Hello, thank you for supporting d:matcha Kyoto! This newsletter is filled with the monthly updates from our team. We hope you enjoy our stories from Wazuka Town, Kyoto Prefecture.
About the Farm (by Aka.H)
During the summer season, we faced challenges in managing the farm and dealing with the pests affecting the first flush of tea leaves.
This year, we experienced a warm climate from March to April, resulting in an exceptionally early blooming of cherry blossoms. Similarly, the harvest time for the new tea leaves started about a week earlier than usual. Towards the end of May, we are approaching the completion of the first flush harvest in our own tea farms.
Looking back at this year's first flush, it seemed like there were more pests than usual. The most common and troublesome pest was the Kanzawa mite, a representative pest of tea plants.
Other farmers also had a difficult time dealing with it. It is likely that the warm climate accelerated the timing of Kanzawa mite activity. These pests primarily inhabit the undersides of tea leaves and feed on sap.
When they damage the new shoots, the tea leaves become discolored and the expansion of leaf surfaces and shoot growth slow down.
This not only reduces the yield but also gives the affected leaves a unique sweet-sour aroma, resulting in a tea product with a reddish tinge.
These troublesome pests were also observed in our own pesticide-free tea garden. Although it is common to encounter them without the use of pesticides, it felt like there were more of them this year.
However, the extent of the damage varied among different fields, and some fields were hardly affected at all. Many of these fields had undergone deep pruning after last year's first flush harvest, which likely removed the Kanzawa mites that had settled along with the old leaves that were cut off during pruning.
It is speculated that this led to a decrease in the population density of the pests. Moreover, the tea plants in these fields showed significantly fewer diseases such as dieback, blight, mold, and ring spot disease compared to others. This experience made me realize the importance of proper management during the summer season.
Everyone, please choose your favorite flavor.（by Seiya.H)
In my daily work, I mainly engage in farming and packing tea leaves. However, recently I've also started taking on customer service duties at the store.
In my case, having been born and raised in America for nearly 20 years, I can speak English. I teach how to brew matcha to customers from overseas and offer them the experience of tasting different varieties of matcha.
Even within the category of matcha, the flavors can vary significantly depending on the cultivars, and everyone has their own preferences. Some cultivars have a strong and bitter taste, while others bring out umami and sweetness more prominently.
Currently, at d:matcha, we offer three cultivars for tasting experiences, but we sell 12 cultivars of matcha in-store.
Some customers have even requested to try new matcha cultivars that they haven't tasted during the tasting session. I personally ask customers about their preferences and then choose the matcha based on my own intuition. It brings me great joy when my recommended matcha selection brings satisfaction to the customers.
Sometimes, customers who are shopping ask me about the differences between various matcha cultivars, and I share my own impressions and try to quickly assess and select teas that they might like or find interesting.
There are also instances where I am asked by friends or family online for recommendations on teas they might enjoy, so I choose teas that align with their preferences while engaging in conversations with them.
(For those who enjoy rich and distinct aromas and are accustomed to drinking matcha, I recommend our "Ujimidori" variety.)
Matcha beauty recipe No.13（by Natsuki)
I want people to easily incorporate matcha into their daily lives!
I have developed matcha recipes that can be incorporated into everyday routines.
For the 13th recipe, although it's not matcha, I would like to introduce "roasted tea," which is made by using freshly picked tea leaves and is easy to make and drink. It can be enjoyed outdoors if you have a portable grill.
- Freshly picked tea leaves
- Herbs (Rosemary, Oregano, Thyme, Basil)
- You can also use herbs from your home garden or your preferred leaves.
Preparation: You can easily make it on a stovetop, but if you have a portable grill, I recommend trying it with charcoal.
- Use a roasting pan suitable for roasting tea to roast the fresh tea leaves.
- As soon as a nice tea aroma comes up, pour boiling water over the leaves.
- After about 3 minutes, the flavor will fully develop.
- You can enjoy it for up to 3 brews.
[Impressions from the Charcoal Tea Gathering]
It is said that dishes taste better when cooked with charcoal, and the same goes for tea.
Roasting the leaves with charcoal and boiling water with charcoal results in a tea without any bitterness.
You can enjoy a mellow tea to your heart's content.
By simply adjusting the roasting and steeping time, the flavor changes, making it interesting and sparking conversations during the tea gathering.
While it may be thought that tea can only be made with tea leaves, any type of leaves can be used to make a drink. Personally, I really enjoyed a blend with a generous amount of rosemary for its delightful aroma.
During this season, I realized there would be opportunities for outdoor BBQs. Instead of just grilling meat and fish and toasting with beer, why not try having a tea gathering over charcoal?
Matcha Gâteau au Chocolat (by Ko.Y）
Let's translate the passage about Matcha Gâteau au Chocolat:
Matcha Gâteau au Chocolat is a variation of the classic chocolate cake, Gâteau au Chocolat. Its origins can be traced back to the 1700s in France. The name "Gâteau au Chocolat" is derived from the French language and translates to "baked chocolate confection."
What is the difference between Gâteau au Chocolat and Brownies?
The main differences lie in the use of eggs and the ratio of all-purpose flour.
Use of Eggs:
In Gâteau au Chocolat, whole eggs are either whipped like a sponge cake or egg whites are beaten separately to create a meringue. This results in a rich and moist texture, yet light and fluffy.
Brownies, on the other hand, involve mixing whole eggs directly into the pastry dough. This gives them a texture that falls between cake and cookie, with a dense and a slightly hard texture.
Ratio of All-Purpose Flour:
Gâteau au Chocolat typically uses a smaller amount of all-purpose flour compared to brownies.
Matcha Gâteau au Chocolat is a variation that incorporates matcha powder into the traditional recipe. Matcha is a traditional Japanese powdered green tea known for its rich flavor and distinct bitterness. The combination of intense chocolate and matcha creates a unique flavor profile with a delightful aroma.
To make Matcha Gâteau au Chocolat, the basic method remains the same as for regular Gâteau au Chocolat, with the addition of matcha powder to the batter. Sifting the matcha powder before adding it to the pastry dough helps ensure even distribution.
Some recipes also include a dusting of matcha powder on top of the cake as a garnish. This not only adds visual appeal but also enhances the overall flavor.
Matcha Gâteau au Chocolat is highly recommended for those who enjoy the taste of matcha or are looking for a dessert with a touch of Japanese influence. The harmonious balance between the rich chocolate and the unique flavor of matcha creates a truly delightful treat.
Living in a share house (by Hiromi)
From mid-April to the end of July, Wazuka, the tea town, is in the midst of the busy tea-growing season. Tea farmers are busy from morning till night every day. Since there is a shortage of manpower during this period, farmers hire temporary agricultural workers (support farmers).
Every year, along with an influx of tourists seeking new tea, the number of temporary support farmers increases, making the town very lively.
These support farmers live in separate houses on the farmers' properties or in vacant houses in the town. My home also serves as a shared house that accommodates these support farmers.
The backgrounds of the people coming to this shared house are diverse.
Some have an interest in agriculture, others want to take some time to consider their next steps after leaving their jobs, and some travel around the country helping with agricultural work during the busy farming season.
The atmosphere of the shared house varies depending on the residents. Some years, housemates spend time together in the shared space after work, while in other years, everyone spends their time in their individual rooms.
I always feel excited during the spring, wondering who will come and what kind of atmosphere we will have this year.
This year, I'm living with three women, and they are all independent and considerate, which is a great help for me as the house manager. Also, it's unusual to have two people who love tea, so we often have discussions about various types of tea while brewing and enjoying tea together. As a result, the sink is filled with tea leaves every day. That's another unique story of this year.
Living with different people inevitably leads to some troubles. As the number of residents increased, the septic tank of the composting toilet became full, and we couldn't use the toilet until the service provider came to empty it.
The other day, there was a snake in front of the entrance, so I hurriedly mowed the grass in front of the house. People here experience a slightly inconvenient life unique to the countryside.
In addition to that, every year there are various dramas, such as struggling with work or enjoying it so much that the contract period is extended. I think those stories could be turned into a novel.
While living together, I hope that people will come to love Wazuka town, its residents, and tea.
d:matcha Founding Story Part 22 ~ d:matcha and Handmade Markets（by Misato.T)
In 2018, we were in our second year of our business. Like any brand, acquiring initial customers was a significant challenge. The brand recognition of d:matcha was poor, and there were very few customers who would come to Wazuka Town specifically for d:matcha, so we actively participated in sales events in urban areas and at various events to get customers.
In 2018, we regularly participated in local events called "handmade markets手作り市" that were held about once a month at each location.
These handmade markets were small-scale events similar to farmers' markets, where a wide range of products, including agricultural produce, food, pottery, and daily goods were gathered. Many of the vendors were small-scale businesses that sold products they made by themselves, hence the name "handmade market."
Kyoto, in particular, had a lot of handmade markets,, such as Kamigamo shrine, Hyakumanben, and Heian Jingu shrine, attracting a large number of customers, from tourists to dedicated fans who would come every month.
The charm of handmade markets is that anyone can easily set up a booth. You can easily apply by postcard and, by paying a rental fee, even borrow display stands.
Among them, the most famous one is the handmade market at Hyakumanben Chion-ji Temple. Started in 1987 as a place to exhibit handmade creations by amateurs, Hyakumanben's handmade market is said to be the pioneer of the handmade market boom. It is a large-scale handmade market with 500 vendors participating each time, and on the day of the market, vendors start lining up in front of Chion-ji Temple as early as 5:30 in the morning to get a good spot to sell.
When participating in the Hyakumanben market, we had to leave Wazuka Town around 4:30 in the morning, so it was quite tough. However, the Hyakumanben had a large number of visitors, and our products sold well.
At handmade markets, there is a close interaction between vendors and customers, allowing for relaxed sales conversations. If customers like our products, we can gain repeat customers who would come to d:matcha every time.
Before starting the business, I thought it would be easy to set up booths in big department stores or train stations, but after starting the business, I realized that there were significant barriers to entry for such locations. Brands without a track record are often rejected.
Even d:matcha, in its early days, refined its sales know-how by participating in small-scale events like handmade markets. In 2018, we participated in these handmade markets about once or twice a month.
By selling our products, we could think about how to make them sell and continuously come up with improvements. This attitude remains the same even now. Selling products is a profound world.
(a photo)Handmade markets at Hyakumanben attract a lot of shops and customers. ↑
(a photo)This is a handmade market at Kamigamo Shrine. University interns helped with sales. ↑
(a photo)This is from when we participated in the Kyoto Municipal Subway Christmas handmade market. ↑
d:matcha Sapporo（by Daiki.T）
On June 2, 2023, d:matcha opened its third branch in Sapporo, serving as a franchise base. The owner, Mr. Kanei is my classmate at graduate school in Boston, USA. Although he was born in China, he has been living in Japan for over 15 years and holds Japanese citizenship. He is proficient in Japanese, Chinese, and English. With qualifications as a Japanese tea instructor and having interned at d:matcha twice, including participating in the harvest work, he possesses extensive knowledge and experience. With his meticulous personality, I have high expectations that he will gain loyal customers.
I also visited the Sapporo store for final adjustments during the pre-opening on June 1. The location is extremely convenient, just a 10-minute walk from Sapporo Station. Moreover, the climate in Sapporo is truly pleasant, so until it gets cold, I realized that the take-out style, enjoyed near the TV Tower or the Clock Tower, is suitable.
Since the needs of customers vary by location, I am confident that the best service can be provided by combining the expertise and passion of the local owners, who are most familiar with their areas, with the know-how of our main store. As a fundamental requirement, the owners must have rich knowledge of tea that begins from cultivation.
I am happy to be able to take on new challenges.