Hello, thank you for supporting d:matcha Kyoto. This newsletter is filled with monthly updates from our team in Wazuka, Kyoto. We hope that you enjoy reading our content!
An update from d:matcha’s tea fields (by Aka.H)
Producing pesticide-free tea in summer
In some of our tea plantations, there are fields where pesticides and synthetic fertilisers are used in preparation for the harvesting. This makes both harvests easy to manage.
For pesticide-free fields however, the second or summer harvest becomes more difficult to manage. We have to manage the fields properly to ensure that we minimise any pest-damage and that the tea trees retain their vigour.
Before the full heat of summer shines down on us, we harvest bancha from the tea fields and then conduct a deep pruning of the tea trees. Naturally, pesticide-free tea fields are also more susceptible to pest damage. In spring the insects are just waking up from their slumber and the height of their mating activities usually takes place in summer. This can make the pest-damage (such as feeding on young tea shoots) overwhelming if left unattended.
The Jacobiasca forbiddenis or tea green leafhopper hits the peak of its development cycle in summer. The young adults consume young plant shoots for nutrients, which hinders the growth of the tea buds. This causes the buds to turn a pale yellow, and in some cases fall off. For this reason, we often avoided harvesting tea from pesticide-free tea fields in summer.
Luckily, most of our tea fields are located in the Yubune region, where the climate is colder and the density of pests is also lower. Working this to our advantage, we decided to time the pruning period according to the development cycle of the insects. While this may be a trial method for us, I predict that the damage from the pests can be minimised. I hope that we will have a good summer harvest!
Thank you d:matcha Kyoto! (by Ryhan)
After an exhilarating (almost) three years of being with d:matcha Kyoto, I will be moving on to focus on my next phase in Japan. I am grateful to the team who have selflessly shared all their knowledge and skills with me. As an immigrant who came from an entirely different language culture and with zero formal training, learning everything from scratch was an arduous task. Needless to say, the journey was riddled with huge bumps in the roads that were crippling. The rewarding moments however, outweighed the struggles.
I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to you, our customers, for your support and inspiration. As Overseas Lead, my only real goal was to translate and share our love for Japanese tea. I hope the team’s passion for their craft reached you, regardless of the form it may have taken. I hope you will extend the same kindness you showed me to the team as we move forward. I would also like to formally apologise for any misunderstandings that may have occurred.
Last but definitely not least, a huge warm virtual hug to my family and friends (both in Singapore and Japan). I would not have made it this far without their limitless love、 listening ears, and unwavering support. いつもほんと申し訳ないくらいありがとう。
You will still find me occasionally wandering around the farms (nothing can keep me away from farming), and if you ever do, please stop to say hi!
The purpose of a kyusu’s lid (by Azusa.U)
If you are an avid Japanese tea drinker with your own kyusu, you may have noticed several features about the lid.
First, there is a small hole on the lid of your teapot. Did you know that this hole actually plays an extremely important role? Despite the hole being small, it helps to promote the convection of air, allowing the hot water in your kyusu to circulate.
Secondly, the lid makes it easier for you to pour your brew into your tea cup. Without a lid, air may enter from the spout of your kyusu. This could potentially stop the flow of the water being poured and may cause hot water to overflow around the mouth of the kyusu.
Last but not least, the lid ensures that your tea leaves are brewed to produce a deeper taste, colour, and flavour. As air enters the kyusu, the leaves can spread and mix equally with the hot water. This almost ‘dance-like’ motion allows the aroma and sweetness from the tea to be extracted ideally.
I would recommend aligning the hole on the lid with the spout to make it easier for the air to circulate. Try this at home today and see how the flavour changes!
Enjoying a cold bowl of matcha! (by Seiya.H)
Similar to most people, I always crave for a cold drink during these hot summer days. The mizudashi at d:matcha Kyoto is always readily available but there are days I really want to drink a cold bowl of matcha.
I’m sure that for some people the idea of drinking a cold bowl of matcha is unimaginable. I myself once asked my peers if “cold matcha” has ever been served in official tea ceremonies and if there is a correct time to serve such a drink. Unfortunately the idea of “cold matcha” does not exist in the Uransenke school. Some may use tea ceremony tools of a cooler shade or appearance (e.g. glass or blue tea ware), or even heading to popular summer spots but the matcha will still be prepared with hot water.
There are many coffee shops that serve cold matcha but frankly speaking, I feel that there isn’t only one proper way of brewing cold matcha. When I am trying to make my own cold matcha, I try to make it in a variety of ways!
You may use more matcha than usual because after being brewed, the ice added will dilute the brew. In addition to brewing matcha with hot water, you may also brew it directly with cold water. I have found that making cold matcha with lukewarm water is slightly difficult because of the big bubbles that appear. If presentation is an important factor, I would recommend preparing the matcha with hot water before adding ice in.
Please enjoy the pure taste and sweetness of matcha, even when brewed as a cold drink!
(写真: First I prepare my matcha the usual way. Once the brew is ready, I gently add in small ice cubes. The matcha variety I used this time was okumidori).
Part two: A delicious recipe, using matcha! (by Natsuki）
We are constantly developing new matcha recipes that can be easily prepared at home or on a daily basis.
For this second part I will be introducing a matcha drink that is perfect for the summer ♪
Shuwa Shuwa Matcha Squash
- Two teaspoons of our Matcha for Latte powder
- Carbonated water
- Hot water
- (Optional topping: Matcha Ice Cream)
- (Optional topping: Fresh Cream)
- Mix the matcha powder with hot water until the mixture is completely dissolved.
- Fill a glass with ice.
- Pour the carbonated water in the glass.
- Next slowly pour the matcha paste into the glass.
- Finish the drink by adding the additional topping.
Personally I find it easier to mix the drink when the carbonated water is kept at room temperature.
d:matcha Kyoto’s Pudding (by Ko.Y）
This month I will explain in further detail how pudding is made!
Did you know that pudding made with gelatin tends to have a smoother texture, and is more likely to ‘sway’. Custard puddings, which often do not use gelatin, have a slightly harder texture as more sugar is used.
Ironically, gelatin (also known as polysaccharide thicker) tends to harden more easily when mixed with sugar. For this reason, customers who prefer a sweeter taste, I would recommend purchasing pudding made with gelatin.
Agar, which is also a thickening agent, serves a similar purpose as gelatin in confectionery production. The key difference however is that agar is derived from a plant-based soft. I also feel that when using agar, the agent hardens quickly and the end product can be cut cleanly.
Custard pudding often gives off a unique aroma as the eggs used in the production process are heated. This is also the reason why this type of pudding has a chewy texture, similar to chawanmushi.
Examining the quality of sencha (by Yuina.T)
Have you ever wondered how the quality of tea is judged? Everyone has different tastes and to guide the tasting process, there is a certain criteria during tea tastings. The following list is the one set by the Japanese National Tea Fair. The test is done on a step-by-step basis and in order.
- Appearance (20 points)
The shape and colour of the tea leaves are placed on a black square tray to be examined.
- Aroma (75 points)
Boiling water is poured over 3g of tea leaves, and left to steep. Participants will assess the aroma of the tea leaves.
- “Light Blue” (30 points)
水色 or directly translated “light blue”, after 5 minutes have passed from step two, the tea leaves are removed. Participants will examine the amount of “light blue” and precipitate present in the brew.
- Deliciousness (75 points)
Next, the participants will take a sip to taste the tea.
- Colour (10 points)
Lastly, the participants will assess the colour tone and uniformity of the steeped tea leaves.
Based on the five criteria points above, the maximum score that can be awarded to the tea leaves is 200 points. The final score is awarded after the points have been deducted. At the time of the examination, to ensure the test is conducted fairly the hardness and pH of the water is regulated. The lighting conditions are also adjusted accordingly.
Part ten: Establishing d:matcha - Preparing for the store's opening! (by Misato.T）
After our move was finalised, the first thing I decided to focus on was cleaning the premises. While there were numerous items left behind by the previous tenants that could be utilised, we still had a long road ahead of us in terms of cleaning and repairing those items.
I have experience cleaning vacant properties however I realised that getting the items into a usable state after three to four years is difficult. All the more so for a property that has been abandoned for 10 years!
While we can usually hire a contractor to conduct any repairs, the cleaning of the interior must be done by ourselves. In the city, it is quite common for the landlord to conduct the cleaning before leasing the property. On the flipside, in the countryside it is actually more common for the person renting to do the cleaning themselves.
Most of the time these abandoned buildings are used as a warehouse to store unwanted bulky items. So the first task on our list was to dispose of all those! As our location used to be a supermarket, there was a large number of equipment and packaging materials that were left discarded. We threw out the items that could not be salvaged.
(This is how the interior of the store looked after we had cleared out most of the bulky garbage. Most of what was left were the interior showcases. I wish I had taken a picture before we started the cleaning.)
Furthermore, as the property had been left unattended for 10 years, some of the stains were notoriously difficult to remove. I remember cleaning the same spot for several days as the kitchen grease and heavy dust had sat in for too long.
I hired a contractor to assist with the repairing of the broken parts of the water heater, as well as the electrical system. The exterior of the building was built with wooden boards that blended in beautifully with Wazuka-cho’s scenery. We covered the yellow and blue headboards with a dark brown iron plate. (Initially I regretted this as this decreased the visibility of the shop to customers passing by.)
Now, we were finally ready to open.
ecute Ueno Matcha Fair, featuring d:matcha Kyoto! (by Daiki.T）
This July 2022, d:matcha Kyoto was given our third opportunity to organise a pop-up store in ecute Ueno, Tokyo. This time however, not only will we be holding a pop-up, but we will also be the main featured store! The main focal point of this event is “matcha”, and all the other tenants of ecute Ueno were asked to develop new matcha-based products using d:matcha Kyoto’s products.
I was moved to see Wazuka-produced matcha being featured all over Ueo station, and extremely impressed to see the wide range of products that had been created. From sweet treats such as matcha eclairs and sandwiches, to even savoury creations such as matcha inari (sushi wrapped with fried tofu). I immediately bought five different products as soon as the fair started. The matcha sandwich was especially impressive as it had a rich delicious taste of matcha that went harmoniously with the other ingredients.
The team and myself are grateful to the tenants at ecute Ueno and the management at ecute Ueno for such an amazing opportunity. Through this I hope that more people will be interested in Japanese tea and matcha!