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Community we care

 
 
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We like to think our tea is tea from the past, and tea from the future.

Like other agricultural produce, tea farming went through industrialisation in the 20th century and has since left its environmental impacts. In contrast, traditional farming practices have to be sustainable in order for farmers to cultivate the same land generation after generation. Makijima Tea Co. work with tea growers who farm their own land in a sustainable way.

Ageing population is a real and serious problem in Japan, threatening the continuing existence of many tea growing communities. At the same time, a new generation of young and committed farmers are making a real dig in their farming future. They are shedding new light on traditional ways and bringing new ideas into the farming and manufacturing process. We hope to support the long-term commercial viability of small to micro scale farming communities by introducing their products to the world (well, to Australia for now…).

At the end of the day, we hope that our philosophy is in the flavours of Makijima tea. Some say the industrialisation of tea production affected and defined today’s tea palate – a liking for a “fat”, in-your-face taste. By collaborating with (more like learning from) these tea farmers, Makijima Tea Co. is exploring what tea might have tasted like in the past, and could taste like in the future.

At this stage all our tea comes from Japan — a dilemma for us considering there are Australian tea growers. To make our contribution to a vibrant tea culture in Australia, Makijima Tea Co. collaborate with Australian artists to make tea-related creations. We hope to make them an integral part of the tea drinking community.

 

Our farming collaborators

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Fumiaki Iwata

When they are not having a nice cup of tea, the Iwata Family and their team tranquilly devote themselves to growing tea leaves and shiitake mushrooms by applying the principles of natural farming in Tsukigase, Nara. Their passion for and philosophy on tea, from growing to processing (and to drinking), is clearly present in every sip of their organically grown green tea. Tsukigase is a small mountainous town bordering Kyoto. Because of the microclimates ideal for tea farming, it has been an important tea growing region of what now famously known as Yamato cha. The Iwata family is into the 17th (!) generation of farmers cultivating their family land, who made transition to organic farming nearly 40 years ago.

They also represent a quietly radical force in revitalising many abandoned tea farms scattered around the region by bringing them back to their former glory. Ageing population in the rural region means many micro to small scale tea farms can no longer be operational, threatening the future viability and existence of the tea farming community itself. The added benefit of tea leaves from these tea farms is that, when combined with the Iwata family’s knowledge of natural farming, the tea will be honest to the terroir. Above all, the simple and honest farming approach of the Iwata family shines through and that’s what we love at Makijima Tea Co.

 
 
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Yoshiyuki Tamura

It may be obvious, but Yoshiyuki Tamura used to work in fashion in Tokyo. He returned to his farming roots 10 years ago in Kawane, Shizuoka, where his family have accumulated 13 generations of farming knowledge. Shizuoka is the mecca of fukamushi sencha – “fukamushi” literately translates to “deep steam” and it is a processing technique where fresh tea leaves after harvest are steamed longer than the normal 30-40 seconds. This technique was originally developed to match the characteristics of tea leaves grown in Makinohara, Shizuoka. Fukamushi sencha really brings out the full flavour, aroma and colour of the tea leaves.

Yoshiyuki’s tea farm is located in a mountainous Kawane region, offering ideal conditions for high-quality tea leaves. He marries his tea leaves with the fukamushi process, bringing together two of Shizuoka’s green tea greatness! He is committed to the agribusiness style of having a direct link between farmers and consumers – he runs a morning market where his organic blue berries are literally to die for and he also operates a café cart from which he pumps out his green tea party in your mouth. He is basically an agricultural futurist and Makijima Tea Co is merely tagging along on his chlorophyllic journey.

 

Artist collaborations

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Holly Macdonald

Whenever we speak to Holly, she is always going somewhere. When we first approached Holly if she could make tea cups for Makijima tea, she was getting ready for an artist residency in the Northern Territory. A few months later, she sent us an email saying the cups were ready and “I am off to Paris next week!”. It seems she is in constant transit, going between places and gathering stories along the way. Holding one of her wonderful cups gives you a sense that she is sharing how her memories of the place she visited are being formed. Holly leaves subtle traces, or more like hints, by her pinching fingers, watercolour-like washes, and gentle line engravings, for you to imagine and experience the place yourself. These cups are a beautiful reminder that a place, any place, can tell us their stories if we take a moment just to be around and listen.

Holly Macdonald hails from sunny Sydney, Australia. After completing her BFA (Ceramics) at the National Art School in 2014, her work has been included in numerous exhibitions and prizes; c3 contemporary art space (collaboration with Niamh Minogue), Firstdraft (solo exhibition), Sabbia Gallery (solo exhibition), ALASKA Project, Saint Cloche, North Queensland Biennial Ceramic Award (Pinnacles Gallery), and Chippendale New World Art Prize (NG Gallery). Holly completed Honours in Fine Art at RMIT, Melbourne in 2017. In the 12 months since she has participated in two artist residency programs – North Finding Form, a transitory residency in the Northern Territory and Cité internationale des arts in Paris.