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May 8, 2005

Shincha & First Flush Green Tea

Topics: Health Issues

Okay, I admit it, I'm addicted to Japanese green tea. I wouldn't say it's like a chemical addiction, but nonetheless I'd have to say that it's my favorite beverage and I drink up to 8 cups a day of it, hot of course, and all year long. But I've noticed that there's a lot of confusion about green tea, particularly when it comes to shincha and knowing the diference between shincha and first flush green tea. For some insight on the difference lets turn to my favorite source for Japanese green tea, located in Japan, of course. I've noticed quite a difference in taste, color, and brewing time between the O-cha teas(I use both their "Daily Sencha" and "Organic Matcha" teas) and other Japanese teas. The difference is probably a matter of quality, care, and freshness. What many people don't realize is that you use green tea leaves more than once - up to three times, although I usually only use the leaves twice. Interestingly, the second pour is sweeter, greener, and tastier than the first. Now from Kevin Moore at O-Cha.com(O-Cha.com is not a paid advertiser, I derive no funding whatsoever from O-Cha, and have no ownership in O-Cha.com - I just like the tea!):

- Green Tea Blog by O-Cha.com on Shincha & First Flush Green Tea
This topic causes quite a bit of confusion. Since the first harvest just came out, perhaps now would be a good time to discuss this.

First, a few terms to know.  First flush and first harvest green tea are the same thing, that being the green tea harvested from the first harvest in late April-early May, depending on the weather. The growers here in Japan can get a good idea when the harvest will take place based on when the cherry trees bloom first, and this year both the cherry blossoms and the first harvest were a week behind.

Shincha - This means "new tea" in Japanese. This refers to the first flush (aka first harvest) sencha green tea that is immediately packaged and put up for sale after being harvested and processed.

About a month or so after the first harvest is the second harvest. All together, there are about 3-4 harvests, ending in fall. The quality of tea goes down with each successive harvest. While the second harvest isn't too bad, if you want "the best", you will want the a first flush green tea.

The key thing to understand is this - while all shincha is first harvest, not all first harvest is shincha.

Why is that? The reason for that is most of the first harvest is put away into cold storage so that it can be pulled throughout the year as needed. If you want first harvest tea in say, November, what you will actually get (provided it wasn't sitting on a shelf since April - bad!) is a tea that was pulled from deep refrigeration and packaged right before it was sold. This green tea is knows as "kuradashi sencha", which means basically "sencha pulled from the storehouse" in English.

Technically, the "freshest" green tea of the entire year is the shincha availabe from late April through about June or July, as supplies last. Those first harvest green teas taken throughout the rest of the year are also quite good; you'll be hard pressed to tell the difference.

Gyokuro, the green tea grown under shade, is considered to be the highest quality, most expensive of the Japanese green teas, and there is only one harvest. Additionally, most gyokuro is aged for a few months under refrigeration, so there really is no "shincha" gyokuro per se. Most teas like genmaicha, bancha, houjicha come from the 3rd harverst or later. While not considered as high class as a first flush sencha or gyokuro, these teas are nevertheless quite tasty and should not be discounted.

Check out the O-cha.com site for more general knowledge of green teas and of course to learn about their teas and prices.

Additional Information About Sencha and Shincha - What is the difference?

Sencha is grown in full sun, while Gyokuro is grown in the shade. Kabusecha is also grown in the shade, but not to the same degree and length of time as Gyokuro, giving it a taste somewhere between the two. Shincha or "new tea" in Japanese, is that green tea which comes from the very first harvest of the of the growing season, and which also is not put into cold storage but instead is immediately packaged and released for sale. Shincha is only available from May ~ July. It tends to be expensive, as it contains the highest vitamin and polyphenol contents.

Fukamushi Sencha, known in Japan as Fukamushi-cha, it sencha which is steamed for a longer period of time during it's processing. This green tea is often grown at lower elevations. An expert tea grower will steam his tea according to the right conditions for each individual yield, and much knowledge and experience is required in order to adjust it just right. For this reason and others, the quality green tea in Japan varies considerably

Brewing Green Tea.

Additional readings:
Green Tea's Cancer-Fighting Target Found
Green tea 'can block cancer'
A Cup of Tea

Antioxidant potential of green and black tea determined using the ferric reducing power (FRAP) assay.

Posted by Hyscience at May 8, 2005 6:39 PM



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