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A Tokyo-based company is marketing heart-shaped tablets of compacted tea that it claims produce a superior brew more easily, taking the ancient art of the tea ceremony to a new plane.

Drop Tea tablets are made of tightly compressed tea leaves that open up and return to their original shape when added to hot water.

According to Towa Co., which developed the tablets, their shape reduces the area of each leaf that is exposed to air, preserving their freshness and aroma.

“Our scientists worked to produce the perfect cup of tea from a tablet for more than three years,” said Yoshihito Watanabe, head of Towa public relations, which is based in Fuchu, western Tokyo.

A single cup of tea requires three or four tablets, he said, depending on how strong a person likes the taste.

The miniature hearts of tea are packaged in 15-cm tall glass cylinders containing 18 grams of tea. They come in 14 flavors, including Earl Gray, Darjeeling, Assam, lemon or apple. Each pack costs 480 yen.

“The taste is somewhat similar to a cup of tea made with tea bags, except ours is fresher,” Watanabe said. “And we use no added preservatives or sugar.”

Towa’s new designer teas are proving especially popular with young women, and total sales are approaching 1 million units a month, he said.

Another key sector that the company is targeting is the wedding gift market.

Towa is also in negotiations with firms in the United States and Taiwan to export its new product, which only went on sale in Japan in April, and Watanabe believes Europe is likely to become a lucrative market in the near future.

The British — that famed nation of tea drinkers — is one of the potential markets Towa has its eye on.

Plans are also under way to use a similar method of compacting into tablet form a green tea drink and even a number of different varieties of coffee.

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