Hiking in the Town of Wazuka with d:matcha

A View of the tea town of Wazuka in Kyoto, Japan

About Wazuka

Many famous tea areas reside in Japan but one with the most breathtaking views is situated just an hour outside of Kyoto. The small town of Wazuka is said to have been selected as a tea production area during the Kamakura period (1192-1333), making it one of the oldest tea regions in Japan and is trademarked by the well-organised green hillsides that enclose the town.

Thanks to the climate, especially the low humidity, cooler temperatures and nutrient rich soil, Wazuka-cha is one of the most highly regarded teas in Japan. Over 300 families dedicated to the craft of producing tea still keep this industry alive today, tending to the rows of evergreen tea plants.

Wazuka-cha is famous for being a greenish golden yellow colour that has a unique flavour, fresh but sweet. This is mostly thanks to the Wazuka River that creates a morning mist that runs through the town from east to west.

Photography: Mark Robinson

d:matcha Introduction

Based in the famous tea town of Wazuka is d:matcha, a company founded by brothers Daiki and Chisei Tanaka in collaboration with farmer Hiroki Aka. Chisei Tanaka and Hiroki Aka are next generation farmers who trained with the master tea farmers in this area to cultivate high quality tea that is sustainable, local, and organic.

Through their great work at d:matcha they have been able to introduce a younger generation to this area, with Daiki and his wife Misato running regular tea tasting workshops from their shop in Wazuka and offering hiking tours and tea picking experiences in the beautiful mountains of Wazuka.

The one hour trip from Kyoto is not treacherous by any means, only two trains are needed and a short bus journey up to this idyllic rural town. Although a day trip is possible, spending a few days here would be preferable. You can cycle around the island, learn about tea, and taste the special foods here that incorporate the Wazuka-cha, the tea grown here in the town of Wazuka.

I met d:matcha founder Daiki Tanaka in person at his shop in Wazuka and we talked while we hiked to the top of the hillside and stopped at one of his tea farms in this area. Daiki is from Tokyo, so it was great to hear his thoughts on the local community and the farmers who tend to the tea. As the farmers have an average age of 66 years old, one of Daiki’s many goals is to bring a younger generation in to the community to appreciate tea culture. Many of thoughts echo mine, especially in regards to the craftsmen of Japan and how many of these important skills and traditions are being lost from the lack of succession within families.

After our hike to the top of the mountains with beautiful views overlooking the town, we picked a selection of fresh tea from the d:match tea farm. When we returned it was great to taste a selection of different tea and learn all about the tea culture in Japan. Here are a selection of photos from our trip. We are proud to represent d:matcha at OEN shop and offer a selection of high quality matcha and sencha.

Tea Farms in the tea town of  Wazuka in Kyoto
Tea Picking Ceramic TilesRice growing in the fields.
Harvesting Japanese Green Tea in Wazuka, Kyoto
The farmers work in the fields to slowly cut the top of the tea bushes. These fresh leaves will be taken to be steamed, cut and rolled. The bushes will be left so that they can regrow their leaves throughout the year. Approximately three cuts can be made each year on one bush.
The Wazuka hill line with unique ridges that set it apart from other tea picking areas.
The Wazuka River running through the centre of the town.The hills of Wazuka
The Wazuka River runs through the centre of the town, the surrounding trees capture the moisture and make the perfect environment for tea to grow.
The famous ridges on the Wazuka hillside that gives this area such a unique aesthetic.
Hiking with d:matcha founder Daiki Tanaka in Wazuka, Kyoto.Greenery in Wazuka, Kyoto
Hiking with d:matcha founder Daiki Tanaka in the mountains of Wazuka. A steep incline, but worth it for the breathtaking views.
Abstract lines in the town of Wazuka
Wazuka is famously known for the attention to detail taken by the Japanese farmers to produce the best possible tea. They have created these unique patterns on the hillside similar to pieces of abstract art.
The Wazuka landscape, taken from the top of the tea farms.
Slowly climbing through the hills to get the best possible view of the landscape.
Beautiful trees that shoot straight up to the sky.The hiking pathways that lead up to one of the best views in Wazuka.
Tea picking in Wazuka, Kyoto.
Tea picking in Wazuka is a special experience. The smaller leaves are less bitter and have a sweeter taste, but bigger leaves can be mixed in to create more of a bitterness.
Picking the smaller leaves on the tea bush.Selecting leaves for our own tea.
Maintaining the edges of the tea leaves in Wazuka, Kyoto.
Rocky path leading up to the mountains of Wazuka.The light shining through the trees.
Inside the d:matcha shop in Wazuka, Kyoto.
A look inside the d:matcha shop in Wazuka, Kyoto. Here they stock a fresh selection of tea straight from the hills. You can also enjoy beautiful foods infused with matcha and other green tea.
The d:matcha shop interior.
More views inside the shop of d:matcha.Beautiful tea bowls
Here is the area where the tea leaves can be sorted and sieved.
The interior inside of the d:matcha shop.Different types of Sencha that are available to purchase at d:matcha.
Using a special bamboo whisk called a 'chasen' to mix the matcha powder to make matcha tea.
Using a special bamboo whisk called a ‘chasen’ to mix the matcha powder to make matcha tea. The pattern of moving back and forward creates a frothy green matcha.
The pattern of moving back and forward creates a frothy green matcha.Frothy matcha waiting to be drunk.
Matcha is made by grinding the tea leaves using a stone mill to create a fine green powder.
Turning the mill to create the matcha powder.Rotating the mill slowly creates finer powder.
Matcha is made by taking the tea leaves and grinding them on a stone mill. This stone mill creates a fine green powder that contains all the healthy nutrients of the tea plant.
Wazuka River in Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan.
Balancing Stones on the Wazuka River.Miroku Magai-butsu carving near the Wazuka River.
‘Miroku Magai-butsu’ has been engraved in to the cliff looking down upon the Wazuka River. It was carved on this gigantic granite stone in April, 1300.
Wazuka bushes with fresh tea leaves.Farmers tending to the rice fields in Wazuka, Kyoto.
Beautiful tea landscape in Wazuka, Kyoto.
Parallel lines running across the hills of Wazuka in Kyoto.
Picking tea leaves by hand in Wazuka, Kyoto.

Interview with Daiki Tanaka of d:matcha

Hey Daiki! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Thank you for introducing me. I am Daiki Tanaka, the founder and owner of D-matcha CO., LTD.

We are producing Japanese green tea in Wazuka, Kyoto. This is the biggest production site of Uji green tea, the most premium brand of Japanese green tea. In addition to producing green tea we are running a cafe to teach customers about the attraction behind Japanese green tea.

What made you start d:matcha and what is the concept behind the company?

I started with a vision rooted in an appreciation for the unique quality of Japanese tea and a desire to revitalize an industry threatened by Japan’s ageing society. With a passion for authenticity and holistic innovation, we offer the highest quality Japanese green tea selections to current and future generations.

What did you do before d:matcha? Did you have any other plans before you helped start this company?

I majored in Agricultural Economics at Kyoto University, so I wanted to do something related with Japanese agriculture. When I was 26 I became the CEO of a doughnut chain, at that time I needed to eat at least three doughnuts a day so I came up with the idea of starting a Japanese green tea company.

You are originally from Tokyo! Since Tokyo and Wazuka are very different what made you want to move to Wazuka and start d:matcha? Was there an initial source of inspiration?

After I decided to start this business in the green tea industry we visited many green tea production sites in Japan. The main reason why we chose Wazuka is the quality of the tea.

The landscape of Wazuka creates a higher quality tea. Uji tea has the highest quality and brand recognition for green tea in the world. There is Sencha, Matcha, Gyokuro, Kabuse-cha and many others. Approximately 40% of all Uji tea is produced in the town of Wazuka, so when you drink Uji tea you are most probably drinking Uji tea that’s been grown in Wazuka. Since there is a river that runs through the centre of the town and a forest that surrounds it there is a “fog” that is created. This fog is the secret to the sweetness/umami of the green tea produced in Wazuka.

Farmers are always competing with each other. When it comes to green tea we are processing it the same day by ourselves. In other production sites in Japan, after farmers process the tea it is difficult for them to sell it all with just the farmer’s name. However, in Wazuka, we farmers can sell the leaves with our own name and try to achieve a better quality tea through trial and error.

Was it a shock when you first moved here?

There were shocks but they were all good. The air is fresh and the water is tasty. If you can use the internet and you can drive a car then nothing is too inconvenient.

What are the positives and negatives of being based in Wazuka?

Some positives are that for the production of higher quality Japanese green tea Wazuka is the one of best locations in Japan. Even though Wazuka is a countryside location people can come from Nara station within 30 minutes and from Kyoto and Osaka in around 60 minutes. So it’s very easy to welcome people from these big cities.

One negative is that we often have to visit other cities and cool stores to improve the design and how we run our cafe.

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