What we do
After 15 months of careful development & preparation, Material Matcha Uji (MMU) has created 3 blends of one-of-a-kind, exceptionally rare Matcha green teas.
We have been collaborating with traditional tea-masters from the region of Uji (Japan) and using ancient, nearly forgotten blending techniques with the highest quality tea leaves.
Now we are ready to take on the world! We ask the community’s help to:
- buy one whole year of harvest of several plots which are especially good,
- and help us move to full-scale production!
Who we are
Nice to meet you! We are Etienne & Morgan, the founders of Material Matcha Uji :-)
To tell a long story short: we are two French guys, longtime expats in Japan, foodies at heart, of course completely in love with Japan (who wouldn’t be?), who after years working in finance & IT chose to give up our big corporate jobs to go on a quest for purity: to find and (re)create the greatest Matcha green teas ever!
Two years ago, we knew almost nothing about tea! In our search for meaning, we fell in love with Kyoto and the Japanese tea culture. So we completely let go and went back to the “roots” of green tea in Japan: the city of Uji, near Kyoto.
We became friends with secretive tea masters, the rare craftsmen able to select and blend tea leaves to exquisite heights of taste, and with local farmers. After some time they agreed to participate in our seemingly crazy project: to craft high-quality matcha in modern Japan, and to make it available to the world for the first time!
“Impossible!” They said at first! Matcha of this quality is currently not exported, and is also not very popular on the domestic market out of privy tea ceremony circles: young Japanese people do not drink high quality matcha often.
But we convinced our masters! We spent a whole year by their side, learning, planning and experimenting with ancient, uncompromising techniques of tea-making in order to make our project come true: to re-create the long lost flavors, and to make them available to the world, for the very first time!
What we do
We have created 3 unique Matcha blends. They are extremely rare and of a grade that is produced by only 50-100kg a year in Japan. We collaborated with several tea-makers, one of them elected best tea sommelier in Japan 3 times. They taught us, helped us, gave us all their tips and feedback, ensured we were on the right track, and even perfected our formulas in order to reach their level of expectations: nothing short of perfection.
Our craft Matcha blends are:
- The result of more than a year of hard work in the fields and in the workshop.
- Uncompromising, bold, sophisticated, and probably unlike anything you have ever tasted before.
Straying from the classical image of Japanese tea ceremony, this craft matcha belongs to the realm of guilty pleasures, just like artisanal chocolate, craft beer or micro-distillery whiskeys.
When we devised Material Matcha, we also thought is as a way to express our love for the Kyoto arts, and for Japanese design in general. We were lucky to collaborate with hugely talented and award-winning design collective, branding studio Rice Creative. They loved our project from the start and agreed to help us shape our concept: we focus completely on pure material, whether it is our Matcha, or our packagings and items.
Together we thought on the many ways to provide a unique user experience:
- We designed a ceramic of pure material, as a container for our matcha pouches and as a re-invention of the tools used in classic tea-ceremony, which we offer in Limited Editions.
- All our Matcha packages come with a handmade zine, that we designed to convey our journey, and part of our world as tea-makers in Japan. It contains information on how we make Matcha, advice from a tea master on how to prepare it, and many other things about Uji and Kyoto.
- The Matcha itself is held in pouches of pure mylar in order to ensure maximum conservation in almost any condition.
Each of our MMU01, MMU02, and MMU03 is offered in:
- a MMU Pack containing Matcha + Zine.
- a MMU Limited Ceramic Edition containing Matcha + Zine + Limited Ceramic Vessel.
MMU LIMITED CERAMIC EDITION
How we did it
- First of all, we were lucky to be living in Japan for a long time: we have deep knowledge and connection to the land and to its great people. We know the Kyoto Terroir, and we have the business knowhow.
- We work hand in hand with tea-farmers in order to convince them to always favor quality over quantity: our focus is only high-quality Matcha. We deliberately buy tea leaves above market price in order to convince them of our methods!
- We select the very best plots of land in order to reach our flavor profile and extremely high-quality goals.
- We harvest only Shade-Grown tea. Tea fields are covered with straw in the last 10-20 days before harvest in order to boost chlorophyll, amino-acids, and more importantly, Umami: it is a costly, time-intensive, painstaking method but is absolutely necessary in order to reach the degree of sophistication we are looking for. We are looking for extremely savory Umami only!
- We use only the first harvest in May (the later ones, from summer, are not fit for high quality Matcha because it gets too hot and the leaves loose their delicate freshness)
- We select only the very best, top quality young leaves (usually only the top two of each bud).
- We use only ultra-slow stone-milling in order to produce a fine, silky green powder, avoiding any temperature shock and allowing all aromas to express themselves perfectly (max temperature kept strictly under 45C, at this slow rate we need about an hour to grind 30g of Matcha)
- We have our own atelier nearby allowing us to work the tea ourselves: blending, experimenting, stone-milling, up to the final packaging!
- We DO NOT compromise, EVER!
- Last but not least: LOADS of passion, of work, and of trial and error to finally reach our goal.
How does one prepare Matcha
Wait, we thought we heard someone ask how to prepare Matcha! The good news is it is really easy. We filmed a short video of a great grandmaster of tea that says it all:
The one thing you need is a whisk (a "Chasen"). We highly recommend using one. Using a whisk will reveal all of the sophistication of high quality Matcha. It is used to mix the Matcha powder with hot water without lumps, and produces a creamy, delicious froth (not unlike the one on cappuccino). Luckily, we provide a whisk in most of our rewards!
Why we did it
We said we were on a quest for meaning. However, when we became familiar with Uji and the tea-making world we found another quest for meaning, much greater than our own.
While so-called “matcha” is booming worldwide (it is often nothing more than low quality green tea dust), its production has seen a steep decline in Japan. Farmers are facing increasing expenses, weak demand for superior quality matcha, and lower sales value.
Even more worrying: the aging tea-making community faces successor problems, endangering its very existence. The average age of active farmers in Japan is now more than 66 years old. 515,000 farmers are 75 years or older and only 83,000 are 39 years old or younger!
If nothing changes, in 10 to 20 years a whole pan of Japanese culture, knowledge, and agricultural know-how could simply disappear!
(there will still be people making Matcha somehow, but not at a high level of refinement anymore)
We absolutely HAD to do something about it. We took a fresh look to the issues at hand and devised a new development model: if superior matcha doesn’t work in the domestic market anymore, we would take it abroad for the first time, where foodies are thrilled by Japanese delicacies.
That is why we need your help.
Why it’s going to be successful
- As we said, because we have both been living in Japan for years (Etienne even lived in Kyoto next to the tea fields back in 2003!) we perfectly know the land and its great people, we know the Kyoto Terroir, and we have all the business know-how. We have all the supply chain needed to make and deliver a great product!
- Our tea-maker and tea-farmer friends are thrilled by the project and 100% ready to support us! They want their knowledge and techniques to carry on in the future. They want to produce high quality matcha at a fair price, rather than low-quality tea for the big food & beverage corporations who buy them in bulk, squeezing every drop of profit from them. They want to make their work attractive again, and they want to have successors! They trust us.
- We are backed by a great international community of tea lovers, foodies, and Japan aficionados! Who have been asking for high-quality Matcha for years!
- We are honored to have been endorsed by great names in the world of tea who have tried our Matcha, and provided valuable feedback .
- We are supported by a hugely talented design collective, fellow-minded Asian branding studio Rice Creative, who believed in our project from the start and agreed to help us in so many ways: from putting our ideas together, to devising an incredibly cool packaging and zine, in order to convey our love for Japan and Uji, and make the user experience fabulous when you get your hands on it.
Nathan Wakeford is Co-founder of The World Tea Championship, Co-founder of The AustralAsian Specialty Tea Association (AASTA), and Director at Somage Fine Foods.
Linda Gaylard is a Tea Sommelier, Author of the award winning THE TEA BOOK.
Kasia Vermaire is a Tea Sommelier, Second of the World Tea Championship in 2011, and Television presenter at 24Kitchen TV.
Ricardo Caicedo is a Tea sommelier, Member of the World Green Tea Association, and the First Colombian to become Japanese Tea Advisor.
Why we need your support
Our Matcha is ready, our products are ready. We now need your help to move on to full-scale production:
We need you to help us buy one whole year of harvest, in advance, of some plots of land that we selected and that are particularly good. Our tea-farmer friends have given us their trust, made us a favor and reserved this harvest for us! We now need to acquire it.
The sales of this harvest will also allow to secure next year’s harvest! Buying the next harvest in advance will ensure our tea-farming friends that they will have financial stability for one whole year, and let them concentrate on what they do best for the year to come: produce incredibly good tea leaves!
Once we secure this whole harvest and kickstart production, our objective is complete. It is not a huge harvest in terms of volume as we focus only on the absolutely best quality and on some very good, small plots of land, it is very realistic. We only need to start!
What is our target
We have set a target at 8000 EUR ~ roughly 9500 USD. Where will this money, your money go? You may ask. Simple:
- Our atelier is already setup.
- Packaging & design are already done.
- International shipping, anywhere in the world, is already setup.
- We are lucky enough to live in Japan, so we don’t need to spend anything much on miscellaneous living and transportation costs.
That's right: most if not ALL of this 9500 USD (minus Kickstarter fees) will go into securing this first harvest, and helping our tea-farmer friends!
In exchange for your backing, we offer a large variety of rewards! There is one for any budget that you feel ready to offer, from a simple high-five, our art-zine, to our 3 Matcha blends of course, with or without accessories, our Ceramic Limited Editions and even dream packages including our full range of products, private tours of Uji & Kyoto, meetups in Europe, USA or Japan, a skype workshop to talk about anything from tea culture to brand development and gourmet projects, etc.!
Oh, and we ship WORLDWIDE! (shipping included)
The Whisk (also called "Chasen"): using a whisk is absolutely ESSENTIAL to prepare Matcha! We highly recommend using one. Without a whisk you will miss most of the sophistication of high quality Matcha. It is used to mix the Matcha powder with hot water without lumps, and produces a creamy, delicious froth.
Our whisk is handmade out of bamboo, and is very recommended if you don't own one already!
The Whisk Holder (also called "Kuse Naoshi"): while it may not seem absolutely necessary to own a whisk holder, it prolongs the life span of a whisk considerably. Just let your whisk dry on its holder after you clean it, and its shape will be perfectly set for future use for months or years to come. Very recommended. And it looks cool. Our whisk holder is made of black ceramic, and don't let anyone make jokes about its shape.
The Spoon (also called "Chashaku"): again, it may not seem necessary to own a traditional Matcha spoon. Absolutely. But you'll find it strangely gratifying once you start using one. Using a Chashaku spoon sets you in the mood of preparing Matcha, pays tribute to its sophisticated ritual, and is simply the best way to measure Matcha. One or two spoons, you'll soon know what suits your taster better! Our Chashaku spoon is handmade out of bamboo.
Timeline and Production Plan
A quick historical timeline of Material Matcha Uji:
- February 2016: The idea for MMU sparked as we traveled to Kyoto & Uji
- April 2016: Moved to Uji and started working on MMU
- May 2016 - April 2017: Worked on our products, learned so much, designed packaging
- April - May 2017: Straw-shading and harvest (Tencha leaves are stored until fall/winter).
- June - July 2017: More blending experiments.
- August - September 2017: Preparing the Kickstarter.
September 27th 2017: Kickstarter Launch!
Successful funding of this project will start the manufacturing process. The products you see here are pre-production samples from the factories with whom we will be manufacturing.
Production timeline from now:
- End of November 2017: Kickstarter ends.
- Beginning of December 2017: Harvest is bought, Tencha leaves are blended and freshly ground to order and packed immediately.
- December-January 2018: Shipping of products!
Thank you for reading this far!
Having your support means a lot to us. We spent so much time and sweat on this project, put so much passion into it, that we can't wait to make it happen. We can't wait to bring this incredibly good Uji Matcha to the world!
Once again, thank you.
Etienne & Morgan
Risks and challenges
Producing an artisanal, Craft Food & Beverage product is never easy.
Our long experience in Japan, and the long time we spent developing this project and crafting our Matcha blends hopefully limits this risk considerably.
The first harvest we need to start moving to full-scale production is just waiting to be bought.
All packaging design is complete, and we already have samples produced.
Worldwide shipping of our products will be made through great partners that we have previously used.
Despite the familiarity with our packaging supplier companies, there is still some risk involved in successfully transporting and assembling our products in Japan. A production failure from one of our partners could mean some delays in delivering final products.
Our target shipping dates is from the end of November (immediately after the Kickstarter period ends) and in December until all orders are shipped. We will do our complete best in order to make this happen and ship out all orders as soon as possible!
Also please keep in mind that we DO NOT compromise on quality, ever. We are committed to making the greatest craft Matcha and we will not aim for anything less!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (60 days)