September 2020 Newsletter

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


D-matcha has been focusing on organic cultivation and in recent years, we have also gradually increased the number of tea fields that are a part of this plan. Aside from striving to meet the growing demand for organically grown products, we also hope to achieve a sustainable production procedure to produce this load.


Within the framework of Organic JAS (Japan Agricultural Standard) Certification, fertilisers and pesticides that have been chemically synthesised cannot be used during the cultivation management process. This makes it near impossible to protect young tea shoots from diseases and pests through conventional cultivation methods. In other words for organic tea fields, the tea trees are required to maintain their own vigor through their own vitality. Therefore when managing organically grown plants, it is necessary for us as farmers to face and manage the condition of tea trees through thorough and non-conventional methods.


The most important factor in organic cultivation is enriching and ensuring the mother leaves are healthy. This term, “Mother leaf” is used loosely in reference to the branch or leaves that support budding shoots. This bbase grows from Summer to Autumn, and once it is pruned during the latter, it will also serve as the base for the following year’s Spring harvest. The maintenance of the mother leaves are essentially in producing tea of high quality.


As these leaves grow in Summer, the frequency and types of diseases and pests often change periodically and according to the weather. Currently at d:matcha, we have been avoiding the second harvest, especially for our organic tea fields, due to the wet climate during tsuyu (the rainy season) and the fluctuation in the number of pests. Furthermore, the pruning of our tea trees are done during different periods to avoid the August pests. Last but not least, the damage inflicted onto the tea trees differs according to the cultivar, as well as the type of pests found on each individual tea field.


As you can imagine, this makes it predicting the condition for the tea trees for the year extremely difficult. Each management plan is always drafted after taking into account the condition of the tea trees, the weather for the year, as well as through daily monitoring. Every year I am studying to understand our tea fields better!


Left: The Gokou cultivar that is able to grows freely and has a higher resistance to pests


Right: The Okumidori cultivar whose shoots have sprouted exactly during the period when the number of pest increased.


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

One of our  frequent customer recently told me that despite buying d:matcha’s tea leaves and brewing them the same way we do in store, the taste was completely different from when they drank it in Wazuka! This led me to ponder if the quality and type of water was the reason. To figure out this mystery together, we decided to conduct a tea comparison test with 10 different types of water, each with different hardness levels as well. 

The cultivar we used for this experiment was our Okumidori. 5g of tea leaves, 80g of hot water at 70 degrees, and a steeping time of a minute was standardised across each brew. The only experiment variable was that the water used ranged from hard water (1468 mg/l) produced in France to hot spring water (1.7 mg/l) from Kagoshima. 


Initially we assumed that hard water would dilute the taste of the tea leaves, and that soft water would produce a brew that is far more mellow and delicious. On the flip side, when the tea leaves were brewed with hot water, we realised that we were able to taste the umami component of the tea clearly, without any astringency! Water with a hardness of 30 mg/l to 60 mg/l produces a brew that has a strong astringent taste. The hardness of water in Wazuka is 11.7 mg/l, but mineral water of similar hardness produced a brew with a similar taste and balance to that brewed with water from Wazuka.


While it is virtually impossible to choose the type of water based on its hardness, I think that using water that possesses a similar hardness to groundwater will allow you to extract the best qualities of your tea leaves. This was an extremely informative experiment, which clearly shows a deep correlation between water and tea.


Our aim for sustainable agriculture(by Chisei.T)

I often freeze tea leaves that I have brewed to eat with ponzu at a later time. Lately, this preservation method for my tea leaves has also proven to be an extremely handy substitute for vegetables as the price for the latter has risen sharply due to this year’s drastic climate.


At the same time however, since it would be impossible for me to consume a lot of tea in one day, so I have decided to use the tea leaves as a fertiliser for my home grown turmeric! 

Tea leaves contain a high content of amino acids, and after being brewed, these tea leaves also contain nitrogen and other nutrients that were not extracted. The microorganisms and enzymes in the soil are often gradually decomposed into a form in which plants are able to utilise them for growth. For example, when a plant lacks nitrogen from the soil the tea leaves often turn yellow.  Four days after the start of the experiment, as visible in I found that the leaves of my turmeric plant turned significantly darker and the growth speed has increased.


Nitrogen is not finite compared to other fertiliser components because it exists in our atmosphere, but a large amount of energy is required. Many fossil fuels are also used in the production of artificial nitrogen fertilisers.  While I am still in the preliminary stages of this experiment, I hope that in the future tea leaves can be a useful resource in the production of agricultural products or fertilisers.


The charm of Aracha(by Saki.N)

Tea farmers often drink Aracha, in the form of Sencha tea leaves that are blended with Aracha or powdered tea leaves. While each of these different types of teas have their own taste, I would like to tell you more about Aracha’s charm!


The characteristic of Aracha is that the tea leaves are generally larger and contain the tea stems. This allows you to enjoy the original taste and aroma of the tea leaves. There are as many varieties of tea trees as there are varieties of rice such as Koshihikari and Kinuhikari, and so when you are drinking Aracha, the distinct differences of each variety (for example location or land) are also evident in the tea’s taste and aroma.


To enjoy Aracha, I would recommend brewing the first roast at about 70 degrees! Different tea varieties have different aromas and tastes, so we also recommend that you compare them to find the taste you like the best.


Our friends on the tea field (by Ryhan)

Now that Japan is deep into the dog days of Summer, we have been frequently visited by insects and other creatures out on the tea fields! I have to admit there are times when I am slightly overwhelmed by the amazing variety of species and colours.

 

In addition to the usual suspects you’d expect to find such as grasshoppers, praying mantis, and butterflies; one would also be able to encounter frogs, lizards, dragonflies, moths, bees, and hornets. The animals found on the tea fields are also a good indicator on the state of the tea trees. 


That being said, animals might be more welcome than others. Naturally as farmers, we would also classify aphids and spider mites as pests rather than friends. Nonetheless it is always important to treat them with respect, and as organic farmers we try our best!


A variety of our Sencha in 2020(by Misato.T)

This year we harvested a large variety of green tea, but in small quantities for the store. Looking back, there are now 15 different types of Sencha for our customers to choose from! A lineup that definitely embodies the deep varied world of Sencha. Furthermore, the peak of farming and our store sales tend to overlap during the First Flush of the year, which falls in May every year. While the influence of COVID-19 saw the shrinking of our store operations, I still feel fortunate that the team was able to expand the number of tea products available for 2020.


The taste of Sencha also varies depending on the variety, cultivar, shading period, and location of the field. The taste also changes slightly each year depending on the weather and management conditions of the field. All these variables and the variety of taste always keep me amazed with each new discovery I make every day about our products. 


I'll continue to do my best to convey such surprises and fun to as many customers as possible in an easy-to-understand manner!


About d:matcha(by Daiki.T)

On August 20th, there was a training held on the “Organic Production of Tea” at the Wazuka-cho branch of Kyoto JA in Yamashi. There were more than 20 participants, and this included veteran farmers with more than 30 years of experience organically cultivating organic tea in Wazuka-cho, as well as younger farmers who have recently started farming. At the training we conducted an in-depth component analysis of organic tea and had a sampling session of organic tea nationwide.


At d:matcha, we are also expanding the range of our organic cultivation, with the ultimate goal of making the most delicious organically grown green tea in Japan. I was extremely happy with the component analysis as it scientifically proved that the umami component of our organically produced tea is extremely high and the quality of the first-grade product was maintained despite being grown in a pesticide-free environment.


This year, we are challenging our pruning techniques with a trial and error method. The main goal is to balance the effect humidity has on our organic fertilisers (such as rapeseed oil dregs, oyster shells, and fish). One interesting point to note is that the difference in insect damage and disease varies greatly depending on the location and variety. At the end of the day, I feel that Kyoto varieties are definitely most suitable for cultivation.





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