I started Tekuno out of a desire to showcase the breadth of Japanese teas—despite there being fervent Taiwanese oolong and pu-erh pundits, I felt there was neither knowledge nor access to high quality Japanese teas here in the States. In particular, I wanted to showcase the nuanced lens that Japanese tea production perfected in green teas. Different regions, terroirs, cultivars, and processing styles change the brew ever so slightly and the result far exceeds simple bitterness most often associated with green tea.
To be honest, I was not interested in sourcing matcha when I began my journey with Tekuno. With matcha so popular in the US, there are countless matcha brands online, at specialty cafes, and in grocery stores. What did I have to say? What more could I add to the conversation?
As I began learning more about tea culture in Japan, one aspect became increasingly clear: there is no matcha—neither frothed with a bamboo whisk and drunk straight, nor mixed with milk and sugar—without understanding the extensive ceremonial history for which matcha exists. Matcha and tea ceremony are synonymous; until very recently, there has never been one without the other, and the industry, production standards, and growing regions reflect this fact. After careful consideration, learning, and studying (though I concede this is a lifelong journey that I am just embarking on), I am happy to share Tekuno’s philosophy towards matcha and the release of our first collection of matcha.
The most famous region for matcha production, Uji, is close to Kyoto, the original capital of Japan and where matcha flourished in the 16th century. Tekuno’s first collection of matcha hails from a lesser known but equally esteemed region: Fukuoka, a prefecture on the island of Kyushu. Prized gyokuro and matcha are produced near the Yabe and Hoshino rivers, including the producer we are working with this year.
Unlike other Japanese green teas, where growing regions are the most common delimiter (“sencha from Shizuoka”), matcha producers in Japan are well-known; different schools of chado favor different producers, and these producers work with the various schools to craft their preferred styles.
Aside from finding a producer that I felt was representative of the beverage’s rich history, one question I contemplated for a long time was whether Tekuno should offer its own brand of matcha—essentially white labeling an industry—or share matcha in the packaging the producers send it in. I am pleased to share that, rather than rebrand or anonymize our matcha, Tekuno will carry matcha in its original packaging, which stores the matcha in a sealed, airtight metal can. Our perspective is similar to that of wine importers, who rely on their producers to create packaging that best expresses the beverage they crafted. We have added our own notes to the packaging to describe nomenclature and brewing instructions in English. Leaving our matcha in its original, airtight packaging is also critical for preserving freshness. Though this packaging is less consistent with our other designs and forms, I am proud to represent our matcha in a way that respects its heritage.
Matcha Grades & Pricing
As a general rule, there is a one-to-one correlation between matcha quality and price in Japan. At one end of the spectrum, you will find culinary matcha that is bitter, more coarsely ground, or not made with the first tea crop of the year; at the other end are the highest grades of ceremonial matcha, the most revered of which are marked by rich, unctuous umami, smooth texture and finish, and no bitterness or astringency. We intend to maintain this same principle in our pricing, with ceremonial matcha suitable for usucha (“thin tea,” or tea whisked with froth) being the base grade we carry. As well, we continue to pursue strict standards regarding aroma and flavor profile, preferring beverages that are low in bitterness and astringency.
Preserving Matcha Freshness
Exposure to heat, humidity, and light quickly degrade the fragrance and flavors of matcha. Because matcha is so fragile, we are taking careful measures to ensure that our matcha is as fresh as that in Japan. Our matcha is kept in cold storage until shipment to you. We also order small, frequent orders from our producer rather than buying in bulk, so that our matcha is never older than a month. (Our producer grinds their matcha to order.)
When you purchase matcha, please store it in your refrigerator and consume within a month once you have broken the seal.
We hope this was useful and shed light on our approach to our matcha. In subsequent letters, we will write more about the origins of matcha, how it is made, and how to identify a fresh, high quality matcha powder. Please enjoy.