"Shin" means new, and "Cha" means tea. Shincha, often called the first flush tea, is made from the tea picked during the first harvest in the spring. The first harvest of the year, usually from April to May, produces the highest quality tea in Japan. After a long period of dormancy during the winter, the first leaves of the season are rich with nutrients, including amino acids and catechins. These enhance the flavor and aroma of this first-harvest tea. Shin-Cha has a bright, luminescent green color, strong aroma and pronounced sweetness.
As you know, most of Den's Tea teas are made from the first flush tea. Our regular teas will be available with this year's Shincha in early summer. Every year, Den's Tea offers special Shinchas for your enjoyment and imports them by air shipment somewhat like the Beaujolais Nouveau wines of France.
Our special Shinchas (Kunpu and Houryoku) are made from tea leaves that are very shiny and usually thin and I think it is the most beautiful tea in the world. It has a young flavor almost as if you were picking the tea and steeping it right in the field. To maintain its field freshness, we process it as little as possible; consequently it is somewhat delicate and will be available for a very limited time.
May 2011 Shincha Report
March and April were cold in Japan causing the new tea buds and leaves to grow slowly. The temperature began to warm in late April and early May and the buds and leaves grew rapidly almost as if they couldn't wait any longer.
Hiroshi Shirakata is Den's uncle and Senior Vice President and Tea Master of Shirakata- Denshiro Shoten. During "Shincha season", he wakes up at 2 am everyday as he has done for 40 years. At 3 am he arrives at his tasting room where his first task is to boil gallons of water. Meanwhile, a Saitori (tea broker) visits him with shincha samples that were picked and processed just hours earlier at the tea farms. The business starts right away. While Hiroshi tastes the samples, another Saitori arrives with more samples from other farms. The tasting goes on until just before 5 am. Hiroshi then takes the 5 minute walk to the Shizuoka Tea Market and tastes and bids on tea from other farms.
Hiroshi has a very important job. The tea selected and purchased during this time of the year will be used to manufacture our teas for the next 12 months. We purchase tea from various sources; directly from farmers, from the tea market, from other tea manufacturers, and from the Saitori. No matter the source of the tea, it must meet our rigid requirements for quality and freshness. This allows us to provide you with the highest quality tea available for the next year. Once we receive the teas, all of it is stored in our climate controlled warehouse.
Among the tons of Shinchas, we select the best tea leaves for Shincha Kunpu and Houryoku for our customers in North America and Japan. These leaves have been carefully processed and packaged in the facilities of Shirakata-Denshiro Shoten, our parent company in Shizuoka. They have been air-shipped to California and are now ready for shipment to you.
April 2011 Shincha Report
In April, we attended a meeting at the Shizuoka tea market where they announced the opening of the tea market was scheduled for April 25th; this is a week later than last year. The weather has been much cooler than normal this year and the new buds have grown slowly. Thus they have to wait for sufficient production to conduct the auctions. Our contract farmer was in the same situation with slow growing tea plants.
Based on this late production date, Den's Tea decided not to carry Hashiri Shincha this year. We believe that Hashiri Shincha is best if it is available in April or, at the latest, early May; however this seems difficult to make even using express air-shipments. We will carry Kunpu and Houryoku as normal. The good news is that the buds grow slower in the cooler weather and pull more nutrition from the soil so we can expect more flavorful tea leaves. Unlike last year, there's been no frost or freeze to damage the new buds.