What is shincha? Teapedia.org defines it as: Shincha, literally “new tea” is the first harvest (first flush) of a Japanese green tea. It is basically the same as Ichibancha, “first tea” and is distinguished by its fresh flavor and sweetness. The term “Ichibancha” will emphasize the difference to Nibancha (second tea) and Sanbancha (third tea). So it’s basically the first flush Japanese Sencha green tea. I recently went through my tea sample stash and came across a packet labeled Yakushima Shincha from Nio Teas. I did not know I had a shincha in there all this time, when I had never had one before! I guess a lesson learned here is to not neglect your tea cabinet and to go through it more often.
I made the mistake of guessing brewing parameters for this tea which I will explain shortly. Second lesson learned: don’t guess brewing parameters of a tea you have never tried and only have one sample pack of.
Can we take a moment to admire that beautiful kyusu? I only say that because it was a gift to me from one of my online tea friends who goes by @winston.jptea on Instagram and he is a wonderful person. I posted a picture of my previous broken kyusu and he offered to send one to me and once again I am blown away by the kindness of the tea community!
Since it was a sample, there were no brewing parameters listed on the package. I could have checked the website but a lot of sites will list flavor notes alongside brewing parameters and I didn’t want to be influenced before tasting it, so I just winged it. I did the first infusion at 175 F for 1 minute. the sample pack was 5 grams and I used around 150ml of water.
The first infusion gave a huge hit of umami right off the bat. That was followed by a pretty strong astringency. It was very vegetal and very bright. The texture was quite thick and the finish was long. But I definitely overbrewed it, unfortunately. I decided to drop it down for the second infusion.
I went with 160F water for the next three infusions and it made a huge difference. I did 45 seconds on the second infusion and it still had a strong umami taste up front. It was bright and green and vegetal and it had that signature sencha taste to it that I have a hard time explaining. This infusion had a slightly sweet finish and a thick texture.
The third infusion is where it turned sweet, which I have noticed Japanese green teas tend to do, at least for me anyway. There was still vegetal notes but they weren’t as strong. It was much sweeter with a still thick texture, and I also noticed some floral notes coming through. The finish was sweet and quite long. I am really enjoying this tea now!
The fourth infusion was slightly weaker than the third but still mostly sweet with some slight vegetal and floral notes. I wish I could tell you which vegetable or which flower, but I am not that far along yet. I will say it tasted like a green steamed stalky type of vegetable.
I am pretty disappointed in myself for overbrewing the first infusion of this tea, because it was really very good for the next three infusions. If you start at 160 or maybe 150 you could get even more out of them. But it was still a very enjoyable session. I definitely felt the theanine rush which gave me an energized yet calm body sensation which is always nice, and it something Japanese greens are known for.
This tea is not for sale by the looks of it. I ordered it as part of a sample pack which included 9 samples for $20. Nio has the Yakushima sencha at $26 for 80 grams. I imagine the shincha would be a bit higher than that. But I don’t want to speculate on the price.
This tea was very good and I will be on the lookout for some 2020 shincha fresh off the steamer. I’ll also want to compare it to sencha to see if I can tell the difference that the first flush makes. Cheers!