I started a new topic on nomenclature regarding Shincha ... you can visit it here: http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=18574
Here is an excerpt: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 harvesting ... 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.