In Uji, late April and early May is the season for Shincha, or what we call First Flush Green Tea. Depending on locality and type of tea, tea is harvested between 2 to 5 times a year, and tea harvesting starts in Kagoshima around April. Naturally, having absorbed all of the nourishments that the sun and earth have to offer, all through the winter and in the spring, the first pick is always, and we mean ALWAYS the best of the year. The flavor is highlighted by a fresh grassiness and a natural sweetness, leaving you with a refreshing aftertaste, and the nutrition factor is the highest.
Both Gyokuro and Matcha are said to enrich their flavor over time, but when it comes to Sencha, the fresher the better.
Shincha season was and still is, a season for celebration. There are festivals, there are songs, and there are tales passed down through generations all about “shincha”. Having the chance to drink fresh tea, was a treat, and it was considered something that would give you longevity. People simply did not pass up a chance to drink Shincha.
Thanks to modern day technology in storing tea, we are able to keep tea fresh year round, meaning that one can enjoy fresh tea whenever they want. Still, shincha, is something to get excited about. Often compared to Beaujolais Nouveau of French wine, shincha is celebrated by tea lovers all over the country for its freshness, its superior taste, and the longevity it is said to bring.
The year 2013 was a rough one on tea farms all over Japan. The weather, including some very cold streaks of weather in April and May, has caused some frost damage, which caused a 30 to 35% decrease in tea harvests nation wide. Many localities are reporting that the flavor is also down compared to previous years.
Uji also suffered loss in overall production of tea, but due to the superb natural environment, fortunately the flavor is full and is comparable to last year, which was a good tea year.
At Matabay, we not only take extra care in making sure the tea stays fresh in storage, but we also make sure that only the freshest of teas shipped. It should also be noted that we only ship “first flush (known as ichibancha, meaning the first pick of the season)” teas, and all teas we ship currently ship are fresh shincha. In short, you will only get the freshest tea from an order at Matabay (Unless, that is, we offer Kuradashi (aged) tea).