An update from d:matcha's tea fields by Aka.H
“Seedlings” is the term used for sprouts that are cultivated from seeds. Tea trees can also be grown through this method but these days such tea fields are growing increasingly uncommon in newer tea production areas. A part reason for this is because seedlings possess different genotypes, which results in a plethora of character variants on the same tea field. This makes timing the harvest period for farmers extremely difficult. Given that timing and demand for ‘new tea’ has been standardised by the modern tea industry, such traditional tea fields are thus not practical for tea farmers.
One clear advantage that seedlings have over the cutting counterparts however, is the taproot. The taproot is the main root of the primary root system and the first root to grow from when the seed germinates. This root often grows thick and straight into the ground. This expands the total surface area of the tree’s roots allowing the plant to expand and tap into water and minerals deeper in the ground.
On the other hand, the roots of tea trees from cuttings are adventitious roots. This means the roots developed from a non-root tissue part of the plant such as the stem. These roots often form during normal development or when a plant is under stress. As such, adventitious roots possess different characteristics from the tap root and result in the plant being less resistant.
As many woody plants have a long life cycle, it is difficult to isolate certain genes. Furthermore woody plants are also capable of vegetative propagation, and in this process the character variants cannot be easily duplicated either. With the development of technology in breeding and artificial seeds however, if we are able to treat each cultivated variety as a seedling, perhaps it may be possible to enjoy even more delicious tea.
Learn about Japanese green tea and more in Wazuka Town by Natuski.S
I bet customers who have purchased our products enjoy tea and that being said I would like to invite everyone to experience Wazuka Town for themselves!
Did you know that 40% of tea labelled as Uji tea is produced in Wazuka Town? Would you like to see for yourselves what a tea farm looks like? What is the key difference between sencha and matcha? What is gyokuro? And why is Wazuka Town the main area of tea production for Uji tea?
When you come to visit us in Wazuka Town, we’ll be able to answer all of these questions! In addition to that , you can experience the different types of tea firsthand. I myself started my journey at d:matcha as a tour participant! After experiencing the tour I fell even more in love with tea, and felt that this was something I would like to commit to.
If you are travelling to Wazuka Town from Kyoto City, it will take you about an hour and a half. While it may seem like a long journey, I feel that it is well worth the experience. The itinerary includes tea leaf picking, a visit to a sencha factory, enjoying a tea-themed lunch, a tea tasting experience, and even tea tempura!
Come and visit us in Wazuka Town today :)
The beauty of roasted tea by Chisei.T
Roasted tea is known at houjicha and is produced by roasting harvested green tea leaves at a high temperature. In comparison to sencha leaves, the temperature at which the houjicha leaves are roasted makes them harder. This process also results in houjicha tea having less caffeine and catechin or in other words: a milder taste.
Another key component of houjicha tea is pyrazine. Pyrazine, which is an aromatic organic compound with a pleasant smell and relaxing qualities. Tea farmers often harvest tea leaves for houjicha in between the first (spring) and second (summer) harvest. These leaves tend to be slightly older and thus have a deeper flavour profile. Furthermore, the tea fields these leaves are harvested from are fields that were not shaded. Unshaded tea fields have absorbed a lot of sunlight, which makes for a better texture and aroma.
At d:matcha we usually harvest our tea leaves for houjicha right after our spring harvest. Houjicha from Wazuka Town is especially famous for its aroma. Houjicha tea is extremely good for children, the elderly, those who have some form of sickness, or even those who enjoy drinking tea as a nightly bedtime ritual. We hope that you enjoy the delicious smell of houjicha.
Ps: You can also make your own houjicha at home. Simply roast the old sencha leaves in a bairo - a special pot for tea leaves - to enjoy!
Learning about farming through anime by Ryhan
Since moving to Japan one of the questions that I always get asked the most is: “How did you study or pick up Japanese?” Undoubtedly living in Japan has provided me with invaluable experience and practice, but there are still certain media that I am partial to.
Music and literature play an integral role but personally I was first introduced to the Japanese language through anime. Especially with slice-of-life animations, the trials and tribulations of the characters are something that anyone from anywhere can relate to. I also find it fascinating how the little nuances of culture are littered throughout the various story arcs.
One of my favourite farming related shows is Arakawa Hiromu’s Silver Spoon (銀の匙). The story revolves around a young boy who enrolls into agriculture school assuming it would be easier as compared to other courses. Naturally he is proven wrong and in the process learns a lot about the farming world. Through this anime I was exposed to terms about farming, which the teachers in Japanese class are unlikely to cover. Needless to say I can also relate very closely to the main character’s journey. (*<*))
While Fullmetal Alchemist (鋼の錬金術師) is probably the work Arakawa-sensei is most renowned for, I would highly recommend Silver Spoon too. Who knows, maybe one day someone will produce an anime about tea farmers as well or d:matcha could make one!
Matcha is a superfood by Azusa.U
“Superfood” is a term used to describe food groups that are healthy and well-balanced in terms of nutrients and matcha is one of them! I would like to explain further in detail why matcha has been classified as a superfood.
Firstly, the catechin levels in matcha means this drink has high levels of antioxidants, which is effective in slowing down the aging of cells and preventing cancer. Furthermore, the tea leaves themselves contain high levels of vitamin and dietary fibre due to the cultivation process.
Secondly, the vitamin C and catechin components found in matcha work in tandem to suppress the production of the pigment melanin. Melanin is often responsible for the sudden pigmentation of spots and freckles on one’s skin. The caffeine found in matcha accelerates the speed of lipid oxidation and its conversion in enzymes. This makes matcha extremely effective if you’re looking to keep a clean diet or to maintain your skin.
Last but not least, matcha also has relaxing effects. Theanine, an amino acid found in matcha, possesses a sweet flavour profile and is known to aid with reducing stress levels and blood pressure. Theanine can also be used to improve one’s sleep quality and concentration levels.
The three reasons I listed above are thus why matcha has been touted as a superfood. By directly consuming the leaves in powder form, you are also able to enjoy all the benefits that come with. Perhaps this is the reason matcha is increasing in popularity in many different types of confectionery as well!
Drinking matcha in summer by Seiya.H
Sen-no-Rikyu, the grandmaster of tea in the sixteenth century has a famous phrase: “Cool during the summer and warm during the winter”. One of the many ways to interpret this is that during the winter warm matcha is served while a cooler tea is served during the summer. These days however, we also serve warm matcha to our guests in summer but with different approaches to enable them to enjoy a similar cool sensation.
First of all, traditional tea rooms have paper sliding doors known as “fusuma”. In summer we replace these bamboo screen doors called “sudo”. Sudo are made with thin layers of bamboo and are shaped similar to a raft, which brings a cool draft into the room.
Furthermore, most traditional tea rooms are adorned with zen scrolls that are usually the calligraphy of a single kanji character. During the summer, we usually hang a scroll that has a character related to either water or wind. “滝” or waterfall is one such popular option.
Special chawan or tea bowls are also used during summer. For example “hirachawan” are a popular choice as they are flatter compared to traditional tea bowls. This allows the surface temperature of the matcha to cool faster. Other utensils for drawing typical summer features such as fans or watermelons are also used. In more recent times, glass utensils have also been gaining in popularity.
Last but not least in summer, water manju made from kuzu is famous. A small yellow nerikiri is added at the top to make it look like a firefly.
I guess my point is that you do not necessarily need ice for tea! Over the last 400 years, our ancestors have figured out several ways to enjoy matcha even in summer. I hope you enjoy your matcha this summer too!
Starting green tea farming - part three by Misato.T
For the third part of this series I would like to focus on retailing and managing the sale of your tea!
Traditionally most tea farmers harvest and sell their tea in the tea markets or to wholesalers. It is rare for tea farmers to retail their tea directly to the consumers.
One difficulty of this approach is the timing of the harvests. The earlier the tea is harvested, the higher the price it can be sold for, and vice-versa. For most new farmers, the farms inherited are not of a high-quality. In addition to a later harvest timing, this may also mean that the price of the tea can be sold at drops significantly due to the quality levels.
New farmers are also often overlooked in the former as the quality of the tea is not verifiable. Therefore, the main option when approaching the markets is to sell the tea directly to our consumers. This also allows us to sell the tea at a flexible price according to the field or cultivation methods.
On the flip side, this forces us to use our imagination and focus on branding as well as packaging. At d:matcha we focus on comparing the different cultivars and tea tasting experiences so our customers can build an interest in the tea. The photos attached show our tea tour tasting experience. I think the opportunity to communicate with the customers makes the experience of selling tea more enjoyable for us as well!
Pesticide free rice fields in Wazuka Town by Daiki.T
Starting this year, D-matcha started with the cultivation of our own rice field, which happens to be located near our tea fields.
Rice is a staple part of the diet for many Japanese and an integral part of the country’s tradition. Personally, I especially enjoy brown rice. The bran content of brown rice also makes it extremely healthy. For that reason, we decided to branch out and experiment producing our own brown rice tea noodles. This challenge was also a good opportunity to tackle the organic cultivation of rice as many rice farmers have previously told us that producing pesticide-free rice is extremely difficult.
Echinochola is a type of weed that is commonly found in rice paddies. As compared to removing weeds found in tea fields, removing the echinochola weeds is much more difficult! Our rice paddies are 0.7 acres wide and approximately 20% of the field have been overtaken by the weeds. This past month we also experienced long rainy spells, which reduced the amount of time we spent at the rice paddies. While this may sound stressful, doing the work while admiring the scenery of the rice paddies and red dragonflies is very relaxing.
We are extremely excited to produce rice made in Wazuka Town and are certain with the fertile soil, fresh water, and clean air that it’ll be delicious. We will also expand our product range to include our rice in our confectionery. Please look forward to new delicious yummy that is also excellent for your health.