What is Shincha Tea?
What is Shincha tea? Shincha is a tea that a lot of people are curious about so we thought we would write up a short article about shincha as well as take the opportunity to share some of the shincha tea we have found around Japan. Without further saying, let's start our complete guide about Shincha right here 👇
What is Shincha Tea?
Shincha is made by using the leaves from the first picking of the season. These leaves are the youngest, freshest and are also known for having the highest concentration of nutrients in them. This tea has become famous for its taste and seasonality and there is an excitement that builds each year.
What Is the History of Shincha?
People used to wait around all year to be among the first to drink the fresh shincha harvest in the springtime. Before the use of modern refrigeration, tea had a much shorter shelf life and in order to get it “fresh” it was best to buy it as close to the harvest as possible.
Nowadays, it doesn’t matter quite as much when you buy the shincha. Most farmers have a cold storage facility where they can store shincha green tea until it is ready to be sold. When the tea is kept in these cool, dry environments, it can really maintain its flavor for a much longer time.
Modern Shincha green tea production
Shincha tea has now become quite a competitive business. Of course there is always a competition to be the first company to sell the new shincha harvest, and there are quite a few tactics a farmer can employ to harvest their shincha tea earlier.
When you grow the tea plants in the south of Japan, spring will come earlier and so will the young sprouts. When you grow shincha green tea on the southern island of Kyushu, you can harvest it 2 weeks earlier than the tea grown on the main island of Honshu. Some tea producers will grow their tea in the south so it can be quickly transported as aracha and finished earlier.
Certain tea cultivars also produce sprouts earlier on in the year. These early budding cultivars like Saemidori can produce sprouts up to a week before Yabukita. Yabukita is the most common cultivar produced in Japan, so all other cultivars are compared to it to determine whether they are “early budding” or “late budding”. This weeklong advantage may not seem like much, but it can make all the difference when it comes to shincha tea.
How is Shincha Tea Produced?
Shincha is produced just like any other type of tea. First the tea is harvested somewhere in between early April and early May. The top sprouts of the tea plant are selected in order to maximize the flavor and the nutrients.
Once the leaves have been selected and gathered, they need to be processed immediately. The tea leaves will begin to oxidize naturally overtime, and eventually become a black tea. Because shincha is a green tea, this oxidation process needs to be stopped by applying heat. Like most Japanese green teas, this heat is applied with steam, locking in the more grassy and vegetal flavors of the leaf, as well as maintaining its green color.
After the leaves have been steamed, they go through a controlled drying process. The tea leaves start out at around 70% moisture but they need to be brought down to between 4-7% in order to infuse properly. If this drying process is done too quickly, meaning at too high of a heat, the leaves will “roast” and it will impact the flavor. Instead, the shincha leaves are dried slowly over time in a series of ovens and conveyor belts.
Right before the shincha tea leaves are completely dried, they are rolled into these needle shapes. This is done when the leaves have a little bit of moisture in them and are still pliable. The leaf shapes aren’t quite as tight as a Gyokuro, but more on the level of a Sencha. Once the final shape has been achieved, the shincha green tea leaves are dried once more and packaged.
What Does Shincha Taste Like?
The flavors of shincha tea can be described as tart and savory, but there is also some sweetness to the tea as well. The tartness comes from the catechins in the tea, and the sweet and savory flavors are due to the theanine. The taste of shincha tea is quite complex, with these smoother and sweeter tones battling these tart or slightly astringent notes. Each sip of this tea is a little bit different, and it leads to an enriching tasting experience.
What is the Difference Between Shincha Tea and Sencha if they are both made of the first flush tea anyway?
With shincha, the priority is to be fresh and early, whereas other types of sencha are blended overtime to reach a desired taste profile. While the shincha can be packaged and sold right away, other teas need time to be evaluated and blended by the Chajin or tea master. As a result, a shincha green tea produced by a farmer will taste different every year, whereas a Sencha will taste more or less the same. If you want a specific flavor profile, go for the sencha later on in the year but if you want a new seasonal taste each year, try some shincha green tea.
When is Shincha Green Tea available?
If you are looking to get the latest harvest of shincha, you will have to wait until the late springtime. Although the shincha tea is harvested in April or may, it still takes some time for it to be packaged and shipped. The good news is, the tea lasts for quite some time, so you can easily enjoy last year's harvest until this years harvest is ready!
How To Brew Shincha Tea
Brewing shincha tea is similar to any other type of sencha. Just follow this quick guide and you will be preparing shincha green tea like a pro in no time!
Instruction to brew Shincha
Step 1: Add in 5 grams of shincha tea to a teapot. We recommend the black kyusu teapot for this one
Step 2: Pour in 150ml of warm water at about 160 degrees fahrenheit. Hotter water will make stronger tea, but it will extract more of the bitterness.
Step 3: Let the shincha tea leaves sit in the teapot undisturbed for 1 minute.
Step 4: Pour out your shincha tea and enjoy! The built in strainer inside the kyusu teapot will automatically separate the leaves so they don’t end up in your cup!
Does Shincha Hojicha Exist?
There is a reason why shincha hojicha does not exist. Hojicha is normally made from the older leaves and stems of the tea plant. There is so much work that goes into the production of teas like shincha and gyokuro and a lot of that work is negated in the roasting process. Of course you can roast your own shincha hojicha at home, but this is not recommended. A good shincha green tea is a celebration of these slightly tart, vegetal flavors and these can be lost when the leaves are roasted.
What are the Shincha Tea benefits?
There is a long list of shincha tea benefits, but we can skip the ones that apply to all other types of green teas. Because shincha is made from the youngest sprouts of the tea plant and from the first harvest, there are certain shincha tea benefits that don’t apply to other types of teas.
During the winter time, the tea plant is allowed to rest, and during this time it is able to absorb nutrients from the soil. These nutrients are then released into the first sprouts in the springtime, which are then used to make shincha tea. The tea plant can then be harvested 2-3 more times throughout the year, but because the resting period is not as long, the nutrients are more diluted.
Among the many shincha tea benefits are a higher theanine content, more caffeine and antioxidants. If you really want a powerhouse of nutrients, you should go for a shincha tea instead of a tea made from the second harvest or from the older tea leaves.
What are the Best Shincha
Shincha Asanoka Kabuse