World Tea Expo 2014: Interview with James from Aiya Tea

During the expo I had the chance to have a quick chat with James Oliveira from +Aiya America Organic Matcha green tea. They are one of my go to companies when it comes to Japanese green teas, especially matcha and gkyokuro.

Q: Have you noticed an increase in interest in your teas, particularly from the US?
A: Yes, Matcha seems to be growing in the US. Years ago Matcha would have been completely foreign, but nowadays at least people have heard of Matcha or know a little about it. They might not be experts but at least they heard of Matcha. It helps when you also have people like Dr. Oz that mention it. Tea is being noticed by those that like tea, and those that are looking for healthier beverages.
Q: Radiation from Fukushima is still present in many tea drinkers minds. How can consumers be sure that Japanese green tea is safe?
A: Our Matcha comes from Nishio in Aichi prefecture and our loose leaf teas come from Kagoshima in the Kyushu region. We do monthly radiation tests of all our teas prior to shipping them over to the US through a 3rd party lab based in the state of Illinois. This is to give people piece of mind that our tea is safe and it has always been safe.
Q: Matcha can be intimidating for new tea drinkers. Any tips for people who are just starting out?
A: Well usually I recommend offering Matcha in another form like a latte or smoothie. If they are not a tea drinker and primarily drink coffee then this could be a good way to introduce someone. Now if someone is a tea drinker than they might be able to dive right into drinking it the traditional way. If you need to add sweetener to it as well, then do so and as they get more familiar with Matcha they can ease off the sweetener.
Q: How does Aiya source teas?
A: We source our tea from contracted farmers that have been working with our company for generations. Aiya has a long history of working side-by-side with the farmers that supply us our teas.
Q: Any new and exciting products that people need to know about?
A: We have a new product called, “Matcha To Go” which is Ceremonial Matcha that is in a stick packet for those on the go. Since Matcha clumps naturally we were trying to find a way to bypass needing and traditional tools for those on the go or at the office that do not want to lug around a bamboo whisk. We blended our Ceremonial Matcha with fiber to make Matcha more dispersible in water and will minimize and clumping and ultimately eliminate the need for carrying around traditional Matcha tools.

Photo credit: Aiya’s Facebook page  (because I totally forgot to snap one in all of the craziness)

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Nicole has been writing about her love of the leaf since 2008. Her work has been featured on World Tea News, The Daily Tea, Tea Journey, and other publications. She is the winner of the 2018 World Tea Award for Best Tea Blog.