It was certainly much more than I had expected it to be – an eye opener, to say the least. It was every child – young and old – steeped in tea. Darjeeling made so much sense to them and the first flush made their jaws drop.

On March 4, I attended the fifth anniversary celebration of Masami san in Tokyo, immediately after her arrival in Japan via Shanghai. Her 40 students gave the Darjeeling I served them a standing ovation. I had taken Makaibari, Longview, and Giddapahar, specially plucked on February 28 and manufactured on February 29, just for them. A spanking-new Italian restaurant in an upper-class locality was the perfect setting for the occasion. The cutlery made everything sparkle – and the cakes, pastries, and Darjeeling teas were spectacular.

Matsumoto san joined from Wazuka and Elyse Petersen from Hawaii was already there, making arrangements for everyone. She is an MBA student apprentice attached to the International Tea Farms Alliance (ITFA). On March 5, we braved the ice cold winds in Chiba to prepare our Foodex booth in Hall No. 8 of the Makuhari Messe International Convention Complex.

Teas from India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan were available from our booth and an stream of visitors kept us busy for four days as we shifted from Tokyo to Nara, near Kyoto, to attend the ITFA Tea Festival in Wazuka on March 10 and 11.

Also called Wood Country, Wazuka grows its own green teas and is the second biggest tea-growing area after Shizuoka. Professor Hara and Nobuyasu Muira made their appearance there to discuss EGCG and the anti-aging benefits of tea. The ITFA is promoting direct interaction between growers and consumers, thereby getting better prices for the grower and better wages for the worker – a noble cause we strive to achieve, but rarely publicize.