When you learn about green tea varieties, one variety you might come across is shincha tea. This tea is prized for its intense grassy flavor and high nutritional value.
Shincha tea, also known as “new tea,” is harvested from Japan’s first tea harvest each year. Shincha tea is harvested in late spring, around mid-to-late March. Tea couldn’t be preserved in ancient Japan, so this fresh harvest has been recognized for its superior flavor for centuries.
Shincha tea can be expensive since it is limited in production and supply. However, one taste of this green tea and you’ll realize why it’s so valued. Read on to learn more about shincha tea and why it’s one of the most popular green teas in Japan.
Shincha Is a Variety of Japanese Green Tea
Japan grows many green tea varieties, but the shincha harvest of any tea plantation is considered the most highly prized harvest. This value is for a few different reasons:
- Low processing: Shincha doesn’t undergo many curing or processing methods like other varieties of green tea. This makes the tea used in shincha tea some of the lushest and most tender tea leaves available. Shincha is brewed at the height of its freshness.
- Low availability: Shincha tea can only be harvested and sold a few months out of the year. Shincha can’t be kept for long periods without processing methods that change the tea’s flavor profile, so you can only order it for a limited time each year.
- High amount of nutrients: Shincha tea is immature and still full of all the nutrients that would be passed into tea buds if the plant was allowed to ripen. These raw essential nutrients can be passed on to the finished tea instead.
Even though the processing in shincha tea is minimal, it is still usually given a light roasting, known as hi-ire, to help preserve its fresh flavor.
What Is Temomi Shincha?
When you hear about shincha tea, you might hear the term “temomi shincha” used. Temomi is a specific style of shincha where the new tea leaves are meticulously hand-rolled by temomi artisans.
The temomi style of green tea is dying off in Japan because machine-rolled green tea is becoming so prevalent, and most of the artisans who know how to do temomi are over seventy years old.
History of Shincha Tea
A major contributor to the mass production of commercial-grade green tea in Japan was the Japanese tea master Sohen Nagatani. Sohen Nagatani was the originator of the Uji tea processing method, which eventually became the major processing method for tea across the nation of Japan.
Where Is Shincha Tea Grown?
Green tea is a specific harvest of green tea, rather than a cultivar, so it is not grown in any specific region of Japan. Instead, shincha tea is grown everywhere that green tea is cultivated. These are the major regions where you can find Japanese tea plantations that produce shincha
Even though these are the primary tea producing regions of Japan, green tea can be produced in almost any Japanese prefecture other than the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. Tea doesn’t perform as well in areas where the temperatures get very cold in the winter.
Qualities of Shincha Tea
The high qualities of shincha tea are one of the reasons that this tea is so prized over other varieties. Other than its value as an iconic marker of spring each year, the shincha harvest is also known for these other qualities:
- Color: Shincha tea is the youngest type of green tea produced and undergoes very little processing, giving it a very light yellowish liquor. This liquor is bright and translucent, with no murkiness or debris.
- Taste: Compared to other green tea varieties, shincha has a strong umami flavor due to the high level of amino acids present in it. It also has notes of mild astringency and sweetness along with other grassy flavors.
The beautiful flavor profile of shincha green tea makes it a special delicacy for people who are lucky enough to get their hands on some during the spring harvest season.
Is Shincha Tea Expensive?
A fourth of a pound of fresh shincha tea goes for a little under thirty-five dollars on average. While this might not seem expensive compared to some other luxury items, this is quite expensive compared to the average cost of sencha that is used for daily drinking.
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How to Brew Shincha Tea
The brewing methods for brewing shincha tea aren’t very different from the brewing methods used for other green tea varieties. The major difference is that shincha tea is only infused for a short amount of time.
To brew shincha, brew five grams of tea at 175F in enough water to fill a kyusu teapot, the type of small teapot traditionally used to brew green tea. Infuse the tea for forty seconds before serving. The tea can be steeped for multiple infusions, though the flavor of the tea will become less pronounced with each one.
- Note: For Fukamushi shincha, infuse the tea for 30 seconds rather than 40, and lower the temperature of the water to 158F. This shincha variety may become bitter more quickly than others if brewed at high temperatures or for too long.
Can You Make Hojicha Shincha Tea?
Hojicha tea is just green tea that has been roasted after steaming, so it’s possible to create a hojicha shincha tea. Hojicha tea is created by roasting the green tea in a porcelain bowl over high temperatures until it develops a brown coloring.
Along with changing the flavor profile of the tea to become more nutty and sweet, hojicha roasting also lowers the amount of caffeine present in the tea. This makes it suitable for drinking in the evenings.
Shincha Tea Is a Seasonal Treat
Shincha tea is available across the world now that we have modern shipping methods, so people from any country can now enjoy the first green tea harvest of the year. If you get the opportunity to try this seasonal delicacy for yourself, you won’t be sorry. But if you pass up the chance, you’ll have to wait until the next season to enjoy this special green tea.