Our artisans | Kumamoto, Japan | by Mellow Monk

Our grower-artisans and their tea estates in the Aso and Hitoyoshi areas of Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan.
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Kazuo Watanabe harvesting green tea on his estate in Sagara Village, Kumamoto.

Kazuo Watanabe harvesting green tea on his estate in Sagara Village, Kumamoto.

Teas from various estates lined up for inspection at an auction in Kumamoto City.

Teas from various estates lined up for inspection at an auction in Kumamoto City.

A growing tea branch on the Watanabe estate.

A growing tea branch on the Watanabe estate.

Miho Nagata, a grower-artisan in Aso, Kumamoto, stopped by for a visit.

Miho Nagata, a grower-artisan in Aso, Kumamoto, stopped by for a visit.

Iced matcha and green-tea jello we enjoyed at the Watanabes' tea estate in Sagara, Kumamoto.

Iced matcha and green-tea jello we enjoyed at the Watanabes' tea estate in Sagara, Kumamoto.

A tea farm on the island of Yakushima, in Kagoshima Prefecture.

A tea farm on the island of Yakushima, in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The Nagatas with a French TV crew who filmed them for a documentary on tea.

The Nagatas with a French TV crew who filmed them for a documentary on tea.

Difference varieties of teas bred for natural flavor, hardiness, and other factors are taste-tested at the Kumamoto Prefecture Tea Research Center ("Chaken") in the town of Mifune, Kumamoto, Japan.

Difference varieties of teas bred for natural flavor, hardiness, and other factors are taste-tested at the Kumamoto Prefecture Tea Research Center ("Chaken") in the town of Mifune, Kumamoto, Japan.

Our grower-artisan Koji Nagata (left) checking out judges' scores on a new varietal at the Kumamoto Prefecture Tea Research Center ("Chaken"), where researchers test teas bred for natural taste and hardiness, for instance.

Our grower-artisan Koji Nagata (left) checking out judges' scores on a new varietal at the Kumamoto Prefecture Tea Research Center ("Chaken"), where researchers test teas bred for natural taste and hardiness, for instance.

A judge comparing various teas at the Chaken center.

A judge comparing various teas at the Chaken center.

A tea prepared for judging at the Kumamoto Prefecture Tea Research Center ("Chaken") in the town of Mifune, Kumamoto, Japan.

A tea prepared for judging at the Kumamoto Prefecture Tea Research Center ("Chaken") in the town of Mifune, Kumamoto, Japan.

Tea being judged at Kumamoto's Tea Research Center ("Chaken") in the town of Mifune, Kumamoto, Japan.

Tea being judged at Kumamoto's Tea Research Center ("Chaken") in the town of Mifune, Kumamoto, Japan.

Bidders examine green tea from the Watanabe Estate.

Bidders examine green tea from the Watanabe Estate.

The Watanabes saying goodbye after a visit to their artisanal tea estate in Sagara Village, Kumamoto.

The Watanabes saying goodbye after a visit to their artisanal tea estate in Sagara Village, Kumamoto.

With the Watanabes, their trophy from the North American Tea Championship, and a customer in the small office-shop on their tea estate in Sagara Village, Kumamoto.

With the Watanabes, their trophy from the North American Tea Championship, and a customer in the small office-shop on their tea estate in Sagara Village, Kumamoto.

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