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!
Update from d:matcha’s tea fields: The Month of May in Wazuka (by Aka.H)
This year’s spring tea harvest!
The end of the harvest season for 2022 is slowly reaching its final stages. This year, while the shoots were growing there was very little rain, which was ideal. After this time passed however, it started to rain very heavily and the temperature rose drastically. This caused the young tea leaves to harden quickly. I was extremely busy during this period trying to manage and plan the timing of harvest for each tea field.
The bright side is that this year there was zero frost damage to our tea fields in Wazuka-cho. This allowed us to harvest an unprecedented amount of tea leaves. I felt that it was a very fulfilling first flush. Our team members who are usually based in the store also came along to help with the harvesting. Although they were not used to the work, they worked extremely hard and this was extremely helpful. Thanks to the efforts of the entire d:matcha team, we were able to harvest various types of Japanese tea!
We only have a few tea fields left to harvest from, and I hope to spend the rest of this season in a meaningful way.
"Excursion of Memory" (by Ryhan)
As the first harvest of the year comes to an end, I once again find myself in deep contemplation of the previous year’s farm work. More often than not, this reflection occurs within the walls of museums.
Similar to an artwork, an agriculture product becomes more attractive to the targeted audience when it comes accompanied with a compelling story. The modern-day customer is interested in the origins of the produce, the profound production process, and of course, the motivations of the farmer. Naturally, a well written story also takes time: playing out gradually and over the course of several chapters.
When farming is your livelihood, it is easy to fall victim to the cyclical nature of the craft. Admittedly there are moments when taking a ‘shortcut’ becomes excruciatingly enticing. Furthermore, with several other responsibilities, at times it is impossible to pay as much attention to the little details of farming. Those details however, are the most crucial. Each step is akin to a small puzzle piece that when assembled creates a beautiful picture.
At the end of the day, the goal is to create a taste of tea that is not just “delicious”, but a product that touches you on a level similar to how art would. This is the story I would like to tell as a farmer.
Pop-up at ecute Tachikawa (by Azusa.U)
This month we held our very first pop-store at ecute Tachikawa! We were there from 9th May till 29th May, and I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who came by to visit us.
Up till Golden Week, I was based at our main store in Wazuka-cho, Kyoto Prefecture. This is usually the busiest time of the year for tea farmers. We harvest tea before the cafe opens, and after the cafe is closed we resume with the field work. I shared this experience with our customers in Tachikawa and I think they were surprised by how tough tea farming can be!
Last year as most of our tea fields were affected by the frost, I was unable to go out to the tea fields that often. This year however, I am proud to say that I helped out a fair bit!
As tea farmers, we often grow attached to the tea we produce and look forward to the end product. I find the most exciting part of the harvesting process is receiving freshly collected tea from the factories. Shincha has a very refreshing and enticing scent. Among ourselves we also try to figure out the ideal temperature that should be used to extract the best qualities of the shincha. Even if the tea leaves are harvested from the same field, this year and last year’s taste can differ greatly.
For our shincha I would recommend using water at approximately 70℃ and for kabusecha (covered tea) to use water at 65℃. Our shincha tiramisu also uses yabukita sencha that was harvested on 2nd May. Please take the time to indulge in these fresh new flavours.
We will be organising two more pop-up events at Kintetsu Nara Department Store (6/15 to 6/21) and at ecute Ueno (6/27 to 7/18). I hope to see you there!
Brew a bowl of matcha anytime, anywhere! (by Seiya.H)
I love to travel and when I do, I often bring tea with me. For matcha, it is common to brew and drink the tea when you reach your destination; either by yourself or with the people you meet on your journey. Usually when I travel I pack a thermos bottle to store hot water, matcha powder, a chasen, a bowl, and a cloth that can be used to wipe the bowl. These are really all the items you need to be able to brew match anytime, anywhere.
When I recommend matcha to others, they often ask me “Even if I am not proficient with the tea ceremony etiquette, can I drink it?” I would like to sincerely stress that as long as you want to drink and enjoy the taste of matcha, nothing should stop you from enjoying it! Even in Japan, there are acquaintances who assume that it is essential to follow the protocols of the tea ceremony (e.g. turning the bowl to drink the matcha). All you have to do really is hold the bowl with both hands and drink the tea.
I once went on a trip to Tokyo three years ago and stayed at a guesthouse that is often used by foreign tourists. I met five tourists in the common room who were extremely curious about Japanese culture. When I started speaking about matcha, they were keen to try the drink so I made matcha for everyone present. One of the guests however, said “I can only drink and eat with a glass bowl because of my religion.” So I decided to prepare a cup of matcha for him in a glass cup that was available. He was very pleased and enjoyed the matcha that he tried. The cultivar that he drank was okumidori.
I am more than happy to share the beauty and deliciousness of matcha to everyone, so please don’t hesitate to try the tea today in a method that you are comfortable with.
Part nine: Establishing d:matcha - Finding a physical store in Wazuka-cho (by Misato.T）
After making the decision to move to Wazuka-cho, I spent time searching for a good location. At that time however, there were only a handful of properties that were immediately available. When I consulted with the staff of the local municipality office and residents of Wazuka-cho, they recommended a vacant building that was previously a supermarket. This was, at the time, our only option so I negotiated with the owner of the building to rent it to us. This location is the same place as our current main store in Wazuka-cho.
As this property was formerly a supermarket, there are restaurant-standard kitchen and water facilities already available on-site. Furthermore the building was extremely large, located along the main road, and close to Wazuka-cho’s town Hall. On the flip side, as the area was too large, there was a lot of equipment left behind from the previous tenants. We had to have the entire interior of the building repaired and renovated.
The owner of the building was an old man who ran a grocery store called “Uotome” in Wazuka-cho for three generations. According to the locals, he was an extremely stubborn and famous person. I was extremely nervous at the start. We were newcomers who had never lived in Wazuka-cho and this was a start-up. I divided our meetings into four to five sessions and carefully discussed our proposal with the owner. In the end I was able to rent the store! I assume it must have been because I seemed trustworthy to him, although each session did take almost two hours.
The owner seemed to have encountered a fair bit of trouble when he was entrusted with the family business. His parents died in a flood that raged through Wazuka-cho when he was young. The owner however, is a good businessman who experienced the economic boom in the 1990s, as well as the economic slowdown that subsequently followed. After speaking with him and listening to his experiences, I was also able to gain valuable insight and new ways of approaching our business in Wazuka-cho.
From our enthusiasm, the knowledge and experience we gained from the past at university and workplace, we were confident that our business would be successful. We decided to open our store in Wazuka-cho in early March 2017 in order to make it in time for the new tea season in spring!
A delicious recipe, using matcha! (by Natsuki）
The recipe that I will introduce this time is pancakes! For this recipe we used our Matcha - Yabukita (For pâtisseries), which is ideal for making confectioneries. This product is made 100% from tencha harvested during the first flush and is packed without any sugar.
In addition to the matcha you will need:
- Rice flour - 150g
- Soy milk - 200g
- Baking powder - 5g
- 1 tablespoon of matcha
- 1 tablespoon of white sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons of sugar
- Maple syrup
The preparation method:
- Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
- Pour some oil into a frying pan. After this pour in the mixture slowly. Please note that for this step you may use any type of oil of your choice.
- Cook on low heat for approximately three minutes.
- Flip the pancake over and let it cook for two minutes. Once prepared to your desired liking, the pancake is ready to serve!
- Add maple syrup or any other other topping of your choice.
- You may choose to alternate between Plain Pancakes and Matcha Pancakes to create a fun presentation.
Our seasonal special: Matcha Roll Cake! (by Ko.Y）
From the month of May till June we will produce a special seasonal dessert known as “matcha roll cake”. Rolling the cake beautifully can be difficult, especially if you want to make it into the “の” character. Here are some tips for rolling it well!
Ensuring that the texture of the dough and cream are in good condition is the first step. When spreading the cream on the dough, be more generous with the front section of the dough and slowly taper it out towards the end. If you are looking at the cream from the side, it should look like this: __◢◣ ________.
Next, ensure that the surface you are working on or the paper you are using to assist with the rolling is non-slip. This will make the rolling process a lot smoother and easier. As you are rolling the dough, try to ensure that the paper used when rolling it is kept parallel to the table at all times. Lastly, allow the cake to rest in the refrigerator overnight before slicing it. This will ensure the cake is still moist and doesn’t dry up!
The scent of tea (by Yuina.T）
Some of the scents that can be enjoyed from Japanese tea are cultivated during the shading process. Shaded tea such as kabusecha and gyokuro are some examples. The aroma is often described to be similar to seaweed. There is in fact a scientific explanation for this!
An organosulfur compound known as “dimethyl sulfide (DMS)” is present in both tea, as well as seaweed. The concentration of DMS increases in shaded tea, as the shading process exponentiates the amino acid concentration level in these tea leaves. The shading process is implemented as the young tea leaves begin to sprout. By restricting the amount of sunlight, the chemical conversion of components responsible for the astringency in tea is slowed down. Scientific studies have also shown that DMS increases in number when the tea leaves are shaded.
Initially however, the shading process was done as a means of protecting the young tea shoots from frost damage. Furthermore, during the Edo period (1604 to 1867) this shading process was only permissible to tea farmers in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture. These days the shading of tea is done to produce sencha with a strong aroma, umami, and sweetness; which are all said to be the hallmarks of high-quality tea.
d:matcha, now in France (by Daiki.T）
Back in May I received very delightful news from one of our previous interns, Lucie. Lucie is a bonafide tea lover who spent some time with the team back in 2019. Together with her husband, Ray, they had made the decision to open a tea store in France under the d:matcha brand. Since her internship days, Lucie displayed an extremely strong sense of responsibility, was dedicated to learning about tea, and open to all sorts of work related to d:matcha Kyoto. I was thoroughly impressed with her attitude, sharp questions, and bright inquisitive mind.
Lucie, who is originally from France herself, has an unrivalled passion for tea and has spent time in different tea producing regions within Japan. She may perhaps be one of the people who are most familiar with Japanese tea and the different variations! When I last visited France, Lucie even organised a forum where all the major players in France’s tea industry could share their thoughts and make presentations.
I am ecstatic that she chose to open a store under d:matcha’s brand. Lucie has a good understanding of our mission, passion, and story. I hope to be able to cultivate even better tea that she can sell to her customers in france. I am also constantly learning new ways to assist her with product development, and creating the perfect angle that will relate to our French customers.
Hopefully I will be able to visit the store in France soon!