November 2020 Newsletter

Updates from d:matcha’s tea fields (by Hiroki.A )

In conventional farming, pesticides are used multiple times throughout the season. This includes spraying the tea leaves prior to the first and second harvest, as well as in summer and autumn. The timing of which the spraying is done is also extremely important. Spraying the tea trees on time ensures a proper foundation is laid for the next Spring’s harvest. Managing the condition of the tea trees all year round is crucial to yield the best results. As tea farmers, we do not only monitor the tea trees prior to the harvesting season.

For our non-organic tea fields however, we usually spray pesticide approximately four times a year. Contrary to popular belief, this frequency is half the standard amount used by other tea farmers. As for organic farming, neither pesticides or herbicides can be used. Therefore our organic tea fields have to be prepared for the coming harvest season through their own vitality. As we continue to grow our tea organically, we’ve been able to spot the subtle changes in the tea trees more distinctly. The damage caused by insects however, are still the most visible.

One interesting point I’ve noticed is that the damage caused by insects in an organic tea field varies depending on the location of the field, as well as the variety of the tea. For example, a tea field located in a sunny and warmer area is less susceptible to diseases as compared to a tea field located in a shady area. The former however, is more susceptible to insects. The Gokou cultivar is known to be naturally resilient against both insects and diseases. This is why our Gokou tea fields despite being organically cultivated, grow as though they’re being cultivated conventionally.

Other variables such as the time of harvest and change in climate also affect the presence (or lack thereof) of diseases and pests. Generally we avoid the second harvest for our organic tea fields. This provides the tea trees with room to adjust to the end of the rainy season. This period is also when there are less pests, allowing the shoots cut during the first harvest to regenerate. As we continue to manage our organic tea fields, we are slowly learning how to manage our expectations according to the variables, as well as better understand each cultivar and tea field.

d:matcha’s staff’s tea life(by Natsuki)

We recently held a tea workshop comparing different types of sencha. Most of these were ‘rare tea’ purchased by Daiki-san during his visit to the Kyushu Region. As Kyushu has a warmer climate than Wazuka, there are specific cultivars that are easier to cultivate there.

Out of all the tea that I drank, I was most impressed by “Kirari 31” from Miyazaki Prefecture. Don’t you think the name of tea sounds like a Shinkansen (bullet train)! The origin of the name however, is that the producers want this tea to be able to shine brilliantly in 1 (full) of 3 (sun) sunlight. I also found it interesting how much thought was placed into the origin of the name. The “Kirari 31” possessed a very sweet scent, but the tea itself was much lighter than I had expected. We also tried Tokunoshima’s Saint Rouge and Kamairicha.

Opportunities to drink tea from other regions are quite rare. I felt my world of tea expanding as I discovered different variations of tea through the tasting session.One day, I hope to travel all over Japan; taking my time to drink the different types of tea native to each region.

Aiming for Sustainable Agriculture(by Chisei.T)

As previously mentioned in the August newsletter, I have been using brewed tea leaves as a supplementary fertiliser for the turmeric growing in my vegetable garden. Two months have since passed since I started this experiment!

As I water my plants, I’ve also noticed that no weeds have sprouted since I started this experiment. Curious as to why this was, I decided to do some research. According to my readings, studies have shown that “epicatechin gallate” and “epigallocatechin gallate” present in tea catechins may have a germination inhibitory effect.

In conventional farming, plastic mulch (black vinyl sheet) is used to control or limit the growth of weeds. The disposal of these plastic sheets after the crops have been harvested however, is now proving to be problematic.

I feel that by using brewed tea leaves and biodegradable tea bags as a fertiliser/providing a natural resistance to weeds, there is both the potential to reduce the amount of plastic waste, as well as promote sustainable agriculture.

A day celebrating Japanese tea!(by Saki.N)

Did you know that in October, there are two days known as “Japanese Tea Day”? Usually when we refer to Japanese tea, the months of April and May are likely the first to come to mind. In the olden days however, while tea was harvested from April to May, the leaves were aged till October before it was drunk.

The first Japanese tea day of the month falls on the 1st of October. According to tales from the past, Toyotomi Hideyoshi organised a large tea ceremony in Kyoto at Kitano Tenmangu. This location is well-known to house the god of entrance exams. Regardless of one’s status or nationality, the event was open to the public and everyone was welcomed to participate in the ceremony. Thus this day has since been established as the anniversary of when the love for tea was made available to all.

The second tea day falls on the 31st of October. This day is also said to be the anniversary of when “Eisai” was said to have returned to Japan with tea seeds. Reports also say that the way Eisai brewed matcha then was similar to how matcha is brewed today. During Eisai’s time however, matcha was drunk solely for health purposes and sold as a luxury item.

I find it extremely interesting that there are two Japanese tea days in autumn! There are also several other beverage-related anniversaries during this season. As the weather grows colder, slowly advancing us towards winter, won’t you huddle up with a warm bowl of matcha?

One year with d:matcha(by Ryhan)

Even though I officially joined the team as a staff member in February, a year ago I was actually at d:matcha as a volunteer through the WWOOF programme (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms)!

Part of the joy of the d:matcha experience has definitely been the opportunity to welcome interns and visitors from different countries and walks of life. Some of our interns this year however, found themselves stuck in Japan due to the current situation. I can empathise with how difficult it must have felt, being away from their home country and loved ones. Therefore the team and myself are always trying our best to welcome interns with open arms and strive to make them feel at home as possible.

Needless to say, 2020 brought unprecedented changes for everyone. We each have had our own challenges to face. Hopefully however, by this time next year we will be travelling because we can, not because we are stuck.

I look forward to showing you our tea fields in the near future!

"Pudding variety comparison set" is now on sale!(by Misato.T)

We have started selling a new product: our pudding variety comparison set! The team and myself have always wanted to make pudding as it’s a treat that can be enjoyed regardless of the season. Furthermore this product is popular among both adults and children alike. I had a strong feeling that having this on our menu would please our customers.

Thus far our “Okumidori” matcha pudding has been very well received by our customers! Some of the compliments we have received include how the taste of pudding has changed dramatically with such “the rich matcha taste”, and that it “can’t be compared to other types of puddings”.

Aside from the strong matcha flavour, the tea used in each variety of the pudding is of extremely high quality. This is the special touch that adds to the deliciousness of our pudding. As a matter of fact, the staff who tends to the farm are the same crew who produces our pudding! As we lovingly make our pudding using tea we’ve harvested, we hope that you will also enjoy the surprise each variation has in store for you too.

d:matcha news(by Daiki.T)

In the five years that I’ve moved to Wazuka, I have found myself slowly becoming accustomed with the community through the support of the local residents. Being well acquainted with the different processes on the other hand, is a different story. There are times when it’s extremely difficult to create a bridge of understanding with the local community.

Just the other day I was trying to suggest repurposing and utilising an empty meeting place as a location for tea-related workshops. The meeting place, which has been left unattended for more than 10 years, is located in the Yubune area. This is also where most of our tea fields are. I had also applied for a subsidy grant with the consent of the main figureheads of the major areas in Wazuka. During a discussion session with the local Yubune residents however, I was met with resistance and have since had to cancel my plans.

As the meeting place is considered as a shared property among the residents in Yubune, we were told that d:matcha would have to speak directly to each of the 34 residents in the area for their consent. Since we only spoke to the main figureheads of the Yubune area, the other residents were displeased. To them it seemed as though they were robbed of their opinion and the decision had been forced.

Prior to this I was already aware that it would be difficult to reach a consensus on new initiatives, especially when there are no appointed representatives for “joint properties” (such as the meeting place). I was slightly shocked as I had assumed the figureheads were the key personnel in-charge of the meeting place. Needless to say, navigating such a situation was extremely unfamiliar to me.

As a young company with genuine feelings of wanting to improve our town, incidents like these often leave us feeling frustrated. This however, only strengthens our resolve to work harder, and to continue building that bridge of understanding with our older neighbours.

November 2020 Newsletter - d:matcha Kyoto