June 2020 Newsletter

- d:matcha's tea fields(by Hiroki.A

An update from the fields.

Most of d:matcha’s tea fields in Wazuka are located in an area known as “Yubune”. This area is located in the South of Wazuka, and has a colder climate due to its higher elevation. The harvesting period for the tea fields in this area is also slightly later as compared to our tea fields located in the centre of Wazuka. This is due to a slower curing speed (rate at which new tea leaves harden). The fragrance of the tea leaves in these fields are also significantly stronger. Despite having a several tea fields in Yubune, we have almost completed our for the first flush.

We also use the tea leaves from some of our fields in this area to make Tencha, Sencha, and Kabusecha. Despite the harvesting period being slower as compared to other regions, the best tea is often produced from here!

With the first flush of 2020 almost completed, we have now begun preparing our tea fields for the second harvest. Known as “bancha mowing”, the word ‘Bancha’ can be loosely translated into “coarse tea”. Ichibancha is used to refer to the tea leaves that are harvested between the first and second flush.

Ichibancha typically starts growing at the point in which the upper node of the branches were trimmed during the previous year. When the first harvest is completed, there is a tendency for some of the active aptical buds to have not been harvested. When there is apical dominance, new shoots will be pushed to sprout from the lower nodes and sides of the branch. They are unable to grow from the top node as the first flush’s node is in the way but these are new shoots however, are desired for the second harvest.

Furthermore, by the time the second harvest is slated to take place, the remaining buds from the first harvest would have hardened. Harvesting both of these at the same time will inadvertently affect the quality of the final brew. Bancha however, is not only cut to be disposed of or to prepare for the second harvest. Bancha can be also harvested to be used to produce Houjicha or Aoyanagi.

- d:matcha tiramisu (by Natsuki.S)

Our new tiramisu flavour is finally complete! This tiramisu is made with freshly harvested Yabukita that has been shaded for 14 days. The tea leaves were harvested on the 1st of May. We were able to highlight the refreshing taste of Sencha despite some astringency. The result is a taste that is mild yet savoury. Even among the team, this flavour is now the new favourite!

We were also selling our tiramisu at an event in Nara in mid-May! I am very happy that our repeat customers, who are fans of our tiramisu were pleased with the new product. I will now do my best to develop new summer sweets! Stay tuned ♫

- d:matcha's tea factory(by Chisei.T)

As you may now, we have begun to operating our own Sencha factory! With the first harvesting season of the year in progress, I have been spending my mornings harvesting in the fields, followed by afternoons in the tea factory. Processing tea is a delicate process that has to be done on the same day, and can usually take the whole afternoon..

Now let me briefly explain the processing process for sencha!

Process of steaming the tea leaves → Rubbing & drying out the tea leaves → Refining & further drying of the tea leaves → Final drying stage to ensure the leaves are complete dry.

The most important part of the process is steaming as this determines the direction in which the flavour of the tea will take. Tea leaves from Kagoshima, Sayama, and Shizuoka tend to require a deeper steaming process, while tea leaves from Kyoto, Yame in Fukuoka, and Kawane in Shizuoka require a lighter process. The deeper the steam, the less astringent and milder the tea becomes. Colour is another factor that comes into play during the streaming process. Tea that has been steamed longer tends to be of a lighter green, with a strong flavour and smell. Light steaming methods also make it possible to produce tea with a light green color, strong taste, and aroma. If the streaming process is too light and does not compliment the tea leaves, this will likely lead to a strange odour with a biting astringency.

At d:matcha, we are always experimenting to determine how the steam can be used bring out the best qualities of the tea leaves. We tweak steaming time and intensity of each batch of tea leaves to also further enhance their individuality. These minor tweaks are usually achieved by adjusting the angle of the steamer, opening and closing of the lid of the streaming machine, adjusting the amount of steam, the rotation speed of the cylindrical filter, and the rotation speed of the stirring rod, among others.Tea farmers adjust the steaming intensity by touching the fresh leaves or by smelling them during processing. We can't imagine ruining the tea we worked so hard to cultivate for an entire year, thus we are extra diligent during the processing! 😄

- We are now harvesting the First Flush!(by Saki.N)

The first harvest of the year took place on the 1st of May, and the team has been harvested almost every day of the month since then. I also had the opportunity to visit several of the tea fields! The field that left the biggest impression on me was Harayama.

Harayama is approximately 800-years-old, and this is said to be the place where the first ever tea tree was planted. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to plant the tea trees on such a steep slope! Harvesting the tea leaves from Harayama was also a very difficult and tiring process. When the harvest was over, the scent of the tea leaves were very distinct. Locals call this the “Harayama Scent”. Since we were able to process the tea leaves on the same day, I was able to brew fresh tea and drink it.

The scent and taste of the tea leaves really do differ according to the fields they were grown it. I was happy to be able to taste the refreshing unique taste of tea harvested during the first flush again! I hope that you are able to find your own favourite brewing method. At d:matcha we also have a lot of different varieties, so please take the time to compare and try them all! ♩

- New blogging segment! (by Ryhan)

The first flush of the year has started and this means early morning and bright afternoons out on the fields, harvesting day in and day out. While farming might seem like a boring repetitive task to some, the time spent out in nature is something I treasure. I also always have very interesting conversations with each of our team members who are always eager to share their knowledge with me. Thus with all these new nuggets of information, I decided to start a new blogging segment! I will be writing about the various aspects of tea farming, information on tea, as well as life in Wazuka. For now, all of the articles will be written and published primarily on our English website. Maybe when my Japanese is starts to improve, I’ll be able to write in Japanese as well…?

The team and myself have also been working hard to produce more visual content such as videos and photos, to bring you closer to the work that we do. Please do check them out on our social media channels if you have the time. Also, if there is anything that you’re eager to see in particular, reach out to us to let us know!

I hope you enjoy the new content :)

- about d:matcha website(by Misato.T)

We are currently in the process of listing our new tea products from the first flush! This year, we are focused on producing a larger number of products but in smaller quantities. As there are numerous new listings, this makes the task a bit difficult. Since the number of fields have increased as compared to last year, there will also be more variations in tea fields, varieties, and covering periods for each field.

We have also taken time to create a detailed product page, explaining the characteristics of each tea and the characteristics of the fields they were grown. Working hand-in-hand with our field staff, we will do our best to provide new unique information farmers. We also now have video explaining the different characteristics of each. We will strive our best to deliver this season’s taste and new tea to our customers soon! ♪

- about d:matcha(by Daiki.T)

This May has been the peak of the tea harvesting season for d:matcha. I myself participated in almost all harvests. Harvesting allows me to feel the vigor of trees, the different aspects of each field, and definitely motivates me to work towards delivering good quality tea. After all, the most rewarding moment is when customers drink and praise what we have made.

The world of tea is very interesting as there are many variables to determine each brew’s taste. Most of the time it boils down to: subtle differences in the land’s terrain, climate, harvesting time, position at which the leaves were harvested, variety, fertilizer management, covering period, the steaming and drying processes, and many more. As I myself am fascinated by these differences, we have started including all these details on our packaging, categorising our tea according to the fields they were grown in, and distributing videos of each field’s harvest. Hopefully we plan to make more than 20 types of tea using Sencha alone!

While it is important to constantly produce high-quality products, I also believe true value and reward lies in being able to share the journey it takes to get there with our customers. I hope that more and more people will be able to further enjoy their cup of d:matcha tea through the stories we provide.

June 2020 Newsletter - d:matcha Kyoto