Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!


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Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby Chip » Apr 17th, '13, 21:04

I often receive questions regarding confusion over Japanese terms during the Shincha season ... and what is Shincha? So, here is Shincha 101 which I posted back in 2008. This is Japanese tea terminology.

Feel free to add to the list of terms (either a term you are confused about or a term that you can define for us), which I will then add to this OP.

Shin cha... means new harvest tea in Japanese. It is always first flush, but not all first flush is shincha. Upon harvesting, shincha in its truest, purest form goes through complete processing, manufacturing. The Shincha is then immediately packaged for immediate sale. Shincha is traditionally off the store shelves by July. Once it is gone, it is gone til next year. They cannot make more by pulling more Aracha out of cold storage (see below).

Most will agree that Shincha offers the Japanese green tea enthusiast the freshest tasting and smelling sencha of the year. Less agreement can be found on why is it better ... or is it better than non Shincha versions of the exact same tea. Also, some say Shincha has a higher moisture content in the leaves thus limiting its peak-freshness shelf-life.

Ichiban cha is simply first flush Japanese tea. Not all ichibancha is shincha. Why? Because only a portion of first flush tea goes through complete processing, manufacturing, packaging immediately upon havesting ... earning the name shincha.

Most of ichibancha is placed into cold storage as aracha in very large airtight bales. Ichibancha goes through final processing throughout the year to provide consumers with the freshest teas possible. Aracha is pulled from cold storage as needed to go through this final processing and then packaging ... once packaged it is still simply Ichibancha, NOT Shincha, capish?

Ara cha is commonly refered to as farmer's tea. It is tea that is fully processed up to the final sorting of the leaves. So, it will have all sizes of leaf and as well as leaf stems and veins. Most ichibancha is placed into huge cold storage rooms as aracha. Traditionally Aracha was usually the very first tea to be consumed by tea farmers and fortunate consumers since it is the first tea to be completely processed, thus the name "farmer's tea."

A small portion of first flush Aracha is packaged immediately and sold as Shincha. The rest will be stored until needed throughout the year and sold as Ichibancha. If you think of it, this is a very efficient method of production from a cash flow stand point, but it also apparently ensures that the freshest Ichibancha will be available throughout the harvest year. This also keeps Shincha as ... special.

When I receive a parcel of heat sealed (often also nitrogen flushed ... but not always) Japanese Shincha, I place it into cold storage...aka, "the TeaFridge." This will keep Shincha freshest for extended periods of time. Once the heat sealed bag has been opened, it is not recommended to place it back into cold storage, but it can be done with proper sealing of the opened bag.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby ethan » Apr 17th, '13, 21:07

Thank you. Shincha OTTI soon?
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby Chip » Apr 17th, '13, 21:22

ethan wrote:Thank you. Shincha OTTI soon?

I am working on it, for sure! :mrgreen:
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby Devoted135 » Apr 17th, '13, 21:50

I heart this thread. :D Could you also define bancha? Thanks!
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby Chip » Apr 17th, '13, 22:04

Devoted135 wrote:I heart this thread. :D Could you also define bancha? Thanks!

You will not find me discussing Bancha much (TeaSnob I am) ... so I will do my best and others can add to and/or correct me.

Bancha is a more humble tea, and is a general term for more specifically named versions. It is usually not first flush, and even when it is it is most often lower grade leaf ... for instance leaves that are too mature/large/thick for sencha ... or from the heels of leaves (versus the tips) used for sencha.

I cannot really recall ever hearing of a "Shincha" version of Bancha, but it was not on my radar and I could easily have overlooked it in the hype to find true Shincha.

More often, Bancha is 2nd or later flushes, even Autumn flush.

In addition, while sencha/shincha leaves are generally rolled into needles during processing, bancha usually is not and as a result is very fluffy by comparison.

Bancha may be sold as is and is often found as the green tea component in Genmaicha and Houjicha.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby edkrueger » Apr 17th, '13, 22:13

Bancha is tea that is Japanese, but not both first flush and leaves.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby Kevangogh » Apr 17th, '13, 23:23

Seicha - The next step up from aracha, the finished product after last roasting.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby rdl » Apr 17th, '13, 23:26

edkrueger wrote:Bancha is tea that is Japanese, but not both first flush and leaves.

ed, i like simplicity but i think chip did a better job defining bancha as you can find first flush and leaves (as chip noted not the tender top leaves but the lower leaves) bancha.
chip,
also, one aspect of bancha is stems and twigs are often included. i have a bag of bancha where the twigs are 3+inches and almost don't fit into my tea pot, and the large leaves with stems are whole and brittle. all-in-all it is delicious.
this is taken from obubu tea
http://obubutea.com/product/yanagi-bancha/

"What is Bancha
Bancha is a term that has differing meanings in different parts of Japan. Most people outside of Japan think of it as autumn harvested coarse leaves. In actuality, this is the definition from the Eastern Japan (Tokyo) where bancha refers to akibancha (autumn harvested bancha 秋番茶). In the Western Japan (where Kyoto is located), bancha is actually a kind of roasted tea (houjicha) made from leaves beneath the leaves of the first flush harvest. We let them grow a bit more and harvest them in June. Before it is roasted to create bancha..."

i was once told "ban" means ordinary - or as chip put it poetically, "humble" but that was some years ago and i still wonder the exact meaning of bancha.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby Chip » Apr 17th, '13, 23:31

Kevangogh wrote:Seicha - The next step up from aracha, the finished product after last roasting.

Seicha ... but how does this differ from Sencha which is also the finished product?

Can you expand on your definition for us? Or did you mean sencha?

Thanks.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby Chip » Apr 17th, '13, 23:37

rdl wrote:
edkrueger wrote:Bancha is tea that is Japanese, but not both first flush and leaves.

ed, i like simplicity but i think chip did a better job defining bancha as you can find first flush and leaves (as chip noted not the tender top leaves but the lower leaves) bancha.
chip,
also, one aspect of bancha is stems and twigs are often included. i have a bag of bancha where the twigs are 3+inches and almost don't fit into my tea pot, and the large leaves with stems are whole and brittle. all-in-all it is delicious.
this is taken from obubu tea
http://obubutea.com/product/yanagi-bancha/

"What is Bancha
Bancha is a term that has differing meanings in different parts of Japan. Most people outside of Japan think of it as autumn harvested coarse leaves. In actuality, this is the definition from the Eastern Japan (Tokyo) where bancha refers to akibancha (autumn harvested bancha 秋番茶). In the Western Japan (where Kyoto is located), bancha is actually a kind of roasted tea (houjicha) made from leaves beneath the leaves of the first flush harvest. We let them grow a bit more and harvest them in June. Before it is roasted to create bancha..."

i was once told "ban" means ordinary - or as chip put it poetically, "humble" but that was some years ago and i still wonder the exact meaning of bancha.

Thanks for sharing this detail on Bancha.

:mrgreen:
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby 5am » Apr 18th, '13, 00:14

Very informative chip. This is the first I have heard Aracha mentioned. A great account of tea processing and storage throughout the year. I can see now how shincha is slightly superior to other forms of Ichibancha.
I think it's really cool actually 8)
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby David R. » Apr 18th, '13, 09:25

I think the aracha is the nearly complete product except for the final firing (hi-ire). Don't know about seicha.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby MEversbergII » Apr 18th, '13, 10:28

Tony Gebely made a good chart of the broad categories of teas (Green, Yellow, White, Oolong, Hong, Hei). Perhaps someone with the proper knowledge could create one on the subject of Japanese greens? I get the impression that all the ones listed here (including Aracha) are "finished products" capable of being consumed, so it would lend itself well.

I am sadly lacking on the information, so I cannot fulfill this task.

M.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby edkrueger » Apr 18th, '13, 12:57

rdl wrote:
edkrueger wrote:Bancha is tea that is Japanese, but not both first flush and leaves.

ed, i like simplicity but i think chip did a better job defining bancha as you can find first flush and leaves (as chip noted not the tender top leaves but the lower leaves) bancha.


I'm not sure about that. Usually they only pick the top leaves on the first flush. They don't take all of the leaves off the plant so that they can get a second flush. I'm not sure you are wrong, but you say you can find teas, so give us an example.
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Re: Shincha, Ichibancha, Aracha ... oh my!

Postby Chip » Apr 18th, '13, 13:09

edkrueger wrote:
rdl wrote:
edkrueger wrote:Bancha is tea that is Japanese, but not both first flush and leaves.

ed, i like simplicity but i think chip did a better job defining bancha as you can find first flush and leaves (as chip noted not the tender top leaves but the lower leaves) bancha.


I'm not sure about that. Usually they only pick the top leaves on the first flush. They don't take all of the leaves off the plant so that they can get a second flush. I'm not sure you are wrong, but you say you can find teas, so give us an example.

... there are many ways to harvest and produce a bancha. One is if they harvest say 3 or 4 new growth leaves, hopefully only the newest 2 are used for Sencha. The remaining would be used for bancha. This is only one scenerio ...

The priority is to get the best leaves, etc. for sencha production ... bancha is often simply leftovers. But particularly in machine harvesting, they get a lot of less desirables ... :mrgreen:
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