Spring is an exciting time in the world of Japanese green tea- it’s when shincha is harvested.
Shincha is the very first picking of the sencha harvest. The name (新茶) literally means new tea.
When is Shincha Season
Depending on the growing region, shincha season lasts from April till late May. Growing regions further south, such as Kagoshima, typically begin to harvest earlier than the more northernly climates.
Drinking shincha 88 days after Risshun – the beginning of spring according to the traditional Chinese calendar – is considered to be very good for your health. For those who are wondering, Risshun usually occurs on Febuary 3rd/4th. Based on my calculations, for 2014, the 88th day after the start of spring should be May 2nd…but don’t quote me on that. 😛
What Makes Shincha Special
Being the first picking, shincha is comprised of the best tea leaves. Throughout the winter, the tea plant stores up nutrients, like amino acids. When the first leaves begin to bud, a higher level of these nutrients are released into the leaves than other times of the year. The extra nutrients gives the tea a sweeter taste, as well as a lower level of astringency.
On top of the higher quality leaves, shincha also spends minimal time in cold storage. The added level of freshness also adds to it’s incredibly aromatic and grassy attributes.
Shincha is considered to be more intense than regular sencha. Although the brewing parameters between the two are very similar, you may want to decrease the brew time/amount of leaf for your sencha favourites in shincha season.
Bring on the Season
For drinkers of Japanese tea, shincha season is an exciting time. Around the same time, the sakura trees are in bloom, Golden Week is taking place in Japan, and globally spring is taking off. Why not join in the excitement, and get ready to order some shincha. 🙂