air and drink the same water as their neighbors.
Mellow Monk® growers are all certified under Japan's Eco Farmer program. (That's "eco" as in "ecologically friendly"). The Eco Farmer program is overseen by the Japanese government's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. Its goal is to benefit consumers and the environment by promoting environmentally responsible farming methods.
Kumamoto Prefecture, where the Aso area is situated, has the largest number of certified Eco Farmers in Japan—equivalent to one-fifth of the national total, and proof that local farmers have embraced the program.