Japanese Sencha is a highly versatile tea that comes in a wide range of flavors, from delicate to strong, and offers various aftertastes. However, the flavor and quality of Sencha can vary significantly based on several factors.
Area The quality of Japanese Sencha can be heavily influenced by the region it is grown in. Shizuoka, Kagoshima, Mie, and Kyoto prefectures are the largest producers of Sencha in Japan. These regions offer optimal climatic and geographical conditions for producing high-quality green tea. Other regions such as Saitama, Mie, and Fukuoka also produce quality Sencha.
The timing of the harvest can significantly affect the flavor and quality of the Sencha. The first pick of Sencha, Shincha, is usually harvested in April or May, specifically the 88th day after Setsubun. Shincha is renowned for its sweet and refreshing flavor, using only the first spring leaves that are fresh, soft, and full of nutrients. Depending on the region, the harvest time for Shincha usually lasts until mid-June.
The crucial step in making Japanese Sencha green tea is steaming. Tea leaves are steamed immediately after harvesting to stop the oxidation process and maintain flavor, nutrients, and color. Sencha can be categorized into three primary types: chuumushi, asamushi, and fukamushi, based on the duration and intensity of the steaming process.
Sencha undergoes a rolling process that creates thin, needle-like leaves. Deep-steamed Sencha often has shorter and smaller leaves. Unrefined or aracha tea is also available, which includes veins and stems that are removed in the final phase of processing. Though it may have a less refined appearance, the flavor is delicious and refreshing, with a slightly more raw and astringent taste.
Yabukita is the most commonly used cultivar to make Sencha. Japan utilizes over 100 cultivars to make different teas, with most of them used to develop various flavors for Sencha.
The final tea may include different cultivars blended to achieve specific flavors, colors, and textures. Some producers sell single-origin teas only, while others blend different kinds until satisfied with the taste profile. There is no right or wrong blend or taste, and enjoyment is based entirely on personal preferences. It is recommended to try different Sencha green teas to find the right one for you.