October 2020 Newsletter

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

Pruning of New Shoots

As we manage our own tea plantations, we can prune the tea trees according to our own schedule. We also usually conduct this at a different timing from other farmers in Wazuka. In Summer, the tea trees are often trimmed to a medium height or a much deeper cut is performed.

From Summer to Autumn, tea plantations that have been carefully pruned often grow longer and thicker stems than those under normal management. The reason for this is that the deeply cut branches limit the number of branch points. These points form the base of the buds, and since the number is reduced water and nutrients are supplied more intensively to these specific particular points, allowing the buds to grow strong.

These lower buds do not grow sufficiently during Autumn pruning and since they are not pruned, they are left ‘buried’ by the leaves growing nearer the surface of the tea trees. Furthermore during the next first flush, these buried shoots are rarely harvested. I sometimes refer to these buds as ornaments for the tea trees. Increasing the number of effective buds and enriching each branch is a very important factor not only for increasing yield but also for improving quality of the tea.

The pruning of new shoots is thus conducted to avoid this problem. In the summer, the top buds that grew vigorously can sometimes have up to six leaves and grow up to 30cm or more. If one or two leaves including the apex are removed by pruning, the excessive growing can be halted. The nutrients that were initially being distributed to the upper sprouts that have suddenly stopped growing, are now supplied to the lower sprouts. This switch of apical dominance and change in supply destination will provide the lower buds an opportunity to grow. This process also increases the number of equally enriched young buds. This task is however extremely difficult to do this work in the hot Summer sun, when temperatures can reach up to 35°C.

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

On my off day I went to visit the Kyocera Museum of Art located in the Okazaki District in Kyoto City. A light of the recent completion of the past three years of renovation works, there was a commemorative exhibition of contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto.

One of his more notable works, “the glass tea room”, which has been displayed in Venice and in the Palace of Versailles in France, was displayed in the beautiful new garden rounds. There was a tea room with glass ceilings on all sides. I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the beautiful space as I imagined myself being served tea against a backdrop of singing birds and the calm trickling of water.

I was very impressed by this new contemporary approach towards traditional Japanese art. More significantly it was an extremely precious time that allowed me to experience something beautiful given the recent pandemic. The way art was curated to compliment the space it was exhibited in was also extremely welcome. I hope that this autumn, and once the situation with COVID slowly settles, I will be able to experience more beautiful exhibitions.

Aiming for Sustainable Agriculture(by Chisei.T)

One day when I informed a customer, "Dmatcha's tea bags are made of Soilon and are biodegradable so it is perfectly fine to throw them away in the garden when you're done drinking your tea!” This customer responded with, “Is this tea bag really biodegradable, and if so, how long will the process take?"

As part of d:matcha’s initiative towards being more environmentally friendly, we have decided to start small by first tackling challenges that are right in front of us. All of our tea bag products have been switched out from the traditional nylon to Soilon tea bags, which are made from poly lactic acid polymer resin (usually derived from corn starch). This allows the tea bags to be broken down by microorganisms and enzymes after they have been used.

I personally however, have yet to witness the decomposition process! Thus I decided to conduct my own experiment so that the next time a customer asks me the same question, I can answer with full confidence.

For the experiment I prepared four different test areas, each with three samples. Each test area consisted of the following: nylon tea bags used for Sencha, Soilon tea bags used for Sencha, Soilon tea bags used for Japanese black tea, and Soilon tea bags used for ginger roasted tea. Each of these tea bags were buried 5 cm above the ground and watered every morning.

Some mornings I feel a quaint sense of loneliness watering a tea pot filled with just tea bags. Despite the fact that I’m not growing anything I am confident that in time this experiment will allow me to answer with confidence! The tea bags will be dug up a month from now and I’ll let you know how it goes.

The season for Kuradashi Tea!(by Saki.N)

Everyone knows that aging wine and whiskey makes the beverage morer delicious, but very few know that tea harvested from the First Flush can also be aged! The flavour profile changes drastically, and almost a new tea is born from the aging.

Ieyasu Tokugawa, a tea connoisseur from the Edo period had built a tea brewery in the mountains to store sealed tea harvested from the First Flush in a teapot. At that time, it was impossible to fill the brewery with nitrogen or add an oxygen scavenger to prevent deterioration. Therefore placing it up on the mountains where there was a lower altitude seemed like the optimal choice. It was also said that he liked to drink his preserved tea during the first full moon in autumn. This tea is now known as "Kuradashi tea".

Kuradashi tea has a strong taste and aroma, but when brewed the tea possesses a mellow richness and umami. Recently, the temperature has dropped and the season has changed from summer to autumn. Usually when it’s a chilly day at home, one will want to drink a warm cup of Sencha. I brewed my Kuradashi tea that I purchased in Spring, and the taste was a lot stronger. Whenever I have time to drink tea slowly in the day, I feel that I can spend the day with plenty of time.

Raising Awareness of Farming(by Ryhan)

I was recently selected to be part of an environmental journalism mentorship programme organised by Climate Tracker! As the representative for East Asia, I will be focusing my articles on the effects climate change has had on farming, and the importance of organic farming. The ongoing pandemic, if anything, has been pivotal in kick-starting difficult conversations around our food production and supply, as well as concerns regarding the age of farmers in our region.

This is also undoubtedly a brilliant opportunity to showcase the effort that goes into organic farming and sustainability, especially the work that we do here at d:matcha. In addition, I hope that through this I will also be able to raise awareness of the challenges farmers face off the fields. Not just for tea but other staple products East Asia and Asia is known for.

Please do keep a lookout for the upcoming articles and thank you for your continued support! 💪

Revamping our Online Website(by Misato.T)

We are currently in the process of revamping our online website! We used to operate the website using a Japanese hosting service however, such a large scale update requires coding expertise. Furthermore as the technicalities of the procedure is very complicated, it’s extremely time consuming and I wasn’t sure how to fix it!

Thus I decided to contact a global service known as Cody. Based in Silicon Valley, the United States, it always amazes how far technology and innovation has progressed - for someone across the globe to be assisting me.

The revamping work however is still very difficult. First I have to run through the explanations in English, and then tweak the settings to fit the needs and demands of our Japanese customers. While the starting process is an uphill task, I think that once everything is running smoothly, it’ll be much easier for us to manage or make additional tweaks in the future. Please look forward to our new website!

About d:matcha(by Daiki.T)

On 9/22, we decided to try new things again as d: matcha! We offered an online collaboration between d:matcha and Chef Alex of 3-star Michelin restaurant "Singlethread Azurmendi" in California. The cooking class was held over Zoom, and an invitation was extended to our loyal customers (such as yourselves!) and subscribers. Chef Alex had prepared an array of amazing recipes, and in the end we decided to proceed with making Matcha Karaage. The reason for this was that we felt it would be easy for our overseas customers to cook at home and is a well loved Japanese dish. This experience made me realize that there is plenty of room for the development of online services. We no longer have to be restricted by location and proximity. Even things that require deep explanations such as cooking procedures can be conducted in an online session.

Furthermore, as it is difficult for customers who aren’t living in Japan to visit us, this is the perfect way for us to continue building our relationships with them. We definitely have plans to hold regular online events in the future!

This idea was brought to life by our student interns from Stanford MBA’s GMIX Programme. This is the fourth year in which we are taking part in this project however, due to the current situation everything was conducted online. As a result, the scope and schedule of the project was tweaked and optimised for online.

I think that many people, not just me, are excited at new prospects and possibilities that can be brought to life despite the current pandemic. I also hope to actively work towards promoting such events in the future.

October 2020 Newsletter - d:matcha Kyoto