December 2020 Newsletter
An update from d:matcha's tea fields - Organic fertiliser（by Hiroki.A ）
Let me first start with a simple explanation on the nitrification process that occurs during decomposition. Nitrogen (N2) is present in the environment as an organic or inorganic compound depending on its chemical form. Fertiliser used for our tea fields contains nitrogen in the form of materials such as rapeseed, fish, meat, and even shrimp. Over time, these materials are broken down by filamentous fungi and actinomycetes.
In the process, nitrogen is first converted into its inorganic compound variation, ammonium (NH4). The oxidising action of nitrifying bacteria however, then converts the ammonium into nitrogen dioxide (NO2), before finally turning into nitrate (NO3). While plants can absorb and use either NH4 or NO3 as a source of nitrogen, tea trees have been studied to absorb NH4 more actively.
Meeting the nitrogen demand of the tea trees from the start of autumn till spring is extremely important in order to produce quality tea. This is because tea trees are continuously synthesising theanine in their roots during this period. NH4 is essential for this process. Theanine produced is then stored in the thicker portion of the roots, trunks, and apical buds.
Bearing this in mind, a necessary characteristic of the organic fertiliser I chose for our organic tea fields is that it slowly decomposes into NH4 over time. This ensures a slow and steady supply of NH4 to the tea trees. As you can see, the fertiliser we spread earlier in the month has already turned mouldy.
D:matcha’s staff’s tea life（by Natsuki）
In 2020 the team and myself have been dedicating time towards developing and creating new desserts! We also recently realised that the confectionery found in convenience stores are increasing in quality and taste. We therefore decided to organise a ‘sweets-tasting workshop’ for the staff ♪
We purchased readily available desserts from popular convenience stores, which include: 7-11, Lawson, and FamilyMart.
While each store seemed to be developing confectionery tailored towards their own unique concept, I personally felt most intrigued by 7-11’s mini matcha parfait! This dessert was developed in partnership with Itohkyuemon, a well-loved teahouse in Uji. Just by looking at the dessert, you can tell that special attention was paid to the dessert’s presentation. Each dessert was definitely created with the aim of appealing to a wide range of audience. I can imagine customers being curious about the desserts just based on their name or presentation. What shocked me the most is the fact that these desserts are available at such reasonable prices. I guess the convenience stores in Japan are definitely one of our top competitors!
Moving forward, we will continue to do our best to develop and conceptualise new delicious winter products that not only emphasise our unique farming advantage, but also have an irresistible appearance!
(Photos - L: Dark Uji matcha parfait from 7-11, R: Pudding cheesecake from Family Mart)
Aiming for Sustainable Agriculture（by Chisei.T）
As Japan’s population slowly declines, those living in rural areas may have to find new ways of tackling issues that come with such a predicament. One such example is our very own Wazuka. The town’s current population, which has been declining at a pace of 1000 people per year for the last 10 years, now stands at 3483.
Another problem Wazuka also faces is landscape maintenance as the number of abandoned tea fields have been slowly increasing. Over the last five years, the team and myself have been trying our best to take as many tea fields as possible under our wing. We are still however, concerned that the number of abandoned tea plantations will eventually spread more visible areas and not just in the mountains. We would like Wazuka to continue being recognised as one of Japan’s most beautiful towns.
As we try to preserve the town’s landscape, my next goal is to create a sustainable subsidy system for tea farmers, especially for sites such as Mt. Kamazuka or Ishidera. I found inspiration for the idea when I reflected back on my university days in Europe. A farm I visited in Switzerland had followed a subsidy system that provided assistance for farmers, especially those with meadows in the Alps. I hope to tackle Wazuka’s situation with a similar approach and to eventually work together with the local government to come up with a multi-pronged long-term solution.
The season for Houjicha!（by Saki.N）
As the days slowly get colder, I would like to share with you more about houjicha; a drink that can be enjoyed during this time.
Houjicha is made by roasting green tea. The tea leaves roasted could either be sencha, gyokuro, or even bancha. To brew houjicha we usually use hot or boiling water. In this sense, the brewing process is less strict as compared to brewing sencha. Furthermore, houjicha is extremely easy to enjoy with a flavour profile that has little astringency or bitterness. The warm and fragrant aroma of the tea will also leave you with a refreshing aftertaste. Pyrazine, the flavour and aroma compound commonly found in roasted goods, is also said to have a relaxing effect that enhances concentration. Houjicha also goes extremely well with milk and sweets!
With regards to mineral content, as houjicha is derived from green tea, there are still traces of catechins, polyphenols, and vitamins. This amount is however, much lower as compared to the levels found in sencha. I also feel that it is important to note that despite being roasted, small amounts of caffeine are also still present in houjicha. So if you’re pregnant please be careful to not drink too much either!
I hope you make some time to enjoy a cup of houjicha today.
The beauty of a Japanese autumn（by Ryhan）
The changing of seasons from summer to autumn never ceases to amaze me. As gingko leaves turn from a bright green to a dreamy yellow, maple leaves burst at the seams with colour as they take on their signature intense reddish hue. The crisp cool air in the early mornings also make the tea fields seem even more enigmatic.
This dip in temperature also reminds of a haiku by Matsuo Basho: “朝茶飲む / 僧静かなり / 菊の花”. In this piece, Matsuo-sensei describes a monk enjoying a cup of tea while taking in the sight of chrysanthemum flowers, a staple view in autumn. I think this is a great reminder for us to take an occasional break, to slow down and appreciate the beauty around us. All the more poignant as 2020 slowly draws to an end.
Needless to say, autumn is my favourite season!
"Pudding variety comparison set" is now on sale!（by Misato.T）
Did you know that the taste of tea changes depending on the type of kyusu used? This is because the mineral content of the clay used in making traditional kyusu is capable of absorbing catechin, which is the amino acid responsible for a tea’s astringency.
Tea brewed in a kyusu is more mellow and has less bitterness. If you were to brew the same tea leaves with a metal or stainless steel teapot, the taste will likely be completely different!
I usually recommend using a kyusu that has been crafted and baked with soil that contains higher levels of iron; or a kyusu that has a finer mesh but wider surface area. Examples include Tokoname or Banko wears.
I’d also personally recommend purchasing a kyusu from a potter or production area specialised in kyusu production as it is always more satisfying to make a purchase from a craftsman who is familiar with his product. Crafting such a delicate tool also requires a high level of skill. All the various parts such as the handle, mesh, spout, and lid, need to fit together seamlessly. Last but not least, If you’re brewing high-grade sencha, a smaller kyusu might do the trick. If you’re brewing lower-grade sencha or houijcha, you could use a larger kyusu.
Brewing tea in your new favourite kyusu is always exciting and it’s bound to make the tea taste twice as good. Why don’t you find your favourite kyusu today!
d:matcha news（by Daiki.T）
On the 26th November 2020, Governor Nishiwaki of Kyoto Prefecture held an award ceremony commending SMEs that have excelled in the retail service category. D:matcha was part of this select group and we received high praise for both our domestic and overseas activities. This includes our cultivation of tea in Wazuka, processing, product development of confectionery, export of local products, and experience programmes, among others. The process also includes a vote of recommendation from other companies in Kyoto, as well as a thorough examination of our finances. Following the completion of these two final steps, we will officially be given the award. I am very happy that despite the fact my business is uncommon, we were still recognised for our efforts.
Furthermore, this official endorsement by the Kyoto Prefectural government means d:matcha has been certified as a ‘co-operating company’. The role of a co-operating company includes hosting visiting companies from around Kyoto Prefecture, as well as providing lectures or advice to companies based in Kyoto Prefecture and all over Japan. We will also be required to play an active role in spreading the essence of a sustainable business.
This recognition has definitely created new opportunities for us. I hope we can connect these new doors to our other ongoing projects. For example, I am particularly excited about our upcoming collaboration with ANA. We have been working together with the ANA team, designing and creating a programme that will allow high school students to embark on a “learning journey through experience in the community”. This programme will also look at how the use of AI can be incorporated to fit current social changes. This is extremely necessary due to the impact of COVID-19, which has affected tours and school excursions.
With that being said, I am excited and more than ready to create new learning experiences for the community!
(Photos - L: Certificate of commendation | R: Award Ceremony Event)