Update from d:matcha’s tea fields: The CEC rate of tea fields in Wazuka Town (by Aka.H)
(Picture on the left is a tea field that does not receive a lot of sunlight and on the right, a tea field that receives abundant sunlight. Both of these tea fields are located in the Yubune Region of Wazuka Town.)
At d:matcha we manage several tea farms in Wazuka Town. Depending on the location of the tea field, the soil and approach towards managing the tea fields differs. Let’s take for example, our tea fields in the Yubune region of Wazuka Town. In this area we have tea fields that both receive a stronger amount of sunlight, and tea fields that are in shadier areas.
This temperature range affects the activity of the microorganisms that can be found in the soil. This is further compounded by the rapidly changing climate. This temperature affects the speed of the soil’s carbon cycle rate, which in turn affects the thickness of the organic matter that can be found in the layers in the soil.
The activity of these microorganisms plays an important role in supplying carbon to our tea fields. When the temperature is higher, the decomposition process can take place at a faster rate. This includes the decomposition of organic matter such as fertilisers, residue from weeding, and parts of the tea trees that were cut during pruning. While some of the material is broken down and released into the air as carbon dioxide, the other parts accumulate in the soil as humus.
Humus improves the quality of the soil and increases its Cation Exchange Capacity or CEC. CEC is used to indicate the fertility of the soil and its capacity to supply the three core nutrients required for healthy plant growth: calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
On the other hand, if there is a surplus of organic matter that exceeds the decomposition rate of the microorganisms in the soil, the humus layer will increase in thickness. An excess layer will thus impede the absorption of nutrients. This thus results in a less cost-effective system of management. Usually the amount of organic matter on the tea fields is impacted by the harvesting or pruning conducted in autumn. The location of the tea field thus changes the management process for each individual farm.
New sweets this spring! (by Natsuki)
Our product development team are working on producing new sweets for March.
Our theme for this year's Spring is “Cherry Blossom”. Japanese people love to hold picnics under the shade of blooming cherry blossom trees in an activity that is known as “hanami”. For spring 2022 we want to make desserts that can be enjoyed during your hanami.
The picture on the left shows the prototypes for our Cherry Blossom Green Tea Cheesecake. We tried creating so many different variations as we really wanted to reflect the beauty of hanami. Our focus was not only the texture, but on the appearance of the product as well. We would like anyone enjoying this cake for the first time to associate it with spring and hanami. If you are reading this article, which design if your favourite?
We are also working on producing a Matcha Cherry Blossom Tiramisu! We will work hard to deliver these delicious products in time for your hanami.
Dokkōdo by Miyamoto Musashi (by Ryhan)
Miyamoto Musashi was an expert Japanese swordsman and ronin who lived during the Sengoku period of Japan (1467 to 1615). While he is famous for 五輪書 or “The Book of Five Rings”, personally another piece of writing stands out for me: 獨行道 or “Dokkōdō”. I was 16 when I first found this book on my older brother’s bookshelf. Since reading it then I was enthralled, and a conversation I had with my brother this month reminded me of it.
The title in English can be interpreted as “The Path of Aloneness”. There are 21 precepts that vividly paint the anchorite life that Miyamoto-sensei adopted. Out of these, my favourite is the third one that reads: よろすに依枯の心なし or “Do not, under any circumstance, depend on a partial feeling”.
In modern times, especially with so many outlets providing a flurry of information, it is inevitable for our thoughts and choices to be influenced. Deciding on something half-heartedly however, will leave you feeling more troubled than making the wrong decision. Aside from being a master of the sword, Miyamoto-sensei also indulged in the art of Japanese Tea Ceremonies (sadō). Perhaps some of the inspiration for instilling patience when we are wavering in doubt, came from the delicate art of whisking matcha.
I would highly recommend either of Miyamoto-sensei’s writing as the perfect companion for your weekend tea time.
Why Wazuka Town’s sencha is known for its high-quality（by Azusa.U)
Wazuka is the name of our town where our main cafe is located. Wazuka Town is the third largest in Kyoto after Kyotanabe and Yosano. Japanese green tea or sencha made in Wazuka Town is known as high-quality tea all over Japan. There are several key factors that contribute to this.
Firstly, Wazuka Town has the best natural climate for tea-farming. The cold winters in Wazuka Town due the mountainous landscape of the town, slows down the growth speed of the tea trees. This is important as it allows the tea leaves to gather and build up the quantity of the nutrient that is absorbed from the soil.
Secondly, the tea farms are also located on mountain slopes, which provides a good drainage system for the tea fields. Furthermore, this also provides good ventilation for the tea fields and directs the cold wind downwards.
Last but not least is the quality of the soil in Wazuka Town. The soil in Wazuka Town is slightly acidic with a pH value of four to five. As the town was previously located at the bottom of Lake Biwa, the soil is rich in iron and nutrients. Tea from different tea fields may smell and taste different because the ratio of these nutrients differs from region to region across Wazuka Town.
Part two: The main dish used in tea ceremonies for Koicha (by Seiya.H)
One of the traditional cuisines that Japan is known for is called kaiseiki. Kaiseiki is a full-rcourse meal, where the dishes are served one at a time. The origin of kaiseiki however, is slightly different. Kaiseiki was known as warm stones that priests would hide in the clothes to keep their hunger or cold at bay. Around the 1300s kaiseiki was transformed into a full-course meal that is enjoyed with Japanese tea.
In the early 1500s, kaiseiki underwent another transformation and grew closer to the traditional banquets you may now see in Japanese restaurants. As guests were spending more time on the dishes, they would often be too full to enjoy the main dish served at the end: tea.
Tea master Takeno Jouou, who was also Sen no Rikyu’s disciple, thus decided to devise the rule: Ichijuu sansai, or “One Soup and Three Dishes”. This was to limit the number of courses there would be in a kaiseiki. He also made sure that during the course of the meal, the host would serve the food themselves to the guest.
The soup now served is primarily miso soup with rice. The following three dishes can range from: sashimi with sour paste, a hot thin soup with fish cakes, or grilled fish. The bowls and plates these dishes are served on are also chosen by the hosts to suit the taste of each individual guest.
Once guests have finished enjoying all their dishes, they exit the room for the host to prepare the koicha (thick matcha) and accompanying wagashi. For those not accustomed to this method of dining, the koicha is actually the main character. The previous dishes served were to build up to this moment.
Now that you are armed with this knowledge, why not try our matcha after enjoying a meal at our cafe in Wazuka Town!
Part Five: Establishing d:matcha - We started in Arashiyama (by Misato.T)
Did you know that d:matcha Kyoto was first started in Arashiyama, Kyoto Prefecture?
After Daiki completed his studies at Babson College in Boston, he immediately decided to get d:matcha Kyoto up and running. Timing is an important factor when it comes to business, and we decided that we needed to start while we were still young and healthy.
In 2016 we first started our business by selling tea harvested from Wazuka Town in Kyoto City. As we were able to converse in English, we tried our best to interact with Kyoto City’s international guests. This is also part of the reason we started in Arashimaya as this area had the biggest access to the global community.
Although Arashiyama is relatively far from Kyoto City’s centre, Arashiyama is very easy to access from JR Kyoto station and extremely popular with tourists. Our plan was thus to base our company in Arashiyama and start off in the city.
Since Daiki still had to finish part of his study in Boston, I returned to Japan first and started the business in Arashiyama. This was on June 6th, 2016. (To be continued)
Visiting Kagoshima and Miyazaki, where tea originated (by Daiki.T)
(The picture on the left is of a tea farm in Miyazaki, the pictures in the center and right are the farming machinery that can be used with a remote controller)
Shizuoka was always known as the first place where tea was produced in Japan but last year it was revealed that Kagoshima actually holds that honour.
I have always been interested in Kagoshima tea. Whenever I spoke to international customers living outside of Japan about tea, they would mention Kagoshima’s tea. When I was living in the United States for my studies, there was Kagoshima-made matcha available for sale in the supermarkets. I decided thus to pay a visit to Kagoshima and explore the region.
One of the main reasons Kagoshima’s tea is famous is due the soil quality of their tea farms. The soil is made of volcanic ash, which makes it ideal for draining out any access water. The tea fields are are located on vast wide plains that make it possible to use machines for the shading process of the tea leaves, as well as the harvesting. This means that although the manpower required is less, the output of tea is higher as compared to other tea producing regions in Japan.
On the flip side, this experience allowed me to further appreciate the beauty of tea farming in Wazuka Town. Wazuka’s tea fields are located on the steep mountainside and sometimes right next to private houses. I think that it is beautiful to see the farms and houses side by side. Furthermore each farm represents the farmer’s craftsmanship and handy-work. This is why I would like to continue selling and producing tea in Wazuka Town.