This photo is one of the tea fields from Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, where our top matcha, Breakaway Blend 100, is produced. The bamboo scaffolding and black netting on top are there to shade the leaves during the last eight weeks or so of new growth, so that the leaves can retain all of their umami-laden amino acids when they get steamed, dried, and ground into matcha. Direct sunlight would turn the leaves quite dark, and would cause these amino acids, notably L-theanine, to get converted into catechins and thus make the tea less sweet and more astringent, like other green teas.
I’m sure that many of you, like me, have been worried about the effect of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on this matcha. Thankfully, all three of my suppliers (one in Nishio and two in Uji/Kyoto) have not only assured me that no radiation whatsoever has been detected in their areas, they’ve been sending weekly and sometimes daily reports from third-party labs. They are monitoring the situation as one would expect hyperthorough Japanese scientists and engineers to measure and monitor it.
Although radioactivity can in rare instances get airborne and form “plumes” that can travel thousands of miles, the fact is that radioactivity weakens in inverse proportion to the square of the distance between two points.
Again, there has been NO radioactivity reported in either Nishio or Kyoto, which are roughly 600 and 800 km, respectively, southwest from the Fukushima reactors. Moreover, prevailing winds in Japan tend to blow eastward. Tiny amounts of radiation, under 0.0001 msv (millisieverts), have been detected in parts of Tokyo, but what does that number mean? For comparison, an x-ray of the stomach radiates at about 0.6 msv, and a CT breast scan clocks in at around 6.9 msv. One report said that humans are on average exposed to roughly 1.5 msv per year, just in the form of cell phones, plane rides, and other aspects of normal daily life.
Japanese and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors are rigorously testing all foods and banning export of all products that show unusually high readings. This is how Joshua Kaiser, the founder of Rishi Tea (which has truly excellent Japanese sencha and other stellar teas) put it recently:
“It is important to support Japanese farmers and, so far, there is no evidence that Japanese tea is at risk of radiation contamination, especially tea harvested or stocked before the disasters. The tea harvested and stocked before the disasters is already in the market and available for purchase. Avoiding Japanese tea for fear of radiation would be an overreaction at this point in time because what you are buying now has already been harvested, sealed, and exported well before the earthquake hit.”
This is the case with Breakaway Matcha, and all other matcha as well. All Breakaway Matcha in stock is from the 2010 harvest, and was sitting in the Breakaway Matcha freezers long before the earthquake hit.
The 2011 harvest will take place in late May, and you can bet I will be monitoring events extremely closely. We wouldn’t dream of buying matcha that hasn’t been thoroughly tested and examined for traces of radiation, and the ethical farmers I work with wouldn’t sell it in any case.
So please — don’t worry! If anything, there’s never been a better time to drink matcha: our bodies can use the maximum immunity boost that it gives! Please do show your support to these incredible farmers who have, through no fault of their own, been hard hit not only by the many aftereffects of this horrific disaster but also by fear, however misplaced.
Plenty more at http://breakawaymatcha.com