A bit about matcha, how it can benefit your health and why it’s expensive

I have recently taken up a habit of consuming matcha. It is refreshing in this hot weather to drink an iced latte matcha that mixes plant-based milk such as soy or almond milk with the green matcha powder. Apparently, matcha can be pretty good for your health for several reasons, as follows:

Each food has been measured for their antioxidant capacities, in a unit called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity). List of ORAC-rich food items – Source: matcha

It can be expensive

There are two main and popular grades of matcha: ceremonial and culinary. Ceremonial grade is the highest grade of matcha that is made of very young tea leaves and requires a lot more care during the process. Hence, it’s quite expensive. Ceremonial grade matcha reportedly has a delicate flavor and should be used in tea ceremonies only. On the other hand, culinary grade match is cheaper because it reportedly is made of tea leaves that are young, yet older than those used to make ceremonial grade. Culinary grade can be used in baking, cooking and beverages.

To get a sense of how expensive matcha can be, take a look at the listings on Amazon for “matcha green tea powder” keyword

Source: Amazon

I buy my matcha from a local shop called The Tea Smith in Omaha. One ounce of culinary grade matcha from The Tea Smith costs $4.5. There is a cheaper alternative that costs only $2.5 per ounce. It is cheaper because it mixes matcha powder with sugar cane. It baffled me as to why matcha is expensive. I did a little research and apparently, the process of producing matcha is quite laborious and unique. Tea leaves have to be shaded from sunlight a couple of weeks at least before they are picked. After they are picked, they go through several steps of steaming, air-drying and removing stems & old leave parts. In the end, there are only soft particles left, which weighs about 1/10 of the original leaves. The particles are then stone-grounded, using uniquely crafted and carefully maintained stone mills. Each mill produces only one ounce or 30-40 gram of matcha per hour.

There is also a Chasen

A Chasen is a whisk specially used to mix matcha powder with water. I bought my whisk for $18.5! I was shocked at the price at first, but would soon understand the reason why after I learned how Chasens are made. Watch the videos below to know how they are created. Trust me, you’ll be blown away by the craftsmanship, patience and incredible talent of the Japanese

This video touches a little bit more on the hachiku bamboos used in the matcha whisks.

In sum, even though regular consumption of matcha can cost a bit, I do think I will continue with this habit in the future, unless there are scientific studies proving that matcha is hazardous to humans. I think given that matcha is linked with a lot of health benefits, it’s a cheap investment into the most valuable asset one can have. Also, as I learned about the art of producing matcha and Chasen, my already big admiration and respect for the Japanese craftsmanship and culture only grew bigger.

Let me know what you think about matcha. Stay safe and have a nice weekend!

Today I learned – Miso

Admittedly, even though I usually order a miso soup when at a Japanese restaurant, today is the first time I learned that miso refers to the name of a paste, not the soup itself. The fermentation process of making miso is highly complex, time-consuming and demanding. Depending on the flavors required by consumers, some miso can take 3 years to be ready for consumption. It’s interesting to see how it evolved over time, adopting technology and changes in modern life. Nowadays, consumers can drink miso soup like coffee or make miso balls which dissolve in hot water, making instant delicious and nutritious soup.

Today I learned – Japanese earthquake resistant architecture

Earthquake is a part of life in Japan. To adapt the inevitable presence of earthquakes, the Japanese have come up with ingenious, intelligent and skillful ways to make buildings and architecture as earthquake-resistant as possible. It’s amazing that they could build wooden structures hundreds of years ago and they are still standing strong today, despite countless shakings over time. The idea is itself remarkably admirable, but the craftsmanship that goes into building constructions is truly outstanding. Smaller models took years to be built. Wooden pieces were crafted by hands so that they could slot into one another without nails. Concrete is checked and poured carefully to have the perfect spread. I was overwhelmed with admiration for the Japanese folks while watching the genius at work. Highly recommend this eye-opening clip

Weekly readings – 28th March 2020

2020 economic apocalypse for small businesses

How WeChat, TikTok and Chinese Consumers Are Disrupting and Personalizing Luxury

Traffic and Pollution Plummet as U.S. Cities Shut Down for Coronavirus

How South Korea Solved Its Acute Hospital-Bed Shortage

A critical and accurate (imo) critique of a medium blog post that was deceptive, yet went viral.

JP Morgan’s research on small business cash liquidity

UK Tech for a changing world

How Spanish flu helped create Sweden’s modern welfare state

Why don’t we just ban targeted advertising?

Buying During a Crisis

Yearbook on Venture Capital in the US

How 3M Plans to Make More Than a Billion Masks By End of Year

The cost of bad reputation

I came across this article on the fact that Japan is imposing stricter visa process for individuals from certain countries, including Vietnam

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Japan will also expand its list of countries subject to stricter visa checks. Currently, only students from seven countries, including China (excluding Hong Kong and other regions), Vietnam, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Mongolia are under strict visa screening processes. Vietnam currently has the highest number of people overstaying their student visas, 3,065 in total.

It is really shameful to see my country included in such a list. Nonetheless, as I have lived abroad and seen actions by my fellow Vietnamese overseas, I am not surprised at all by the new policy from the Japanese government. I saw Vietnamese students take advantage of the trust by Finnish to avoid paying metro tickets. I heard about the distasteful actions by Vietnamese community in Prague and saw first hand how unfriendly a Vietnamese market was in the city. Hell, there is a lot of ambiguity on how much it costs for a citizen like myself to renew my passport. The fees will depend on one’s occupation and income.

The misdemeanor by a few tarnishes the reputation of a whole people. There is a certain degree of unfairness that some have to suffer by the actions of a few, but that’s just how it works. And Vietnamese people do suffer from having a bad reputation. We essentially need visas to travel anywhere except to a few countries in South East Asia, Africa and South America. My H1B is valid for 3 years, but the maximum length given to a Vietnamese passport is just one year. I do know that my Chinese colleagues get 5-year visas. The lack of credibility creates a great deal of inconvenience, time consumption and trouble. We, as a people, would save a lot of time and money on all the visa paperwork if we had better credibility and if our citizens thought about the overall impact of our actions.

Weekly readings – 25th Jan 2020

The Case Against Huawei

America’s new favorite restaurants are Wawa, Sheetz and 7-Eleven. It’s interesting to see a shift in the behavior of consumers who prefer not walking around in big stores or driving to a fast food restaurant.

Why it only costs $10k to ‘own’ a Chick-fil-A franchise

Why Japan is so successful at returning lost property

A concerning piece on Bumble, its toxic culture and a CEO that doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence

From the darling of fast fashion to bankruptcy: the tale of Forever 21’s demise. This should be the perfect case study for inadequate management, failing leadership and inability to adapt to the changing environment.

The State of Mobile in 2020. App Annie 2020 Report

The SaaS Marketing Bible [41+ Strategies & Case-Studies]. Certainly some good bits of information in there

How Ghent, a city in Belgium, inspired Birmingham to encourage more pubic transit usage

“[A city’s] best car plan is a bike plan,” he said. “Providing more space for walking and cycling leads not only to more people walking and cycling, it also makes space for people who really need to use their cars.”

The Guardian

Ethiopia Pushes Privatization to Give Its Economy a Sugar Rush

Source: DuckDuckGo

An excellent ads by Apple

Weekly readings – 18th Jan 2020

Japan’s Sacred Island

Can a color be trademarked?

Google’s questionable efforts in getting into healthcare

Tesla and Apple Valuation Questions

Unfortunate accidents caused by Amazon’s quest to conquer the last mile challenge

When talking about low unemployment rate, we should also talk about whether the jobs pay enough.

App tracking alert in iOS 13 has dramatically cut location data flow to ad industry

Do DoorDash workers make enough to make ends meet?

Weekly readings – 9th November 2019

Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping the World

Venture Capital Pioneer Kept Entrepreneurs’ Egos in Check

Microsoft Japan’s experiment with 3-day weekend boosts worker productivity by 40 percent

The father of the modern frozen food industry

Nokia’s collapse turned a sleepy town in Finland into an internet wonderland

Apple TV, Apple TV, Apple TV, and Apple TV+. I have to say Apple could and should have done better with all these silly names

Apple Watch Forced Fitbit to Sell Itself

Remember the Uber self-driving car that killed a woman crossing the street? The AI had no clue about jaywalkers

How Google Edged Out Rivals and Built the World’s Dominant Ad Machine: A Visual Guide

AirPods Pro review – within earshot of perfection

Less than Half of Google Searches Now Result in a Click

A deep dive into Internet censorship in Russia

Bob Iger Takes the Gloves Off for Disney’s Streaming Debut

Japanology – Small factories

I am so humbled to watch a short documentary on the magnificent talent of Japanese artists. At times, the tasks at hand require a level of precision that can only be achieved by feels and instinct of humans. For instance, a stainless steel bar needs to have its diameter reduced from 52.01 millimeter to 50 millimeter. Exactly 2.01 millimeter must be removed. No more, no less.

The talent of these skilled workers is remarkable, only bettered by their off-the-chart regard for what they do. All the interviewees have years and years of honing their craft and pride beams out of their face whenever they talk about the work they do. The products of their labor don’t often get mentioned or recognized by end users, yet as the video shows, the parts play a pivotal role in high speed trains or rockets or healthcare.

This type of craftsmanship, dedication and pride in their work seems like a lost art. I have nothing but deep deep respect for Japan, its culture and the example they show the rest of the world.

Inspiring story about Wasabi

If you have ever eaten sushi, you must be familiar with Wasabi, a green mustard that can hit you right in the nose and leave you speechless for a few seconds. It’s not for everyone, but if you can eat the mustard, chances are that you’ll fall in love with it like I do.

I came across a very informative, soothing and inspiring clip on Wasabi industry. The industry isn’t sexy or talked about like others in the mainstream media. So it’s great to see a mini documentary about it. I love clips like this. In the clip, you’ll see the process of growing wasabi plants in a remote yet beautiful area in Japan and learn why the wasabi we eat at restaurants is most likely fake. At the same time, the story of the main character is really inspiring. He keeps on working and plans to continue doing so in the next 10, 20 years despite his old age and the tragedy of losing his son.

If you could be like him, working in a specialized field and offering the world a precious material, with nature in the background like that, compared to the office job in an urban building that you may or may not like, what would you choose?