DAVIDE Angelini from Alpine Tea in Tawonga is in the thick of green tea harvest.
He has grown green tea since 2002 after a Japanese company approached growers in the region.
He grows yabukita (camellia sinensis) tea - for Ito En - which can be made into green, long and black tea.
Ten other growers in the region also grow for Ito En, with a total of 70ha in production.
"We sell everything on our farm gate to them and they process it and export 95 per cent to Japan," Davide said.
"Then we have an agreement with them to buy processed leaves back from them so I can create my own value-add products. That's where Alpine Tea comes in.
"I have an online market where I distribute tea under my label to the northeast region, and also supply bulk tea to other online distributors and tea stores, which relabel the tea."
He produces about 18 tonnes a year on the 4.2ha family farm in the upper reaches of the picturesque Kiewa Valley and buys back 1-1.5 tonnes of the processed leaves.
"My job is to grow the highest amino acid content, usually up to 3 per cent, and less than 25 per cent fibre," Davide said.
"We try to harvest about 2ha a day which is 16-18 tonnes of green tea leaves.
"I put on one or two staff each harvest. I drive the harvester and have a chaser who runs behind with the bin."
Davide started the first harvest on Saturday morning and finished Sunday afternoon. The second harvest will be in the new year and the third in mid-March.
He said as soon as the leaves were picked the race was on to get the tea into an airconditioned bin and transported to the factory to be steamed, which prevents fermentation.
Leaves are then rolled, dried and packaged.
- Go to: alpineteaco.com.au