Shincha/Sencha Processing Question


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Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby beachape » Apr 12th, '12, 09:13

In anticipation of Shincha season, I'm wondering which is better: Buying enough shincha to last most of the year, or buying just enough shincha to last a couple months and then purchasing regular sencha offerings. The reason I am not sure is that I don't really understand the difference (in terms of quality/freshness) between shincha stored for most of the year at home and sencha purchased from a seller later in the year (assuming same type of tea).

As such, there are a few parts to the shincha/sencha processing that I don't understand. If I understand correctly, all of the leaves harvested are immediately processed to aracha and then stored. The shincha version doesn't hit the cold storage but is immediately sorted and packaged. No fresh leaves are stored, am I correct? Then throughout the year the aracha (which is in cold storage) is taken out, redried or "refired" and sorted as needed. O-cha's site mentions that if tea is already sorted and in storage that it is occasionally "refired" or redried.

My questions:

1) If the tea in the factory cold storage is simply in paper bags, would you not expect that tea to degrade faster than tea which was fully processed, nitrogen flushed, bagged for sale, and then placed in a refrigeration? If this is the case wouldn't it make more sense to buy as much shincha as you'd like and pop it in your fridge, rather than ordering throughout the year (in terms of getting the freshest tea)?

2) Does the aracha also get "refired" or redryed throughout the year in addition to presorted teas? If so does this affect the taste of the tea? Does it give it more of a roasted flavor?

Can you tell that i've been thinking too much about the new tea season?

Thanks!
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Re: Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby Chip » Apr 12th, '12, 09:46

When needed, Aracha be removed from cold storage. It will then generally go through a final sorting process, and generally a light roasting ... the likes of which are closely guarded trade secrets ... this can make or break the selection. Too much and the tea will have a toastiness to it, too little and the tea may be too light.

From what I have read ... and again, these can often be closely guarded trade secrets ... aracha is often nitrogen flushed and wrapped in airtight bales. I am guessing this can be quite variable in application.

But the results of the above two items, you can buy uber fresh sencha year round. However shincha is processed slightly differently, it tends to have a slightly higher moisture content (keep this in mind when brewing, your leaves may be more dense). I believe this is due to slightly less processing. The final roasting is likely even lighter than mentioned above.

So, in my mind, there is a significant difference between shincha and just regular ichibancha (first flush) of the same sencha that is sold after shincha.
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Re: Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby Chip » Apr 12th, '12, 09:49

... oh, so I generally buy a few months worth of shincha ... sometimes I buy a bit too much, but I generally want to use it up by mid summer.

I personally "feel" that shincha loses its great edginess if you have it too long, even when cold stored. I feel this is due to the above mentioned differences in processing. The Japanese are very efficient ... there is no wasted effort. They do everything for a reason, to deliver the best and freshest sencha year round and done in a most cost effective manner.

IMHO.
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Re: Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby Stentor » Apr 12th, '12, 10:13

beachape wrote:Can you tell that i've been thinking too much about the new tea season


Yeah, you're worrying about this way too much.
I'd buy some shincha that can be consumed within a reasonably short amount of time, that would be about 2-3 bags for me.
After that, I'd buy regular sencha.
The sencha sold after shincha comes from the same harvest, after all.
I think shincha is more about the excitement of tasting the new harvest as soon as possible than it is about having fresher or "better" tea.

Freshness is absolutely no concern when it comes to buying from reputable vendors from Japan. 1 year old sencha still tastes just as good.
Ever since I learned that, I realized that it's a good idea to take advantage of the pre-shincha sales that some of the Japanese vendors have. You get the same quality for less (which makes it a good time to try some of the higher end teas).

I'll let others chime in on the technicalities, I just wanted to offer a voice of reason :)
Really, don't worry about it. Buy some shincha, enjoy. Then buy some sencha, enjoy (just as much!).
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Re: Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby beachape » Apr 12th, '12, 11:09

Thanks for the replies! Don't worry, I'm not losing sleep over this...but it may appear so because of the time zone difference. I find it very interesting to learn more about the way the tea is processed and how it affects the product. It is a lot of technicality, but something has to bide the time until the new crop is ready.

Chip: your reply makes a lot of sense. I'll try to order only a couple month's worth. The added benefit is that you get to have the enjoyment of shopping for tea again a few months later.

I just found this site (via O-cha.com) that has some useful info. It seems that the "paper bags" are have a plastic layer and that they are nitrogen flushed. http://www.ocha.net/english/association/jpgreentea/pdf/29.pdf
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Re: Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby Xell » Apr 12th, '12, 11:33

Agree with Chip, i could not get detailed information on processing, they sure don't want to tell this to some random person even if he's buying little bit of tea from them :) But at least they confirmed, that processing is not exactly same as usual ichibancha. When i compared shincha and a bit latter processed ichibancha i thought that shincha was more dense and a bit more fresh look, now it makes sense why i felt so. Don't think it can keep same freshness for whole year, it's selling only 2-3 month in a year at most for a reason. For this year i'll get enough for 3-4 month of heavy drinking and see if freshness will drop by the end. No doubt it will be still good, but will it loose it's special character?
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Re: Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby SilentChaos » Apr 13th, '12, 05:18

This was from one of Hibiki-an's newsletters:

"The remarkable fresh aroma of Shincha comes from a type of natural alcohol, the leaf alcohol (formula: C6H12O) ... The leaf alcohol is created by a kind of fatty acid known as linolenic acid. The most leaf alcohol can be found ... in Shincha or Ichiban Cha (the first tea of the year) because the fatty acids which have accumulated since autumn of the previous year are most concentrated in the first harvest. Leaf alcohol easily evaporates because it is volatile. Shincha retains its leaf alcohol only a few months, even if Shincha is specially finished and stored. We take great care to preserve our Shincha teas to retain the leaf alcohol. For example, if tea leaves are not allowed enough time to dry during the finishing process, the tea can easily deteriorate. In addition, all of our teas are specially packaged to stay fresh" (Emphasis mine).

Anyone know anything about this? :wink:
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Re: Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby Chip » Apr 13th, '12, 08:02

Gives new meaning to TeaDrunk! :mrgreen:

Makes sense, but I am not a biochemist. I am guessing Ent will check in on this?
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Re: Shincha/Sencha Processing Question

Postby entropyembrace » Apr 15th, '12, 02:56

There are alcohols with that formula which have sweet or grassy aromas which are probably present in fresh tea leaves. I don´t know how much of the rest is true...
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