Sencha is the most widely enjoyed green tea in Japan. You'll
find it everywhere you turn, in varying grades. It can be recognized by its
shiny, needle-like shaped tea leaves with strong fragrance.
Along with the springtime blossoming of cherry trees, the
first harvest of sencha is highly anticipated and celebrated. It's thought to
be the first taste of the coming year in tea, and very lucky to give as a gift.
This first harvest is referred to as "shincha".
Processing: The tea plants used to make sencha are grown in full sun.
Processing is a series of six steps that begins with steaming (halts
oxidization, preserves the color, aroma and taste). The leaves are then
partially dried and machine twisted, making them soft and pliant. This step is
repeated, with a second round of drying and twisting, resulting in increased
fragrance and needle-shaped leaves. A third round of drying finishes the
process. The tea then is hand-sorted to remove any stray stems. Sencha can be
enjoyed right after being made (needs no maturing), and generally has a 6
months shelf life.
Brewing: The key with sencha is to use soft water at a low
temperature with a short steeping time. It's a delicate tea, and does well made
in a small vessel like a gaiwan or kyusu.
Cooking: It's common in Japan to re-use the leaves of
high-grade sencha in cooking. Try adding them to salads and dishes that do well
with fresh greens and herbs.
About Japanese teas
History & Geography
Japan is an island country located in the Pacific
Ocean. Made up of over 3,000 islands, it forms an archipelago that
stretches along the Pacific Coast of Asia. 70 to
80 percent of its land is mountainous and not suitable for permanent living or
agriculture. Most the population lives in densely populated areas, in coastal
Tea first was introduced to Japan in the 900's through Zen Buddhism, when
returning Japanese monks brought tea seeds back with them from China.
Emulating what they had seen in China,
they first cultivated powdered tea, or matcha, a style popular in Song Dynasty China. The tea
was whisked in a bowl and shared, eventually evolving into the Japanese Tea
Japan credits the rise of tea drinking to a Monk named Eisai. Returning from China,
he planted tea seeds in the capitol of Kyoto
and writes a book "A Record of Tea Drinking for Good Health." In 1214, he was
summoned to administer the last rights to a young shogun, who was suffering
terribly. Eisai diagnosed him with being hung over, revived him with a bowl of
tea and presented him with his book. The shogun adopts tea drinking and a tea
Tea Production Today
Today, Japan produces both powdered and
loose leaf styles of green (un-oxidized) tea. They are divided into 4
catagories: matcha, sencha, gyokuro and bancha teas. The most important growing
regions are: Uji, Shizouka, Kagoshima and Kyoto Prefectures. Uji, Japan, just south of Kyoto, is the most famous
tea-growing region in Japan. Most of the finest teas come from this
region even though it produces on 4 percent of Japan's tea.
Our Japanese teas include: bancha, Genmaicha (tea with popped and roasted rice), hojicha (roasted tea), karigane kukicha (twig tea), sencha, gyokuro, and matcha.
While there are different cultivation/processing
methods unique to each style of tea, they all have the same first step in common:
steaming. Immediately after the tea leaves are picked, they are steamed to halt
the oxidization process. In contrast, Chinese green teas are pan or oven fired.
Japan currently harvests most of its tea mechanically.
Traditional hand picking is now reserved for small lots of premium tea.
The specialized harvesting equipment ranges from large tractor-like machines to
smaller gas powered trimmers, which are carried by two people who walk between
the rows of tea. The farmers using these precision machines are able to target
the new shoots on the plant, while a vacuum pulls the clipped leaves into a
Japanese green teas are famous for their umami
taste, a flavor best described as the natural sweetness of the tea leaf, tasting like ocean and refreshing spring greens. This pronounced taste,
occurring at different intensities depending on the tea, is directly related to
how the tea was cultivated and processed. Generally,
high grades of matcha, gyokuro and sencha teas have the strongest, sweet umami