We met the Yamaguchi in 2012 while travelling through one of Japan’s youngest tea growing regions. Through their hospitality, they shared their vast knowledge of shade-grown teas with us, followed by a course of hand crafted shochu. The Yamaguchi have 29 cultivars growing on their farm, located on the hills of Hoshino. They are one of the few farmers in Japan who are still making matcha by hand, as opposed to with the use of machines, and their methods are heavily inspired by age-old growing traditions. The leaves for their award winning matcha and gyokuro are shaded for six weeks prior to picking, forcing the leaves to produce extreme amounts of chlorophyl which gives their tea the rich green colour. The matcha is then ground at a rate of about 30 grams per hour in old-school granite mills to minimize the amount of heat produced by the friction of the stone and to preserve the delicate flavour notes of the leaves. Though Yame is a younger matcha producing region, the terroir, availability of tea cultivars, and attention to detail in the handcrafting process is yielding some of the best shade grown teas we’ve ever tried.