Sencha is the most popular tea in Japan, accounting for almost 80% of the tea consumed. Usually the top parts of tea leaves and buds are used to produce Sencha. It is grown in full sunlight and is processed in multiple stages: steaming, kneading, drying, sifting, roasting and often blending. Sencha is noted for its delicate sweetness, mild astringency and flowery-green aroma.
What determines the flavor of Sencha?
Sencha is the most popular tea among Japanese teas, but not all Senchas are the same. The quality and taste of Sencha will vary depending on following factors ‐ growing area, tea species, harvest season, manufacturing process, and brewing technique. Generally these factors also apply to the other teas.
The area in Japan where the tea is grown is the first element affecting the taste. There are some famous Sencha tea producing areas in Japan ‐ (from north to south) Sayama, Shizuoka, Uji, Kagoshima, Yame and so on. As with other agriculture, the different areas have different weather and soil resulting in different flavors.
While all tea is made from the same tree, Camellia Sinensis, there are a number of varieties as an apple has varieties like Pink Lady, Fuji or Granny Smith. In Japan, 108 breeds have been registered for Camellia Sinensis likeYabukita, Yutaka‐Midori, Sayama‐Kaori, Kanaya‐Midori and so on, and sometimes the name is used for its product itself. Yabukita is widely used, accounting for 80% of Japanese tea production because Yabukita has been popular since it has very good flavor and is resistant to diseases. Each breed produces a leaf with a different shape, color and flavor.
The harvest season is also a big factor affecting quality. The best quality green teas are produced in the 1st flush or harvest in Japan. For the 2nd and 3rd flush, the quality becomes lower.
While there are several processes in producing Sencha, roasting and blending are the most important ones in determining flavor.
Brewing loose tea like Sencha takes a little more care than pouring boiling water over a tea bag. Here are two videos which demonstrate a good technique for brewing sencha.