The Highest Matcha Ever

Angela Yeung, South African of Asian origin, is one of our Tea Fellows but also a Japanese Tea Master and founder of Impilo Collection Foundation. Last September she successfully climbed Mt. Manaslu, becoming the first South African to reach the true summit. Manaslu, located in the Nepalese Himalayas, is the eight highest mountain in the world at 8,163 m. Angela not only climbed it, she even took matcha with her! For the most curious ones: it was a Samidori cultivar ceremonial matcha from Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. We had the pleasure of interviewing her, I hope you enjoy the reading.

Q: Back in September you climbed Mount Manaslu: what made you decide to do that? What was your motivation behind?

Angela: “As a brand ambassador of South Africa, I want to end the tragedy of thousands of women and girls losing their lives to Gender-Based Violence every year. That is a mountain that we as South Africans must overcome. In 2021 our Impilo Collection Foundation collected a total of 6,200 bras and displayed them at the Constitutional Hills. We gave momentum to the depht of Public Safety, and with the support of our social warriors, we washed, packed and labeled each of the bras. Then those were distributed to 3,100 women in South Africa. That’s why last year I chose to climb Island Peak for 6,200 m to echo our campaign #EmpowerHer that collected 6,200 bras. This year, we are collecting 8,000 more bras. That’s why I chose to climb Mount Manaslu, at 8,163 m, to raise funds and awareness towards an educational center that will empower and uplift young women who have faced the burnt of GBV. A mountain for a mountain.”

Samidori Obubu matcha at Manaslu Base Camp, at 4,800 m!

Q: You were not a professional climber before. How long did it take you to prepare for this expedition?

Angela: “I invested 630 hours in rigorous training in preparation and gearing up to climb the Manaslu. This mountain in the Himalayas is called the “mountain of the spirit” and is the 8th highest peak in the world. In June, during my Japanese Tea Master Course in Wazuka, I didn’t stop training and kept pushing myself after the tea classes. Running by the tea fields into the forest, by the small river and into the mountain. It was terrific to explore the natural tea fields every morning and afternoon. Climbing mountains can be perilous so preparation is essential. It’s NOT just a hike. One needs lots of self-discipline, motivation and perseverance. So the preparation for the climb, is both physical and mental. Physically, it involves a lot of different types of training – including altitude training with long hikes, at every opportunity I got. Also rock climbing, technical training – how to put on a crampon to walk on ice, rope training, how to abseil, belay and body conditioning. The eating plan – and drinking matcha antioxidants – are essential for my body. You also have to prepare yourself mentally for the challenge that lies ahead. I’m a Buddhist and chant daily to align myself with nature to achieve my goal.”

Angela preparing matcha for fellow climbers in the Himalayas.

Q: You not only did a Himalayan expedition where you became the first South African to reach the summit of Manaslu. You also took and prepared matcha up there! That is quite a record… we are sure that was the highest matcha in the world ever! Not to mention that packing, for a climbing expedition, is extremely important. One has to calculate the essential things to bring and how much they weight. So taking matcha and tea-ware, must have really been important for you. Who did you share it with? How was the reaction?

Angela: “「和、敬、清、靜」harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. It was important to bring my tea set and tea with me to the mountain. I wanted to share a piece of my culture and history in a different space, with the sherpas and the climbers from my team. That makes it a good reminder to be in the moment and treasure every encounter with others, because you never know if you’ll meet a person just once in your lifetime. In such a harsh environment as the Himalayan mountains, the climbers were amazing with the tea and appreciated the taste and the warmness that the tea brought to them.”

Sherpas and fellow climbers enjoyed the very special tea moment.

Q: Do you have any future climbs in mind? Would you take and make matcha again?

Angela: “Most people climb Manaslu in preparation for Mount Everest, so I guess that would be the next mountain to conquer. I definitely will bring matcha with me again and share it with more people and tell them more about the culture of our Japanese tea.” 

Q: Back in June you were one of the 12 people that joined our Summer Japanese Tea Master Course. What did you take from it and what is your best memory of it?

Angela: “It was the best memories, and I felt very fortunate to be part of the Summer Japanese Tea Master Course, which was informative and had more depth of tea knowledge. Tasting different teas from different cultivars, and visiting the matcha factory was fascinating. Meeting people from all over the world who came together, and learning and exchanging their tea knowledge was the most enjoyable part.” 

Thank you so much, Angela! We are looking forward to seeing where you will take matcha next! You can follow Angela’s adventures on her instagram page.

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