June 30, 2019

Shincha Tea, Japan's First Flush Tea

Teas classified as "first flush" are those made from the buds and leaves plucked at the beginning of spring. The stress of winter weather contributes to high concentrations of flavor compounds in the new spring shoots. The most well-known first flush tea is Darjeeling First Flush, typically harvested between mid and late March. Other first flush or first harvest teas include Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell and Silver Needle from China and the spring harvests of gaoshan teas in Taiwan.

What is shincha?

Shincha aka ichibancha is the first flush tea made from Sencha cultivars. Sencha is the most commonly produced green tea in Japan. Sencha accounts for 63.4% to 80% of Japan's total tea production. Most of the Sencha harvested in Japan is grown in Shizuoka. The typical harvest period for Sencha is late April to mid May.

How are sencha and shincha made?

Although Shincha is made from Sencha cultivars, their production processes are different. Sencha is made by sorting and blending different batches of aracha or raw tea. The aracha process includes steaming, rolling, and drying. To create aracha for Sencha, the leaves undergo different lengths of steaming.  Asamushi Sencha is steamed for 30-45 seconds while Fukamushi Sencha is steamed for one to two minutes. After the leaves undergo the full aracha process, they are sorted by size and then blended. Shincha undergoes less processing to maintain the entire spectrum of spring flavors.

Brewing sencha and shincha

Both types of Japanese green tea can be prepared using the same technique.
  1. Add 2 tbsp (10 g) of tea to your 7 oz (210 ml) kyusu or teapot.
  2. Pour 80 C water gently over the leaves in your kyusu.
  3. Steep the leaves for 60 sec (Sencha) or 40 sec (Shincha).
  4. Pour the tea into your drinking cup (do not leave any liquor in the kyusu).
  5. Infuse the leaves twice more (Ippodo Tea Co. recommends pouring the hot water over the leaves then immediately transferring the liquor to the cup).

How does Shincha taste?

Shincha hit many of my tongue's taste buds: sweet, salty, savory (umami). Thankfully, the tea exhibited no bitterness. The texture was lush. I noted vegetables and herbs in my cups of Shincha. If you haven't tried this type of tea, I recommend the Ippodo Tea Co. 2019 Shincha 2019.

Shincha Newly Harvested Sencha 2019 courtesy of Ippodo Tea Co.

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