Tea fields from our 9th generation tea producer in Shizuoka, Japan
Shincha (新茶・しんちゃ) refers to the first Japanese tea harvest of the year. Rather than other categories of tea (green tea, oolongs, black tea, etc), which refer to their processing styles, shincha is simply a cultural label representing the first harvest of the year. Shincha is always made into green tea and almost exclusively made as a sencha.
Each spring, tea farmers and producers rush to release the year's shincha, which people throughout Japan enjoy as a marker of spring.
What Shincha Tastes Like
Verdantly bright and crafted to commemorate the feeling of spring, shinchas are known for their fresh, grassy flavors and floral aromatics. As the first tea picked in the year, shincha leaves are ripe with amino acids that had accumulated throughout the fall and winter months. These fatty acids develop the natural, characteristically sweet flavors of shinchas. The fatty acids found in shinchas are especially volatile and will evaporate within a few months, even if the tea is properly stored. It is always best to drink shincha when it is fresh.
When Shincha is Harvested
The harvest begins in southern and warmer areas such as Kagoshima. Harvest periods move up the islands of Japan as warmer weather follows, similar to cherry blossom viewing throughout March and April. In Japanese tradition, drinking tea picked on the 88th day of spring is the most delicious and auspicious, ensuring health the rest of the year. Because of its popularity nationwide, shinchas sell out within a few weeks and rarely get exported outside of Japan.
Tea gardens in early spring throughout Shizuoka, Japan.
How Shincha is Made
To achieve their characteristic flavor profiles, shinchas are steamed for shorter amounts of time and contain more moisture in their final form. This also means they will go stale faster than other teas—producers only prepare a small portion of their harvest as shincha, and they are only sold a few months in the year.
The general process for producing sencha—and shincha—is as follows:
• Picking the tea from rows of tea bushes by hand (tedzumi・手摘み) or by machine
• Steaming: this process is known as "kill green," whereby tea leaves are steamed at a high temperature for 30 seconds to a few minutes. This destroys the enzyme that rots plants over time. Steaming also preserves the leaves' bright green color and aroma.
• Kneading: leaves are kneaded to remove moisture.
• Rolling: leaves are rolled to breakdown fibers, improving flavor and complexity when brewing tea. Eventually, this step also creates the needle-like shape Japanese teas are known for.
• Drying: all moisture is removed, and the tea is now known as aracha (荒茶・あらちゃ).
• Sorting: leaves and stems are separated, leaving even, polished leaves. Stems and tea dust are separated and made into less nuanced teas, such as kukicha and tea bags.
How to Brew Shincha
Shinchas are crafted to be grassy with a verdant fragrance, as well as some "refreshing" astringency. In general, 176º for 1 minute is a great starting point for brewing a new bag of shincha. You can also experiment with hotter water and shorter steep time (185º for 30 seconds) to bring out shinchas' verdant astringency, or lower temperatures (165º for 1.25 minutes) to bring out more sweetness.
For teas in our collection, we always provide a specific brew recommendation (water temperature and steep time) on our packaging.