The "Ise tea export project," organised by tea producers and tea-related businesses in Mie, recently invited Japanese culture enthusiasts from Dubai to tour tea farms and discover other local charms in the prefecture. Amna Aldarmaki, the founder and leader of ENKA, or Emirates Nihon Keiken Association, a group promoting Japan-UAE cultural exchange, and ENKA's deputy leader Razan Alhaddad were invited by the Ise tea group. With over 5,100 followers on her personal Instagram account, Aldarmaki is well-known in her home country as a social media influencer fluent in Japanese.
On October 31, Aldarmaki and Alhaddad paid a visit to the Shinryoku Sabo Ise tea producer and retailer in Matsusaka, where they were treated to green tea latte art by students from the prefectural Iinan High School's art club. The latte art designs included a foam-drawn bear and cat. The couple expressed their admiration for the art and began photographing it with their smartphones. They also posted selfie videos of themselves drinking tea on Instagram in Arabic and English. The pair then attempted latte art with the help of high school students, deepening their understanding of Japanese "kawaii" culture.
According to Aldarmaki, while people in the UAE enjoy coffee, few are familiar with Japanese tea, and even low-quality Japanese tea is expensive there. Aldarmaki and her team apparently hold tea workshops at cafes in the UAE to promote Mie Prefecture's Ise Cha brand, where they teach how to properly use chasen matcha whisks and tea cups. Mie's social media posts indicate that she hopes to promote Ise Cha and its backstory.
Mie Prefecture was Japan's third largest producer of tea leaves in fiscal 2020, but production volume is declining as domestic tea consumption falls. Mie's Ise tea export project began in 2018, with the goal of retaining and expanding Ise Cha tea growers. Aside from the UAE, Ise tea is also popular in Vietnam and Azerbaijan.