Kyushu home to the earliest shincha !
April has just begun, spring and warmer days are finally here. This means only one thing to all of us who love green tea: it’s almost shincha time! ‘New tea’ is the tea picked during the very first harvest of the year, called ‘ichibancha’ in Japanese.
Thanks to its warmer climate, there can be up to five harvests in Kyushu, from spring to autumn. The first pick is however the best of the year. Those freshly harvested leaves offer an amazing refreshing aroma and flavor to the tea. That’s why tea lovers make sure to pre-order this very precious tea well in advance.
The warmer the climate, the earliest the first flush. So it’s no surprise that tea farmers in Kagoshima pref. – and in particular Chiran – can begin the harvest as early as in April. In 2017, it’s scheduled for April 12! This is between two and three weeks earlier than other tea regions, like Uji in Kyoto. It means that the first shincha to hit the stores will be from Kagoshima.
As fresh as it gets !
Shincha is the best sencha of the year. If you are new to Japanese green tea, one important thing to know is that ‘shincha’ is not a special kind of green tea but actually sencha. So it comes with all of the typical fragrance, aroma and bitterness that makes sencha the most popular type of green tea in Japan.
Other kinds of green tea, such as gyokuro, may use those first-harvest leaves. However, they require a period of maturation to obtain their typically rich flavor. Therefore, they are put on the market much later in the year, usually in autumn.
There has been much progress made in conservation and storage process. Today you can buy sencha made from the first harvest all-year long. But there’s clearly something special and exciting, something to celebrate when you enjoy a steaming cup of shincha in spring time.