November 2021 Newsletter
An update from d:matcha’s tea fields: A tea farmer’s yield by Aka.H
Regardless of the type of sencha or tencha being produced, freshly harvested tea leaves are sent to tea factories where they are immediately steamed to halt the oxidation process. The high temperature of the steam inactivates the enzymes responsible for fermentation in the tea leaves.
While the next steps of the process may differ, the last step is always similar. The tea leaves are dried till the water content is at 5% or less. The difference in weight (freshly harvested tea leaves vs dried tea leaves) is a tea farmer’s yield.
For example, if 100kg of fresh leaves were harvested and 19kg of sencha was produced, the yield is 19%. This number varies according to the type and quality of the leaves but generally it ranges around 20%. The yield has a direct correlation with the amount of fiber (water weight) in the leaves. Thus the lower the yield, the higher the quality of the tea. Young tea shoots have a low yield percentage while for bancha harvests, the yield may exceed 25%. Shaded tea leaves may also have a lower yield percentage.
Gyokuro production focuses on achieving a yield percentage of 15% or lower. Taking the yield percentage into consideration forces tea farmers to adjust their farming management styles.
The relationship between tea fields and persimmon trees by Chisei.T
In Wazuka Town you may have noticed that there are occasionally persimmon trees in the middle of the tea fields. At first I was thinking of cutting these trees down because each time we want to harvest tea, we have to remove the leaves that fall onto our tea fields, which can be time consuming. Furthermore these trees tend to get in the way of our harvesting and fertilising.
I decided however to do more research as to why farmers had chosen to plant these trees. Interestingly I found out that these persimmon trees were famous for their 柿渋 or kakishibu. Kakishibu is an astringent persimmon juice that is used as a dye or to treat wood. Prior to the Second World War, these were sold in abundance in Wazuka Town at stores known as “shibuya”.
At a shibuya, the kakishibu is used to treat and strengthen the utensils used for making tea. When this astringent liquid comes into contact with air, the tannin oxidises and thus makes the utensils firmer. Kakishibu was also painted on paper or wooden boards to make them water resistant. After the Second World War however, the number of shibuyas drastically decreased due to the development of chemical paint. Currently there is only one shibuya left.
Persimmons are also often dried and made into a traditional snack known as hoshigaki. Pickled persimmon skin is also extremely delicious! The elders in Wazuka Town told me that things are not made like they used to. When I heard that I decided that I should not cut down these trees after all.
The secret story of how Uji-Matcha Caramel Almond Cake was created by Natsuki.S
Every month d:matcha thinks of new confectionery but occasionally it can be difficult to create a new product from scratch. Today I would like to share more on our Matcha Caramel Almond Tart!
When we first mixed caramel and roasted nuts with the matcha cheesecake, the end product looked more brown than green. The texture of caramel was also too strong and the bitterness of matcha was indistinguishable. While we initially felt that combining matcha and caramel was a bad idea, we decided to try again.
During the second try we added houjicha to the caramel nuts and tweaked the cake to have two layers. The compatibility of houjicha and caramel was excellent! We felt that this would definitely be a favourite of both matcha and houjicha fans. But wait! Our initial plan was to create a cheesecake for matcha fans… While the current cake is good, if it is only because of the houjicha, are we going to compromise our initial plan solely for that reason? We can do better than this! So we decided to challenge ourselves once more!
Finally we decided instead of completely burning the dairy and sugar to create caramel, we heated the matcha and caramel a little bit to not completely overwhelm the matcha and caramel combination. Under the caramel there is a matcha flavoured texture base filled with almond.
Finally we were able to create the cake we had in mind and with that we hope that you enjoy our new Uji-Matcha-Caramel-Tart.
Tea with the family by Ryhan
The other day while I was doing some research on the international tea market, I found this extremely moving poem. Originally written in Mandarin by Shao Qian, the piece is titled “Strong Tea or Father”.
The poem tells of the writer’s journey back to his hometown and the medley of emotions that course through him as he shares a cup of tea with his father. While time has passed and his view on life has matured, the small ritual of sharing a cup of tea has not.
This shared habit of drinking tea across Asia has always fascinated me, as does any poetry written about its poignant intricacies. Or perhaps now that the weather has drastically dropped, this has also brought out a sense of nostalgia. Either way I am looking forward to the day I can share a cup of tea with my family again.
Black tea for the colder seasons by Azusa.U
Wazuka Town has suddenly become significantly chillier! Similar to food, there are varieties of cold and warm tea that can help us to either stay warm or cool down.
Sencha for example is a good example of tea that is sometimes chilled to help us stay hydrated. As the tea leaves are not fermented, this has a diuretic effect that helps us stay calm and cool in summer. In winter on the other hand, black tea or kocha is the perfect choice. The fermented tea leaves have a warming effect when brewed and are often coupled with spice to boost this effect.
When it comes to spices, my personal recommendations are cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves! These are also the spices we use in our chai. Not only do these spices help us stay warm but they also promote better blood circulation. This also aids in relieving the pain from stiff shoulders in winter, as well as ensuring oxygen and nutrients are distributed evenly. Furthermore, the 1,8 cineole component in cardamom is known to help with boosting immunity.
Aside from spices, honey is also recommended because it contains a plethora of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and polyphenol. These help to keep the body moisturised and boost one’s digestive system. The coming cold days can be tough and make it easier for one to catch a cold. Drinking tea could be one of the ways to prevent that!
New Years day for tea during November by Seiya.H
In chado or the way of tea, there are two main seasons. The first season is known as “Furo” and lasts from May until October. The second season is called “Ro” and takes place from November until April. Today, I would like to share more on the Ro season and a ceremony called “Robiraki”.
Ro was originally used to refer to a hearth approximately sixteen square inches long. The ro is placed in an open square shaped hole in the centre of the tea room. After inserting the hearth, it is filled with ash. A fire is then started with charcoal and water is brought to boil with a kettle. During this season we also use tatami mats that have a small corner of the mat cut off.
When I first saw a ro I wondered why we needed a hole in the room just for a kettle. Then I was taught that the location of the kettle depends on the season. The kettle is located at the corner of the room during the furo season. Since furo is mainly during summer, the boiling kettle is placed as far away from the guests as possible. On the other hand, during the ro season, it is placed nearer to the guests to keep them warm.
Every year on the 1st of November, we hold a ceremony called Robiraki to celebrate the first day of the Ro season. One big event during Robiraki is called Kuchikiri.
During Kuchikiri, a huge jar known as Chatsubo is opened. This jar was previously filled to the brim with tencha leaves harvested during spring. After being opened, the tencha leaves are immediately grinded with a stone mill into matcha powder. This is one of the reasons why Robiraki is called the New Year's tea season. Instead of sweets like manju, some ceremonies also serve zenzai or sweet red bean soup to be enjoyed with the matcha.
Different utensils are also during the Ro season. For example, the kettle and ladle is one size larger compared to the Furo season. For tea bowls, there is a tea bowl called Tsu-tsu-chawan or a tube-shaped tea bowl that helps the tea stay warm. Even the size of the charcoal is different with the two seasons. The charcoal for the Ro season is two times larger than the Furo season.
The way of tea is a traditional art that has been around since the sixteenth century and it is very interesting to observe how the tea tea rooms are tweaked to accommodate the different seasons.
(Part two) Establishing d:matcha: Boston and Matcha～ by Misato.T
Before establishing d:matcha I lived in Boston, a city on the eastern side of the United States, with Daiki (my husband!). My experience in Boston helped us a lot when it came to business planning. Today I would like to share my experiences in Boston and matcha.
I started going to Chado or way of tea classes in Boston. Urasenke is an academy for chado and even in Boston there is a branch where the teachers teach not only Japanese people but also foreigners. The utensils and manners are the same as in Japan. The Boston Children’s Museum has a Japanese tatami mat room and this is where I took the tea lessons. This atmosphere was intriguing because it felt as if I had entered a different world in America.
Boston is also called the town of universities since it is home to some of the world's top institutions such as Harvard, Boston University, and MIT. Some of my fellow classmates were from these universities. I was extremely moved that most people who are interested in Chado are intellectuals. They were also extremely enthusiastic about their lessons!
One mistake I made however, was asking a rude question to my teacher. I asked him if non-Japanese are able to understand the delicate art of tea. To which my teacher replied, “Race doesn’t matter at all. Even some Japanese people may not understand the intricacies of tea. Those who understand will understand and that’s fine.”
Matcha is known to be healthy which is already a reason for its attractiveness but matcha also has a significant cultural role that is irreplaceable. This made me realise that with the right content, I could create fans of this beverage across the world.
There were also some very kind teachers that gave me private lessons during their busy hours. Everyone working energetically together to study Japanese and tea ceremony culture also made me realise that each person’s effort counts in upkeeping our history and traditions. This photo was taken on the first day of the Ro season. I was very happy to be praised by foreigners for my kimono.