An update from d:matcha's tea fields by Aka.H
The first and second flush season has gone by so quickly and now it is time again to prepare for next year’s first flush.
The fertilisers used are an extremely important part of this process. Tea trees, like most plants, need Nitrogen (N), Phosphoric acid (P), and Potassium (K) to grow healthily.
Many crops depend on the anabolism of carbon dioxide for their harvest and quality. In rice farming for example, the total amount of starch correlates directly with the yield. For apples and mandarins, the key element that makes up the sweetness is sugar content or brix levels.
For Japanese tea, on the other hand, nitrogen plays a slightly different role. The amount of nitrogen used directly correlates to the quality and yield of the harvest. Nitrogen is also the main chemical element of the amino acid that is responsible for the umami taste in tea. The levels of nitrogen in the fertilisers we use is thus extremely important to increase the amino acid content in tea trees.
To provide an extreme analogy: We can roughly say that the application of nitrogen is used in abundance to ensure that tea rich in nitrogen can be harvested. While the appeal of tea does not solely depend on its umami or nitrogen levels, this just demonstrates the different approach tea farmers need to take when compared to other crops.
Places you must visit when you come to Wazuka Town (Part two) by Chisei.T
Since I previously wrote about the royal tomb of Imperial Prince Asaka in my July newsletter article, this month I would like to focus on the Shou-houji Temple.
The Shou-houji temple is especially famous for its red maple leaves during autumn. For those of you have visited Nara, you may have visited the statue of Gyouki, which is located at Kintentsu-Nara station. Gyouki (668-749) was responsible for the construction of the famous giant Buddha statue in Todaji.
Gyouki also built the Shou-houji temple in the year 774, when the Imperial Prince Asaka had passed away. Imperial Prince Asaka was only seventeen at that time. What was initially supposed to be a huge temple was then remodeled to something smaller in Wazuka Town.
In the garden of Shou-houji temple, there are tables and chairs made out of stone that you can sit on to enjoy the red maple leaves or take in the breathtaking view of Mount Kamatsuka. There are also jizo, a small statue of a child, wearing red clothing made out of yarn in the garden.
At d:matcha we also have rental tea picnic sets available! So wouldn’t you like to relax and enjoy tea with us this autumn?
The secret story of our matcha Mont Blanc cake by Natsuki.S
We have had over 20,000 instagrammers that have praised our Matcha Mont Blanc Cake! Our goal while creating this product is of course to highlight matcha by complementing it with the elegant sweetness of Japanese chestnuts. As matcha sweets have gained popularity and a reputation for being expensive, we found it a challenge to create a product that ticked all these boxes.
At the start it was difficult to balance the flavours between the pastry, the matcha, the chocolate, and the chestnuts. The end product however, managed to blend everything together. We purposely lumped whole pieces of chestnut so as a consumer you can be sure the taste of matcha and mont blanc are present.
I hope that you will be able to try our Matcha Mont Blanc cake and be left feeling 200% satisfied.
Going back to school! by Ryhan
Starting this month I will be enrolled as a student at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Agriculture! Furthering my studies has also been a goal of mine and something I have been working steadily towards. Needless to say, I am grateful for this opportunity to both work and study at the same time.
For my research I will be focusing on ways of utilising agriculture and technology as a means of upholding cultural heritage in Japan. I am extremely excited to meet other farmers and researchers from similar, as well as different industries or fields. I am also looking forward to learning more about various agricultural processes unique to Japan, doing field work at different farms, and in turn integrating new innovative approaches to the work we do at d:matcha.
The current COVID situation also means that I am not able to visit my loved ones or share this news in person with them anytime soon. During those tougher moments I often think back to this quote from the Austrian poet Rainer Mari Rilke for encouragement: “But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.”
Thank you to everyone who has pushed and provided me with the tools to see the best in myself. I have come to realise that the support you give yourself is as vital as the support you receive from those around you. As I continue to do my best, please look forward to new innovative farming and tea-related things coming your way.
How many times can you harvest tea by Azusa.U
Quick question: How many times do you think tea can be harvested?
The correct answer is four times! Tea farmers refer to this as the first, second, third, and fourth flush. Occasionally the fourth flush is sometimes referred to as the “bancha flush”.
The first flush is usually done from April till May. During the colder months of autumn and winter, the tea trees remain dormant. Theanine produced is stored in the leaves and branches. This also means that the theanine levels are approximately three times more compared to the second flush of the year.
Tea harvested from the second flush of the year is slightly more bitter. This is due to the sunlight that has been absorbed by the tea leaves. This higher level of catechin makes the tea more bitter. Despite this however, this time is known to be antibacterial. Due to the lower quality however, tea produced from this flush is sold for a cheaper price in the markets.
Tea leaves harvested after the second flush barely have any aroma, and are often used for the mass production of confectionery of PET-bottled tea.
While some tea regions may harvest up to four times, in Wazuka Town we usually harvest only three times.
A drinking comparison game in Chado by Seiya.H
Chado or “Way of tea” focuses on hosts serving matcha to their guests. During these procedures, there is a series called Shichijishiki, in which several people gather and play tea-related games together. Chakabuki is one of them.
Chakabuki requires six people (one host, four guests, and one writer). Usually when a host serves tea to the guests, they will use only one tea container (chaki). In this procedure however, they will use five chaki. They will also use at least three different types of matcha. Each type of matcha will be placed into a different chaki.
The host first serves the first type of matcha to their four guests, followed by the second type of matcha. The first and second matcha must be different. After the host serves the third type of matcha to the guests, all the guests will receive a piece of paper with the name of the different types of matcha written on it. The guests will then have to guess if the third matcha served is the same as the first or second; or if it is infact a completely different type than the other two.
After they have made their selection, they will place the paper in a flat paper box. The guests will repeat this process with the fourth and fifth matcha that was served.
The writer will then check all the boxes and write down on a washi each guests’ guess. After the host has served all the guests, they will reveal the correct answer to the writer. This is done by revealing the kanji character written on the back of the lid of the chaki. The writer will jote the answers down on the washi. The guest who managed to get the most correct number of answers will be entitled to take the washi home.
Chakabuki was first played in the 18th century, and it was based off of a game called toucha from the Muromachi period (14th to 16th century). Toucha was initially played with sencha instead of matcha. Would you like to try the game of drinking and guessing and comparing with friends and family?
Establishing d:matcha Kyoto - The importance of a brand's name by Misato.T
d:matcha Kyoto will soon reach our sixth year since we were founded in 2017. It is statistically known that only 15% of venture companies are able to last for five years or more, so we are thankful for being able to survive in this strict world of business.
To show our gratitude, I would like to share with you how d:matcha Kyoto was born.
The brand name is extremely important in establishing the type of company we are, and the type of products that we are trying to produce. Prior to our establishment, we discussed in length the type of company we wanted to be, the concept of the company, and the philosophy behind our choices. We spent months doing research on the market and various marketing strategies. Perhaps the reason our brand has been able to be successful is due to the amount of effort we put in at this stage.
We wanted to strive to be a farming company that had a global appeal but at the same time a distinct Japanese style and personality. This approach would allow us to share the world of Japanese tea freely to both our customers in Japan and abroad.
This is also the main reason an English brand name was eventually chosen. Some of the initial brand name candidates included “O-matcha” and “WHAT A TEA”. We finally decided that we wanted the word “matcha” in our brand’s name due to the increasing popularity of the product. We also wanted a name that is simple, short, and easy to remember.
In the end d:matcha Kyoto was thus born with the “d” representative of these three values: Design, Delicious, and Diligent. Diligent was a word that popped into our minds while we were studying in America. We specifically chose it because we wanted to be reminded to study and work hard like our fellow countrymen.
The colour red was also chosen in the final logo design because we wanted to stand out from other tea companies. Red or scarlet is also the colour often used at old shrines and torii (traditional Japanese gates) as charms against evil spirits.
Organic and pesticide-free farming by Daiki.T
Since 2017, D-matcha has been working on more pesticide-free tea farming and we are steadily increasing the number of such fields every year. At first we were focused on pesticide-free because our customers overseas are more biased towards organic products. After engaging directly with the field work however, we are moved and find it extremely interesting to watch the tea grow in such a natural environment.
There is the JAS certification in Japan that provides an advantage in terms of marketing for organic farming. Farmers are not able to label their products or call their process “organic farming” unless they use fertiliser or pesticide certified by the JAS. For example, there are fertilizers made through the fermentation of food residue or the ones that are residue from beans. Despite this however, we cannot be labelled as organic unless we obtain the certification. When it comes to application, the cost is extremely expensive. For farm-to-table tea farmers like us, we will also need to obtain two certifications: one from farming and as a process. Previously d:matcha did obtain a certification from JAS in 2018 but we have yet to have it updated.
For our pesticide-free farming we use fertiliser made with fermented fish, as well as the residue from rapeseed oil production. The more tea that is harvested and produced, the more nitrogen, phosphorus, and trace minerals are needed to be returned to the soil. By using the organic fertilizer, the taste of the tea becomes more delicate so that we can distinguish the taste depending on the difference of the cultivars and the locations. It is exactly the same as the terroir of the wine industry. If farmers put in a lot of fertilizers to make a strong umami taste and to cultivate more tea, we thought the taste of the tea came from the fertilizers and tea must not be cultivated in Wazuka.
This year we have also been focusing on the production of pesticide-free rice. We experienced so much trouble harvesting however, due to the weeds that grew abundantly in the rice farm. From more research and through forming a hypothesis, we are now working to make the rice paddies as flat as possible. We will be using natural plant derived fertilizer such as lotus flower and fairy vetch. We receive a lot of feedback from nature when working on organic farming and I am extremely thankful to my customers that have supported me through our new challenges and experience. I feel motivated and genuine happiness to take on a job that is both intellectually stimulating and rewarding.