Paddock to Cup
At Ito En we grow our tea around the Victorian Alps, close to our factory in Wangaratta. When it is time to harvest, we use machine harvesters to take just the new growth from the top of the plant, achieving 3-4 harvests per season.
Green tea is best processed fresh, as soon after harvest time as possible, to achieve this the tea is transported from the farm to the factory in cooled bins, to ensure the leaf doesn't start to ferment. Once the tea has arrived at the factory, the fresh leaf is assessed for a number of qualities, and tested for any contamination.
The tea is then steamed to prevent the leaves from oxidising, and to maintain the characteristic fresh leaf colour.
The rolling and drying process is the most time consuming part of the process (aside from the growing of course!) because of the moisture retained within the green tea leaf itself. A variety of machines mimick the hand motions of rolling and pressing the tea, some while applying heat to consistently dry the tea. The finishing component of this process, completed in the final roller, is performed to achieve the straight, pointy polished look of the leaves which completes the sencha image.
Once the leaf has been dried and shaped, it is known as crude tea. From here this tea can be further refined for a better shelf life, or transformed into a different green tea product (such as hojicha).
We package our tea in vacuum sealed nitrogen filled bags, which keeps the tea fresh.