South African migrant turned Adelaide-based entrepreneur Christopher Rain is using his brand Spill the Tea to foster a local appreciation for Japanese-grown green tea.
Spill the Tea wants to foster green tea culture in Adelaide
“With coffee, there’s an emphasis on origin, whereas with tea it’s often very abstract or opaque,” Christopher Rain tells CityMag.
“There are some great roasters in Adelaide that do that really well, but certainly in the tea space, no one else is really doing that.”
Three weeks ago, Christopher launched Spill こぼす – but known as Spill the Tea – which connects online customers to stunning 50-100gram bags of Japanese-grown, single-origin green tea leaves and accessories, such as copper kettles, strainers and mugs.
Christopher spent two years developing the brand, travelling to Japan on fact-finding missions, with little knowledge of the language, hunting down the country’s skilled artisans to develop the tea-making props, and building relationships with green tea farmers from Kagoshima to Uji for the supply.
He then developed a platform to sell these products to Adelaide consumers.
Christopher knew there was a hole in Adelaide’s green tea market, as conglomerates just don’t get the beverage right.
“Most green tea sucks,” Christopher’s website says.
“And to be honest with you, the first green tea that I had was not one that I enjoyed. It was like a tea badly made in hot water.
“But I came across Japanese green tea and that was really where I found a balance of flavour.”
Christopher prefers the taste of Japanese green tea over that of China or Taiwan. There’s something about the flavours he finds arresting.
“Some have a wood nature, others have more floral,” he says, “[while] others have an umami-underlying flavour, which is quite unique to green tea.”
There are a range of teas available at the Spill online store, including the sencha genmaicha yambuki, made from puffed rice, sourced from a farm in Hokkaido (located in the north), and the sencha namei, full-leaf namei tea, from Kagoshima (located in the south).
The superiority of the tea leaf only partly determines the quality of the end result, Chris says. For a perfect brew, the tea must be made using well-crafted instruments.
Once again, Chris prefers Japanese-made equipment. During his travels across the country, he saw firsthand a craftsperson culture where makers would develop an “obsession” with mastering the design of a single object.
This concept is exemplified through Spill The Tea’s hand-woven copper strainer, made by Tjsuji wa Kanaami in Kyoto. The hand-made 30-gram leaf-catcher was constructed with a centuries-old weaving technique.
Christopher says in Capetown, South Africa, where he’s from, black and Rooibos teas are common, and he would eventually like to develop primary relationships with farmers there.
But for now he’s sticking to the green variety, for the ritual that comes with it.
“I like green tea because it reflects the passing of time, and there’s an appreciation for each brewing, which I find unique to it as well,” he says.