For this article I will be focusing on tea cultivated in town of Wazuka, which is also referred to affectionately as Wazuka-cho. Wazuka-cho is located in the south of Kyoto Prefecture.
Unknown to many, Wazuka-cho is one of the largest producers of Uji Tea in Kyoto Prefecture. Wholesalers in Uji purchase tea leaves directly from the tea farmers. These leaves are then processed, repackaged, and sold to retailers as Uji Tea. Uji Tea has in recent years gained recognition among international consumers due to its quality and taste.
In 2015, the team at d:matcha moved to Wazuka-cho. Since then we have been working hard to both learn from other tea farmers and to promote Wazuka’s deep tea culture to visitors. This includes PR activities, such as visitors to d:matcha’s cafe and tours to our tea fields. Through this process, I also hope to shed more light on the fact that Uji tea produced in Kyoto Prefecture is mostly from Wazuka.
I’m sure some of you may have noticed that even when you’re purchasing tea outside of Kyoto Prefecture, the tea might still be still labelled as Uji Tea. The real definition of Uji Tea however, is quite broad.
Definition of Uji Tea
According to the Kyoto Prefectural Tea Industry Council, Uji Tea is defined as “tea produced in the Kyoto, Nara, Shiga, and Mie Prefectures.” These four prefectures were chosen due to their long comprehensive history, culture, geography, and weather. Priority however, is still given to products produced in Kyoto Prefecture.
While the demand for Uji Tea has exponentially increased, the farmers of Wazuka are worried that the benefits of the boom will not reach them. With this in mind, part of d:matcha’s mission has shifted from just producing high-quality tea, but we also wish to elevate Wazuka’s status and make the town known to everyone around the world.
The Concept Behind d:matcha
D:matcha was started with a firm belief in allowing our customers to choose the tea that fits best for them, rather than just providing scripted recommendations. Therefore, in addition to promoting Wazuka, my focus has also been exposing my customers to the wide world of tea. Tea is extremely versatile, and depending on how it's produced or where it’s produced, the flavour profile changes. My hope is to be able provide enough information for my customers so they’re able to connect and identify with a tea they like from Wazuka.
Aside from describing the flavour profile or qualities of the tea, I also like take my customers on a journey by sharing the details of the fields, including its topography, terrain, and history. This is mostly motivated by the niche questions we have received over the years such as the processing methods for organic tea, the harvesting method, as well as harvesting timeframe for different cultivars.
At the end of the day, our top priority is still the same: the tea we produce has to be delicious. Our customers have travelled all the way deep into the countryside for an experience. Our goal is provide them with a brand new taste, especially one that they haven’t experienced before. The information and effort that goes into making the tea should also be well-conveyed to our customers.
Part of our long-term plan also includes formulating a standard that can be easily conveyed to our customers. Taking a leaf out of French wine, we would also like there to be a standardised judging criteria for tea across all prefectures and regions in Japan. Granted our customers may not always make a purchase solely based on the criteria, but I feel such a system may help them to have a better understanding of the product.
In conclusion, tea produced by d:matcha is done entirely in-house: from the farming, to the processing, and even the packaging. At our main store in Wazuka-cho we are aiming to not just provide quality tea, but to also complete with detailed information on the tea fields and qualities. Ultimately, we want these aims to allow us to reach our goal of putting tea from Wazuka in the spotlight, as well as formulating an adequate standard for green tea.