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What is Shincha?

by Sugimoto Tea Company
Tea Guides, Shincha, Tea Varieties
What Is Shincha? | Sugimoto Tea Company

Guide Contents: 

Shincha 101 | Everything You Need to Know 

What is Japanese Shincha Tea?

Shincha (新茶 or "new tea") is a Japanese green tea that comes from first harvest sencha during spring. Shincha comes from the best of the highly-coveted first-harvest leaves. It’s only available in limited quantities during the springtime which makes it a prized tea.

What is the History of Shincha?

Before modern refrigeration storage was invented, green tea quickly lost its freshness as time passed. People in Japan had to drink stale tea after the summer harvest and March was the worst time to drink unroasted green tea. What did people do to get by until the next spring harvest? Roast the old tea into hojicha or add roasted rice to make genmaicha.

But nothing is better than that fresh umami green tea flavor, so tea lovers really looked forward to the April spring harvest. The word "Shincha" was then used to differentiate this newly-harvested tea from the previous year's tea. 

How is Shincha Produced?

Shincha is cultivated in the same way as sencha, but it comes from only the first flush (first harvest), also known as the finest leaves.

The spring harvest starts around mid to late April in Kagoshima (the southernmost large tea producing prefecture) and slightly later as you travel north. In Shizuoka prefecture, the spring harvest starts near the end of April. 

Harvest seasons last for several weeks and the spring harvest ends in May. While these leaves are technically Shincha too and some companies sell all-new tea as Shincha until around July, we only produce a limited amount of Shincha from that very first start of the spring harvest.

The earlier the tea is harvested, the higher the quality and price, so farmers try to harvest the leaves as early as possible while they're still young and tender. Different cultivars also have slightly different harvest schedules.

Contrary to some information on the internet, Shincha is not typically sold as "raw" or "unfinished" tea (known as Aracha in Japanese). After harvesting and being steamed at the farms, tea makers like ourselves finish the tea similar to how we finish regular sencha. The leaves are separated from the stems and leaf fragments, and is given a final roast known as "hi-ire". This removes excess moisture so that the tea can be safely stored for several months without going stale and perfects the flavor.

A Note from Tea Master Hiroyuki Sugimoto: We give our Shincha a very gentle hi-ire roasting so that you can taste the natural flavor of the fresh tea and tell the difference between Shinchas.

What is Temomi Shincha?

“Temomi” is the art of hand-rolling tea leaves into needle-like thin sticks. Temomi is a traditional Japanese practice that has become rarer as tea production shifted to modern methods. These days, it’s not uncommon for tea leaves to go from harvesting to packaging without ever touching human hands.

Temomi shincha is shincha that has been hand-rolled by artisans. This art of hand-rolling tea is a dying one because modern machine-led processing techniques have taken over, and most of the artisans are over 70 years of age. However, organizations like Sugimoto Tea Company strive to honor this tradition and keep it alive as long as we can.

What Makes Shincha Special?

During winter, tea plants store minerals and nutrients, such as amino acids, which are then released into the various parts of the plant when it starts to bud. This provides shincha its characteristic sweet taste compared to other Japanese green teas, as well as a lower level of astringency. 

Not only is shincha made from the best quality leaves, but it is also the freshest tea you can enjoy.

Does Shincha Hojicha Exist?

It's technically possible to make hojicha from shincha, but there's a reason why it would be hard to find. Hojicha is the most flavorful when it's made by roasting older leaves (or stems). Shincha has an even higher moisture content than regular tea leaves, so they're not suitable for making hojicha with. The result would be a more expensive and less flavorful tea.

Sugimoto Tea Company Shincha Tea

  • Hashiri Shincha — Hashiri means "early season" in Japanese. Our Hashiri Shincha is produced from new-growth leaves harvested at the end of April - the very first harvest available. These early-season leaves are very soft and contain a unique sweetness. This is the taste of spring.
  • Hachiju Hachiya Shincha — Hachiju Hachiya means "88 nights" and refers to the eighty-eighth day after the first day of spring on the traditional Japanese calendar. Tradition has it that the 88th day is the best time to pick tea, and to this day, Hachiju Hachiya Shincha is prized as high-quality green tea. The Japanese traditionally believe that drinking tea picked on the 88th day is lucky and fends off diseases for the following year.
  • Temomi Shincha —Temomi Shincha is one of the rarest and highest quality Japanese green teas. The word temomi means "hand-rolled". From the meticulous picking of the best young tea leaves to the final process of kneading the leaves to fine needles, the whole practice is done by the hands of elite temomi artisans. A method used in Japan centuries ago, the temomi technique is vanishing due to the adoption of today's machines to produce tea. Temomi shincha is offered to the Japanese Emperor each year in a ceremony celebrating the first tea of spring. The flavor is thick, dense, and intense but without an edge. It is followed by an amazing aftertaste, like none other. The brew is an elegant clear-green hue.

How to Brew Shincha

Want to enjoy a cup of Sugimoto Shincha tea? Here’s a brewing guide for our Shincha tea:

Tea Type

Amount of Tea

Amount of Water

Water Temperature

Steeping Time

Hachiju Hachiya Shincha

1 Tbsp. (5g)

12 oz.

At least 175 °F

30-60 sec.

Hashiri Shincha

1 Tbsp. (5g)

12 oz.

At least 175 °F

30-60 sec.

Temomi Shincha1 Bag (10g)2.5 oz.100 °F2 min.


READ NEXT: What Is Sakura Sencha? 

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