Sunday, May 18, 2008

What is shincha? | Review of 2008 Yukata Midori shincha

Well folks, shincha season is in full swing. If you aren’t familiar, shincha is the very first Japanese tea sold after a new harvest, and is only sold for a few months’ time. Another term you may hear thrown around is ichiban sencha; this is a more broad term, as it includes not only shincha but also first flush tea that is cold-stored for processing and sale throughout the year.

For comparison’s sake, shincha could be likened to beaujolais nouveau in that it is a celebration of the new harvest, and that it typically does not last long after production. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, though.

Shincha is not better or worse than ichibancha, so don’t be swayed by sales pitches (not that there really are any). It generally has a slightly more intense flavor, but doesn’t necessarily taste better than regular first flush sencha. In addition, it goes stale much sooner than ichibancha (which is why it is only sold for a short time).

Shincha can be purchased from most, but not quite all, dedicated Japanese tea vendors; O-Cha, Hibiki-an, Den’s, and Zencha (among others) are all popular.

When brewing shincha, one is advised to brew a bit weaker than one normally would for sencha. Lower temperatures and/or less leaf may be needed, and shorter steep times in particular are recommended. Shincha is slightly more intense than ichibancha, so it is easier to overbrew. If I could share one more bit of advice that helped me greatly, I would suggest pouring sencha slowly from your teapot. This pearl of wisdom isn’t specific to shincha; I do it with all Japanese teas, and I find it helps keep bitterness at bay.



Class: Green
Origin: Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
Year: 2008
Vendor: O-Cha (Product page)
Price: $24.95 (110g)

Since trying the Yukata Midori last year, I have eagerly awaited its return in 2008, and this year’s crop does not disappoint.

Dry Leaf

The leaf, as you may or may not be able to see, is fairly broken up, being a deep-steamed (fukamushi) tea. The scent of the dry leaf is sweet and rich. When brewed, this tea really shows its true color: vibrant, deep green. The color of brewed Yukata Midori is something of a legend among us internet shincha geeks.

Infusion

It’s flavor this year is even better than last year’s, or at least better than I remember last year’s to be. If it had a fault last year, it was that it was a touch too mild; the 2008 version, however, is not. Being a blend, I imagine it’s producers attempt to achieve a consistent product from year to year, and I think they did a good job. It is still very smooth and sweet, without much astringency or any bitterness to speak of, and has a mild grassy flavor I don’t remember from before. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of grassiness— I’m not either, but this was subtle enough that it’s really not an issue. It does require a light hand (yes, Hobbes, I’m stealing your line), being quite fussy with temperature. I would start low (160ºF or so) and work your way up until you find a temperature that suits your equipment and tastes.

I wholeheartedly recommend this tea, especially if you’re looking for a good introductory shincha. It will always be a favorite of mine!

9 comments:

Wes said...

w00t. that's going in my future cart along with more SUPREME.

Hobbes said...

That looks very refreshing, like kiwi juice. :)


Toodlepip,

Hobbes

P.s. Love the new title image.

Brittiny said...

Love the new look!

Awesome review!

Now I really can't wait until I receive my shincha! (I waited too long to get mine so the new shipment from O-Cha will not be available until May 20th)

Brent said...

Thank you all for your comments!

Brittiny, it sounds like you're waiting for some Miyabi. :) I've still not tried that one, but I'm expecting a sample from a friend pretty soon, and I'm quite excited!

-Brent

Matt said...

The new look is definitely more appealing from an artistic point of view, a wonderful shot. But now it doesn't quite match the name of your blog 'TEA NEAD'. The other heading really felt in tune with your writing and approach to tea.

Does this new look signal a shift in the way you feel and write about tea?

Peace

Matt said...

'TEA NEAD'

er...

'TEA NERD'

Double Peace

Bill said...

Nice.. Japanese green in a lowball glass! nice!

Brent said...

Matt, thanks for the kind words! I don't think it's emblematic of any sudden paradigm shift, but being human means I'm always changing in some way, no? Looking back at my first posts, I'm amazed at how much my relationship with tea has matured, and I'm sure my development will continue.

Bill, I thought it looked kinda cool. :) It's one of the few senchas I've had with enough vibrancy to look good in glass.

-Brent

Bamboo Forest said...

A wonderful overview of shincha, and what it's all about. I totally agree with you, that in all truth, shincha isn't all that much better than standard sencha taken out of cold storage and processed. There is a difference, but it is minor in the scheme of things. Yutaka Midori is a marvelous green tea. It has to be one of the very best coming out of Japan.

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