Kirishima: Time for Shincha? News from Shutaro Hayashi

Something we did not yet mention in this Shincha blog is, how the term “Shincha” respectively the tea sort “Shincha” is actually defined. So, befor we take a look on the latest status of the Asatsuyu tea bushes in Shutaro Hayashi’s tea garden in Kirishima, we will give you an explanation on the definition of the term “Shincha”:

Shincha

1. Definition

The term “Shincha” consists of the two Japanese words “shin” (new) and “cha” (tea). Translated literally, Shincha thus means “new tea”. Concerning the quality of a Shincha, meaning: what distinguishes it from other sorts of Japanese tea, there are two different definitions:

(A) Shincha as a term for tea, which has just been newly harvested

In Japan, small labels with the inscription “Shincha” are often placed on the sorts of tea from the first harvest, directly after they have been harvested. Outside of Japan, you do not find this practice in selling tea very often. With this small labels, mostly fine sorts of Sencha or Kabusecha, in some extent also sorts of Kukicha are marked. Of course, this is not uniform in all tea gardens or with every retailer. After a few weeks, the same sorts of tea are still being sold, but then without the small Shincha-labels. In this case, the description “Shincha” reveals nothing about the quality of the tea or a certain way of producing, but only the fact, that this is the freshly harvested tea of the first harvest.

(B) Shincha as a independent sort of tea

In Japan as well as outside of Japan, you can find “Shincha” as a description for a independent sort of tea. In this case, a Shincha can have (but does not have to have) one or several of the following characteristics:

– The leaves for the Shincha are being harvested especially early, when the tea bushes have not yet grown enough for the first regular harvest (this surely is a criterion, which can be found very often).

– The leaves are being harvested from sorts of tea bushes, which sprout especially early (that means, they do not “grow faster”, because the growing-cycle is merely delayed. Thus, these are not tea bush varieties, that grow faster or have a higher amount of harvest.)

– The harvesting machine is adjusted in a way, that only the finest leaves are being harvested.

– The final heating [hi-ire] happens only a short period of time or with a relatively low temperature, so that Shincha sorts, which are produced this way, taste especially fresh and spring-green. However, as lower the hi-ire, the more sensible the tea becomes, so that a only slightly heated Shincha should be drunk so much faster.

And now, we will get to the current status of the Asatsuyu tea bushes at Shutaro Hayashi’s tea garden in Kirishima.

Shincha sprouts of the tea variety Asatsuyu at Shutaro Hayashi’s tea garden in Kirishima

Characteristic for the Asatsuyu tea bushes, which you can see in the picture above that Shutaro Hayashi took this morning (18th April 2017) in his tea garden in Kirishima, is not only the bright spring-green colour of the leaves, which show an even lighter green than most of the tea bushes do. Also typical is the noticeably small size of the leaves, which is attended by the fact, that the Asatsuyu bushes produce considerably more leaves than other tea bushes. Additionally, the small size of the Asatsuyu leaves and their rather soft quality is attended by a very small thickness. This has the effect, that during the process of steaming, the steam goes proportionally deep into the inside of the leaves. Thus, the result is often a rather deeply steamed leave of Asatsuyu, how we also know it from the tea Tennen Gyokuro, produced by Shutaro Hayashi from the tea bush sort Asatsuyu. Certainly thanks to the high quality of this admirable tea, Tennen Gyokuro has already reached a high level of popularity in this country.

But: Even if Shutaro Hayashi will produce Tennen Gyokuro from the Kabuse Asatsuyu again this year, doesn’t he maybe have new ideas already for creating an additional new sort of tea with these leaves?

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