Sencha

Begin with Sencha an enumeration of the many types of Japanese teas  is nothing original, but it is the most logical thing when you know that it represents nearly 70% of Japanese tea production. It is on this that I will focus on longer.

Sencha, is a type of Japanese green tea, but the range of flavors and aromas that offer sencha is extremely broad. Indeed, depending on the growing area, variation in the manufacturing process, cultivar, its characteristics may vary in an amazing way. In general, we say that sencha offers a fine balance between “umami” sweetness and astringency, with a fresh scent.

The basic criteria, those arising from tea contest describe a quality sencha as having deep green leaves with luster, rolled into long thin needles. When there is not a blend, the leaves should be uniform in color and form. In general, the higher is the quality, the heavier leaves are.

The color of the liquor can range from a nice golden yellow tending towards green to green very frank. The liquor should be clear, not cloudy. However, the latter is relative when it comes to sencha that are called “fukamushi”, that is to say a sencha that the steaming phase (in order to stop leaves oxidation) is longer than the standard. In the latter case, the finished product is more broken with addition of powder, and consequently, obtaining a perfectly transparent liquid is difficult because of the powder in suspension.

From the point of view of flavors, it is generally paid much importance on the umami sweetness of green tea.

   Fukamushi sencha   -   asamushi/futsumushi sencha

Fukamushi sencha – asamushi/futsumushi sencha

   Fukamushi sencha   -   asamushi/futsumushi sencha

Fukamushi sencha – asamushi/futsumushi sencha

On the left, fukamushi sencha from Makizono (Kirishima city, Kagoshima pref.), Asatsuyu cultivar

On the right, futsumushi sencha from Ôkawa-Ôma (Aoi ward, Shizuoka city, Shizuoka pref.), Yabukita cultivar

Sencha manufacturing

Depending on the region of production and the type of tea tree cultivar, the first harvest takes place from late March to early June. Teas of the highest quality obviously comes from the first harvest.
The second harvest takes place in late June, and the third in early August. Today, however, many producers no longer conducts the third harvest, and sometimes not even the second! Finally, there is a fall harvest (giving rather Bancha).

After picking, the oxidation of the tea leaves must be stop as quickly as possible. In tea factory (cha-kô茶 工場), the leaves are steamed in a machine called mushi-ki 蒸 し 器. Basically this phase lasts 30 seconds (futsumushi sencha 普通 蒸 し 煎茶, or asamushi sencha 浅 蒸 し 煎茶), but more and more we last longer this phase, 1 minute see 2 minutes (this is called then fukamushisencha 深 蒸 し 煎茶). In the latter case we obtain a stronger tea, more broken, which also infuses faster.
Furthermore, it is important to understand that the times stated above, unlike conventional thinking, does not really correspond to the duration of steaming, but simply to the length of time the leaves last in the machine.

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After a period of cooling, starts the leaves rolling / kneading process, which is the basis of making tea.
The primary purpose of rolling is to dry the tea leaves. This is essential because of poor drying will result in a poor quality tea that will cannot be store.
The rolling also allows then to facilitate the infusion of flavors of tea, and also to give them their shape (needle in the case of sencha), but these two points are actually more results than the first goal.

Tea pass through 4 machines (there are intermediate steps that I will not detail here):
1. Sôju-ki 粗 揉 機 (coarse kneading)
The leaves are roll and stirred by a rotating arm in a drum, while receiving a hot blast. The temperature and amount of steam must be properly set to prevent only the surface of the leaves from drying out, which will cause a tea with too much powder. Moisture loss is rapid and uniform.

2. Jûnen-ki 柔 捻 機 (kneading)
Here the leaves are just kneaded without heat on a horizontal support by a kind of press drawing circular motion. Their shape is made uniform. The purpose of this phase is to make uniform amount of moisture of the leaves, and the stems, the latter being more difficult to dry. Strength and length varies according to the “youth” of the leaves. The younger they are, the less they are kneaded strongly.
15-30 minutes.

P1080572(1)3. Chûjû-ki  中 揉 機 (intermediate kneading)
Here, the leaves are lightly kneaded and rolled. To prevent the leaves blacken and give a reddish liquor, it is important that leaves temperature did not exceed 34-36 ° C.
30-50 minutes.

4.Seiju-ki 精 揉 機 (deep kneading)
Here, in a sort of halfcylinder castellated, the kneading is carried out by moving back and forth, which will form the needle leaves characteristic. The mixing is becoming progressively stronger as the drying progresses, and finally lighter to provide a  tubular shape and gloss sheets.
About 40 min, 38-40 ° C.

P1020931(1)At this stage, there is approximately 13% moisture in the leaves. The next phase is the drying phase, the aim being to bring down the rate to 5%.
20-30 min, 80-90 ° c.

We then obtain ara-cha 荒 茶, that is in this form that the tea will be featured on the tea marketplace and sold in lots to wholesalers (along the lines of classical distribution). Wholesalers bring this raw material tea they bought in finishing factories, shiage-kô仕 上 げ 工場. Here, the leaves will be sorted (one rejects such stems, the excess powder), their size uniformed. This is mechanized. And, above all, the procedure that is called hi-ire 火 入 れ, a final round of heating reduce to 3% moisture. This phase is critical for the taste of the finished product. For example, a strong hi-ire give roasting fragrance.
The finished product is then stored in a refrigerated warehouse without moisture, before being packaged for distribution to the consumer.

Preparation of high quality sencha

The explanations should not be taken as an absolute rule, but as a base from which to adapt its preparation according to the characteristics of tea, and your own tastes. For this, we need to know how basically the taste of tea varies depending on how it is brew.
Both components have a major importance in the infusion:
Theanine, an amino acid responsible for the mild tea
The cathechine, a poly-phenol responsible for the astringency of tea
Theanine infuse almost identically regardless of the temperature of the water, while more water is hot, the more strongly will infuse cathechine (which almost not be infused with water at less than 80 ° C). . example, if you want a more astringent tea, increase the temperature of the water, and if you like tea more sweet” , lower the temperature of the water.

With this element in mind, here’s how to make a good superior sencha.

Use water at 70 ° C, which has previously been boiled for 3-5 minutes (in order to  reduce water temporary hardness, and, if tap water, lower chlorine smell) . Rather than wait until the temperature drops, be aware that when changing the water container, the temperature drops about 7-10°C. For this you can use the cups and teapot. By doing this you can thanks to the small cups (ideally 100 cc) measuring the amount of water: about  70-80 cc per person.

Put about 3 grams of leaves per person (please note if you prepare tea for one person, put 5 grams). Then pour the water.

For the infusion time, count from 1 to 1 minute 30 seconds. However, for fukamushisencha, with lots of powder and small particles, you can go down to less than a minute. Again, in the same way that you can test the same tea with different temperature, you can also test different brewing time, to get the flavor that suits you best. This is one of the great charms of the Japanese tea, with one tea you can get a wide variety of flavors.

Finally, pour the tea into the cups, little by little, turning, 1,2,3,3,2,1,1,2,3, etc., to get the same taste in each cup, and the same amount of tea. Remember to pour until the very last drop,which is says to be the better, and most importantly, it is preferable that there is no liquid in the teapot before the second infusion.

Enjoy a delicious sencha!

For the second infusion, use an about 10°C warmer water. You can then serve immediately.

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You know almost everything, take great pleasure in are for your tea conditions preparations that will delight you the most!

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Categories: Types of tea

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