first harvest leaves freshly plucked

What is shincha ?


What is it ? Why is it so special ?

新 shin = new
茶 cha = tea

April and May are the most exciting times of the year for Japanese green tea. It’s the first harvest of tea, and goes by many names: first flush, shincha, new tea, ichibancha.

No matter what name, however, the meaning refers to when the first buds of the season are picked and turned into delicious, fresh tea. The frenzy around shincha isn’t just about the newest of the new, however. It’s also a celebration of another year of successful harvest.

In Kyushu, shincha season represents the convergence of tradition and agriculture, a delightful mix of the old and the new. There are superstitions and special dates that have been passed down through generations, such as Hachijuhachi (88th Day).

This is a moveable feast set on the 88th day after the start of spring by the Chinese calendar, called risshun. It is said to be the best and most auspicious time for harvest. Many areas host festivals and other celebrations in recognition of its importance.
Fresh Green tea leaf detail in Yame, Fukuoka prefecture

From Kagoshima to all Japan

A question of climate & Location

There are tea tasting events held by regional tea authorities and buyers, auctions of the first aracha for wild prices, and speculation on how the past winter weather has affected this year’s flavor.

Small producers re-open and clean out dormant factories, while larger ones get to work advertising their limited edition springtime blend. Veterans from local tea areas are called up and employed for the arduous and specific work of hand-picking leaves.

Riding harvesters are deployed in flat stretches, such as Higashi Sonogi, and two-person walking harvesters are carefully maneuvered through the steep and winding fields of Chiran. Shincha harvest lasts from April to May, based on climate and location.

The earliest harvest begins deep in southern Kyushu, on a small island in Kagoshima called Tanegashima. Harvest times are later the further north you move, but Kyushu is overall the first for shincha in all of Japan. 
Tea fields in Chiran, Kagoshima Prefecture

First Pick or First flush ?

Understanding the variations

In terms of the tea product itself, shincha can refer to two things:

1) A specially produced first flush tea called “shincha,” a sencha-esque lightly steamed tea that is released as soon as harvest begins. It is only available for a short while after the start of picking season. It may also be called 初摘み(hatsuzumi, first pick) or 走り茶 (hashiricha, early tea), referring to how fast and early it is available. 

2) First flush tea or ichibancha made from the first harvest leaves. This difference is based on time and terminology. For example, our producer Koga san sent us her 2023 specialty Shincha in the middle of April, but will be sending shincha, aka ichibancha, of existing tea types (Minako, for example) later in May. 

Both are made from the first tender leaves picked in the first harvest. Shincha is highly sought for its taste and exclusivity. It is said to be higher in amino acids and theanine than second-harvest tea.

The reasoning is that these new buds have a longer time to accumulate nutrients over the winter as they slowly grow. Shincha is prized for its rich umami, sweet flavor, and a powerful green color. If you haven't tasted it yet, have a try and enjoy this very short tasting experience : 
First leaves ready to be picked at Chiran, Kagoshima prefecture


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