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Japanese Green Tea Hibiki-an
Atsushi Yasui
36 Shimonoto Yuyadani Ujitawara, Kyoto
610-0221
Japan
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Shincha News Flash 2011

Shincha News Flash!

We have been following the green tea sprouts from early spring when the tea trees put out their first new buds to the harvest of Shincha, the first tea of the year. Now, we bring you the latest breaking news and information from Hibiki-an's tea farm in Ujitawara in Kyoto!
Around June 25: (Kuradashi vs. Shincha Gyokuro and Shincha Matcha)
Harvest in May



Stored in the Granary



In contrast to Sencha, which is enjoyed for its freshness immediately after harvest, Gyokuro and Matcha gain an enriched flavor over time, and so are best some months after harvest. A long time ago, people started drinking Gyokuro and Matcha from the May harvest of the previous year at the Autumn ceremony "Kuchikiri no Gi". Some tea connoisseurs seek out "Kuradashi Gyokuro" and "Kuradashi Matcha" which has been enriched over a few years time. "Kuradashi" means taken out from the granary.

We at Hibiki-an are currently in the process of creating a very small quantity of "Kuradashi Gyokuro" and "Kuradashi Matcha". Last year, in May 2010, we took a small quantity of Gyokuro and Matcha tea leaves and stored them in the granary in the traditional way in order to make "Kuradashi Gyokuro" and "Kuradashi Matcha". Like a fine wine aged in the cellar, these tea leaves have been stored since the May 2010 harvest and will be ready for sale in Autumn 2011. We will be selling this special "Kuradashi Gyokuro" and "Kuradashi Matcha" in mid-Autumn. Please wait and see!

Present storage techniques enable to keep tea leaves fresh for almost one entire year. Today's connoisseurs favor both fresh Gyokuro and Matcha, along with enriched Kuradashi Gyokuro and Matcha. It just depends on each person's individual taste and preference. Indeed, fresh flavor of Shincha Gyokuro and Shincha Matcha inspires delight of the spring and the early summer season.

Now Shincha Gyokuro and Shincha Matcha are available at our webshop. Would you try the fresh flavor of Shincha Gyokuro and Shincha Matcha which can be enjoyed only once a year during the harvest season?
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Around June 18: (Why is Shincha So Refreshing?)






Modern facilities and expertise regarding tea preservation enable us to keep tea leaves in good condition for a year or more. However, Shincha (the first tea of the year) just after harvest is known for its unique excellent and refreshing aroma.
The remarkable fresh aroma of Shincha comes from a type of natural alcohol, the leaf alcohol (formula: C6H12O) that is found in fresh green tea leaves though a few hundred kinds of ester constituents create the refreshing aroma. This special leaf alcohol can be found only in Japanese green tea.

The leaf alcohol is created by a kind of fatty acid known as linolenic acid. The most leaf alcohol can be found not in Niban Cha (the second tea of the year) or Sanban Cha (the third tea of the year) but 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.

It is said that the leaf alcohol, which is the source of the unique excellent and refreshing aroma of Shincha, has the comfortable aroma of a lush green forest after rain. It works to relax your mind and body.
The aroma of tea leaf alcohol is not only attractive to humans. Insects also love tea leaf alcohol. When tea leaves effuse the scent of leaf alcohol, it draws many insects to the tea fields. If farmers allow weeds to grow around the tea trees, the leaf alcohol prompts the weeds to produce phenol. Phenol kills harmful insects, therefore the weeds act as a natural insect repellant. Leaf alcohol helps tea trees to protect themselves from insects.

To enjoy the unique excellent and refreshing aroma of the tea leaf alcohol, it is best to brew fresh green tea with a little higher temperature water. The leaf alcohol is well extracted by higher temperature water. It is the reason why we recommend two ways of brewing Shincha (brewing by higher and regular temperature water).

It is only once each year, during the harvest season, that you can enjoy the unique excellent and refreshing aroma of Shincha.
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Around June 11: (Tencha / Matcha Processing)

Steaming process

Blown upward by a blast of air, the tea leaves soar upward about 6m (19.68ft) and are quickly cooled.

Tea leaves dry in a three or four level fire pit, heated from underneath by a burner.

The temperature inside the fire pit is carefully controlled.

Tea leaves emerging from the fire pit

Before Tencha is ground into Matcha powder, the tea is known as Aracha of Tencha.
Fresh tea leaves are processed just after harvest. At the most, they should be processed within 24 hours after harvest. Tencha (Matcha) processing includes 1) Steaming, 2) Cooling down, 3) Drying, and 4) Cutting / Sorting. Matcha tea leaves before ground into powder are called Tencha.

1) Steaming:
Fresh tea leaves just after harvest are steamed for 30 to 40 seconds. The steaming process stops oxidation (fermentation). Steaming temperature and steaming time should be adjusted by the condition of the tea leaves. The steaming process is one of the most important steps and determines the quality of the finished tea.

2) Cooling down:
Steamed tea leaves are quickly cooled by a strong blast of air. This fast cooling process extracts the aroma and bright color of tea leaves. Blown upward by the blast of air, the tea leaves soar upward about 6m (19.68ft).

3) Drying:
During this step, the tea leaves are dried in a fire pit. Inside of the fire pit is a three or four level structure, heated from underneath by a burner. The temperature of each layer is carefully controlled from 110 to 180C (230 to 356F). Before entering the fire pit, tea leaves are distributed evenly across a conveyor belt so that they dry consistently. There should be no overlap. Tea leaves pass through all levels of the fire pit to dry for about 20 minutes. This drying process determines the aroma and taste of Tencha (Matcha).

4) Cutting / Sorting:
After emerging from the fire pit, the tea leaves are cut and sorted to determine if they are dry enough. Thicker sections of the tea leaf such as stems and veins may not be completely dry, and are dried again in the fire pit. Finally, the cut and dry tea leaves are mixed thoroughly to ensure consistent quality and flavor. At this point, before Tencha is ground into Matcha powder, the tea is known as Aracha of Tencha.
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Around June 4: (Shincha Harvest of Gyokuro and Matcha)






The harvest of tea leaves for Gyokuro and Matcha started around May 23. As with the Sencha harvest, this year's Gyokuro and Matcha harvest is 5 to 7 days later than usual.

Gyokuro and Matcha are grown in the shade for 20 to 30 days before harvest. High grade Gyokuro and Matcha are shaded from sunlight by a structure called "Tana" as in the above picture. It is reasonably dark and amazingly cool and quiet in the "Tana" structure. Most of all, the air in the "Tana" is filled with the fresh green scent of tea leaves, so brisk and invigorating. While the tea trees are covered by the "Tana" for 20 to 30 days to shade sunlight, if you walk beneath the canopy, among the green tea trees, you feel that the tea trees surely must breathe and effuse elements which are healing and comforting, though it has not been proven by science. Under the "Tana" canopy, the air feels thick with these healthful and comforting elements.
Anyone who walks under the "Tana" is aware of an immense feeling of serenity and tranquility. Indeed, the women who pick Gyokuro and Matcha under the "Tana" say that in contrast to the Sencha harvest in full sunlight, which brings joy from the bright sunlight, hearing birdcalls and murmur of a brook, the Gyokuro and Matcha harvest under the "Tana" brings a feeling of peaceful tranquility and comfort because of the cool shade, quiet calm, and the heavy scent of the green tea trees..

Gyokuro and Matcha gain an enriched flavor over time, and are traditionally enjoyed some months after harvest. In fact, a very special type of Gyokuro called "Kuradashi Gyokuro" is aged for a few years, like a fine red wine. However, today's tea connoisseurs favor both fresh Gyokuro and Matcha and enriched Kuradashi Gyokuro and Matcha. With fresh Gyokuro and Matcha, you can enjoy not only the smooth and mellow taste, but also a unique fresh aroma characteristic of Shincha. This unique freshness cannot be found in typical enriched Gyokuro or Matcha.
We are now currently offering Shincha Gyokuro and Shincha Matcha, which are both limited edition teas only available this harvest season. If you love Gyokuro or Matcha, you are sure to enjoy the unique freshness of these two very special limited-edition teas.
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Around May 28:

Steaming process

Drying and crumpling process

Shaping process

Kyoto Japan Agricultural Cooperative Association Trade Show

Buying and selling tea

Tea leaves waiting to be bid upon
"Aracha" Processing steps:
Now is the time for the Shincha (Sencha) harvest that we have all been waiting for! From the time the sprouts grow enough to the time the leaves become too large to harvest is just a few days. So tea leaves for Shincha (Sencha) must be harvested as quickly as possible in one long stretch. Many tea processing facilities will work non-stop, holding an all-night vigil for the Shincha.
After being picked or trimmed, fresh tea leaves are processed the same day. Processing steps are 1) Steaming, 2) Drying and Crumpling, and 3) Shaping. It is said that the Steaming step is the most difficult and requires skill and experience, even though the steaming time is just 30 to 60 seconds. If tea leaves are steamed heavier, the astringency and refreshing aroma that characterizes Sencha is destroyed. On the contrary, if tea leaves are not steamed enough, the taste will not be good at all. Farmers arrange the steaming temperature and steaming time, considering the conditions of picked fresh tea leaves (thickness of tea leaves, how soft, and so on).
Aracha is green tea that has been processed by the farmer, but is not finally finished. It is unique simple flavor, so that it has been enjoying for centuries. Our litmited edition Farmers' Shincha is "Aracha" Shincha. You can enjoy the natural taste and refreshing aroma of this "Aracha" Shincha at an affordable price.)

The Kyoto Tea Trade Show:
Aracha is green tea that has been processed by the farmer, but is not finally finished. It is either sold directly to the wholesale house or bid on at the Kyoto Japan Agricultural Cooperative Association (Kyoto Prefecture Headquarters of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations).
At the Kyoto Japan Agricultural Corporative Association, over half of the tea at the show is grown in Uji. These events are held three times every week throughout the harvest season at the Kyoto Japan Agricultural Cooperative Association. At the peak, over one hundred tons of tea leaves are collected and dealt on one day. Buyers consider the breed, location of the tea farm, farm or family name, tea quantity, and so on. They also thoroughly test the quality of the tea when they tender a bid. To appreciate the quality of the tea, they carefully check the water color and clarity as well as the brightness of the appearance of the tea leaves. They will not accept defective leaves which do not have enough brilliance or cloudy water color. To judge them, unfailing discriminating technique is required.

May is a time for celebration - to enjoy a fresh cup of Shincha to celebrate the first harvest of the year. But, soon after the end of the Sencha harvest, the Gyokuro and Matcha harvest begins! Because of this, May is definitely the busiest time of the year. Tea farmers will remain hard at work until at least the beginning of June.
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Around May 21:

The rain in the harvest season is a great blessing and a hassle at the same time


Locust taking shelter from rain among tea leaves

Organic tea sprouts, which would be harvested a few hours later

Harvest in organic tea farm

Rain in the Harvest Season:
In May, throughout the Shincha Harvest season, it often rains in Kyoto. During this time, the flavor an aroma of the tea leaves is deepened by the rain. Indeed, tea leaves harvested on the day after a rain are frequently deeper in flavor and aroma.
However, if tea leaves are harvested covered in rain drops, it ruins the quality of the tea. This low quality tea is called TSUYU-ME, meaning sprouts with rain drops. Besides, tea leaves grow quickly after the rain and easily grow too large to harvest. These are the reasons why rain in the harvest season bothers tea farmers.
And if it rains in the early stage of the harvest season, the tea leaves prices go up sharply. The amount of tea leaves harvested and placed on the market dramatically decreases because rain hampers the harvest.
Certainly, the rain in the harvest season is a great blessing and a hassle at the same time.

Organic Shincha Harvest:
The Shincha harvest of conventionally grown teas began about 10 days ago. On the other hand, the Shincha harvest of organic tea began a few days ago. Our organic teas are grown with only natural organic fertilizers, which work slowly. Therefore organic Shincha tea is generally harvested 7 to 10 days later than conventionally grown teas.
Organic Shincha Premium is now available.
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Around May 14: (Shincha Harvest at the Birthplace of Uji Tea)

Obuku is the first place where tea trees were planted in the Uji region of Japan.

Tea sprouts, which would be picked a few hours later


Sencha produced in the Obuku area was presented to the Japanese Emperors for many years.



Sencha Pinnacle and Sencha Super Premium, which are grown at Obuku area and specially picked by skilled hands


Now is the time for the Shincha (Sencha) harvest that we have all been waiting for! Shincha harvest started in the Uji region a few days ago.

Today most tea leaves are trimmed by machine and traditional hand picked Sencha is rarely grown and is therefore very precious. The flavor and aroma of hand picked Sencha is much more mellow and refreshing than tea trimmed by machine.
Even a skilled tea harvester can hand pick just up to 6 to 8kg of fresh tea leaves all through the day. The picked fresh tea leaves are processed and finished, at which point the total weight of the tea leaves is only about 18% of the fresh tea leaves. Even if about 20 skilled tea harvesters pick all through the day, we can only gather around 25 kg of finished precious hand picked Sencha.
From the time the sprouts appear to the time the leaves become too large to harvest is just a few days. So tea leaves for Shincha (Sencha) must be harvested as quickly as possible in one long stretch. Therefore it is never easy to pick large amounts of tea leaves by skilled hands in just a few days.
Top grade tea, hand picked Sencha is grown only in quite a small amount, because there is only one small place in all of the world perfect for farming this special tea - a tiny area of land located right here in the Uji region of Japan.
Therefore, hand picked Sencha is very precious.

At last, we can celebrate the first tea harvest of the year with Shincha and enjoy its wonderful fresh flavor!
(The tea leaves for our Sencha Pinnacle and Sencha Super Premium are grown in the Obuku area, the birth place of Uji tea, and picked by skilled hands.)
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Around May 7: (Just before Harvest)

Tea sprouts for machine trimmed as of May 7

Tea trees flooded sunlight just before harvest


Obuku is the first place where tea trees were planted in the Uji region of Japan.
They were planted by Kohken, a Buddhist monk, around A.D.1271, after Eisai popularized the idea of tea drinking in Japan around A.D.1191.

Even today, Obuku is known for producing very rare, highest grade Sencha.
Indeed, Sencha produced in the Obuku area was presented to the Japanese Emperors for many years.

Tea sprouts for hand picked as of May 7.
Sencha Pinnacle and Sencha Super Premium, which are grown at Obuku area and specially picked by skilled hands, are now taken pre-orders.
Finally, the Shincha harvest is about to begin in a few days in Ujitawara! Therefore, our Shincha teas will be available in just 3 or 4 days. You can pre-order Shincha now and it will ship as soon as it is available.

This year's harvest is 7 to 9 days later than usual and a few days later than last year. We had severe weather this winter and relatively cold temperatures in March. However, it plentifully rained for the last few weeks, and has steadily become warmer since April 25. The tea trees almost completely escaped frost injury this April. Judging from the tea sprout growth and weather in the last few weeks, it is expected that this year's crops will have a more generous and excellent flavor than in recent years.

Tea sprouts and trees just before the Shincha harvest are a beautiful sight! Flooded in sunlight and full of nutrients, they are bright, lush, and vivid green. The green color has changed from yellow green to bright green during the past few days. It is a sign of the best timing for harvest. Farmers have made great efforts throughout the year to prepare the tea trees for this harvest.

Since April, the sun has been getting stronger every day. Especially in the last two weeks, there were many warm days as if it were early summer. The tea sprouts have been growing well, very quickly.
Please wait and try this year's Shincha, which will be available in just 3 or 4 days.
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Around April 30: (Organic Tea Farm)

Conventionally grown tea tree sprouts as of April 30

Conventionally grown tea trees

Organic tea tree sprouts as of April 30. They have been growing more slowly than conventionally grown tea sprouts.

Organically grown tea trees. The brown portions of tea leaves have been eaten by bugs in last summer and autumn.

Insect in organic tea farm

A field flower flowering around our organic tea farm
Organic tea has a simple and traditional flavor similar to teas grown many years ago in ancient Japan. With organic tea, you can taste the natural features of the type of tea, soil, climate, and efforts by the farmer. All of our organic teas are certified by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan. They are grown with only natural organic fertilizers and no agricultural chemicals or pesticides.
Organic fertilizer works slowly. In contrast, chemical fertilizer works quickly and efficiently in about a month, while organic fertilizer works slowly for 3 to 9 months. Therefore organic Shincha tea is generally harvested 7 to 10 days later than conventionally grown teas.
The simple and traditional flavor of organic tea must be very close to the Shincha flavor which people enjoyed and celebrated a long time ago. Organic Sencha Premium is now taken for pre-orders for Shincha.

Now the sun is getting stronger every day and especially after April 20, the tea sprouts have been growing very quickly. There are only around 10 days left until the Shincha (Sencha, conventionally grown tea) harvest, which is the busiest season of the year for our tea farmers! And at organic tea farm Shincha (Sencha) harvest will start about 10 days later than conventionally grown teas.
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Around April 23: ("Honzu" canopy)

Tea leaves for Sencha (Shincha) as of April 23, 2011

Tea leaves for Sencha (Shincha) as of April 22, 2009

"Tana" made with modern building materials

"Honzu" made with reeds and straw is a traditional style of "Tana"

Inside of "Honzu"

Tea leaves in "Honzu" as of April 23
Tea farmers predict that the 2011 tea harvest in Kyoto will start around May 8 or 10. The harvest is 4 or 5 days later than usual and same with last year because of the severe winter and cold weather in March. Judging from the tea sprout growth and weather in the last some weeks, it is expected that this year's crops will be more generous and excellent flavor than recent years.

In contrast to Sencha, tea trees for Gyokuro and Matcha are now being covered with curtains. The structure of the picture on the center of upper side is called "Tana". Tea leaves for Gyokuro and Matcha are carefully grown under diffused sunlight for twenty to thirty days before harvesting, creating Theanine, which gives the tea a wonderfully sweet taste. Tea leaves for Gyokuro or Matcha are grown under diffused sunlight in three steps, (1) we cover only over the top of the tea trees, (2) we cover the sides, and (3) we put an additional covering over the top to create more shade. It enables us to adjust the level of shade and sunlight. It is difficult to assess the timing and takes skill and practice to grow perfect green tea. If covered using inappropriate timing, tea sprouts don't grow enough or create enough Theanine, which gives the tea its characteristic sweetness. Tea spouts for Gyokuro and Matcha will start to be harvested around on and after the middle to end of May.

"Honzu" is a very special way of building "Tana". It is the traditional way of diffusing sunlight from long ago, and these days it is very rare to see, even in the Uji region. In the "Honzu" method, tea farmers build a structure to provide shade to the tea trees using only reeds and straw. Old-style reeds and straw provide the ideal shade for tea trees. And it is said that the constituents exuded from the straw through the rainwater exercise good effects on the tea leaves.
However, it is not easy to build this structure of reeds and straw, to gather so much reeds and straw, and to manage to keep the "Honzu" in good condition throughout the growing season. For example, if a strong wind blew just after placement of the straw, the straw would be blown away and ruined. If it rains once after the placement of the straw, the rainwater firms the structure. Today only less than 10 farmers in all of Japan manage "Honzu" (only in Ogura and a few other areas in the Uji region). Our Kuradashi Gyokuro Pinnacle, which is limited edition only available in autumn, is grown in diffused sunlight under the reed and straw "Honzu". Please wait and see.

Meanwhile, the tea leaves for Sencha (Shincha) are being generously flooded with light. There is only about two weeks or more left until the Shincha (Sencha) harvest!
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Around April 16: (Birthplace of Uji Tea)

Cherry blossoms at Obuku area on April 12

Birthplce of Sohen Nagatani

Tea sprouts for machine trimmed as of April 16

Tea sprouts as of April 16 for hand picked. Tea sprouts harvested by hand appear differently than those harvested by machine.

Tiny streams running at Obuku area, birth place of Uji tea. And Obuku area is surrounded by mountain ravines.

The tea jar was used to bestow tea leaves harvested in Ujitawara to the Japanese Emperors
At last, the cherry blossoms here in Obuku area in mountain ravines are at their best for a few days.

Tea trees harvested by hand grow differently than those harvested by machine. In the case of tea trees trimmed by machine, tea sprouts grow from the previously trimmed stubble. By contrast, in the case of tea trees picked by hand, tea sprouts shoot from the natural forks in the branches. The flavor and aroma of hand picked tea is much more mellow and smooth than tea trimmed by machine and the leaves are of higher quality. Tea leaves that are picked by hand can generally be harvested a few days earlier than tea leaves trimmed by machine.

Obuku is the first place where tea trees were planted in the Uji region of Japan. They were planted by Kohken, a Buddhist monk, around A.D.1271, after Eisai popularized the idea of tea drinking in Japan around A.D.1191. Obuku is a small area of land with a diameter of less than one mile (600 meters). Even today, Obuku is known for producing very rare, highest grade Sencha. In Japan, there are only a few places where top grade Sencha is produced, and the Obuku area in Ujitawara is one of them.
Obuku is located in mountain ravines, where tiny streams run, and the soil is full of minerals. The misty climate, sloping hills, warm days and cool nights provide a very ideal setting to grow the highest grade tea. Indeed, Sencha produced in the Obuku area was presented to the Japanese Emperors for many years. The tea leaves for our Sencha Pinnacle and Sencha Super Premium are grown in the Obuku area, the birth place of Uji tea, and picked by skilled hands.

We have been arranging to add Sencha Pinnacle and Sencha Super Premium to our line of 2011 Shincha teas, and hopefully soon we can start accepting pre-orders. Please wait and see.
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Around April 9:

Brooks running in and around our tea farms are pure, calm and clear

A field flower flowering around our tea farm



Cherry blossoms here in mountain ravines will be at their best in a few days

Many brooks run in and around our tea farms. All of them are pure, calm and clear. As you may know, high grade and quality tea grows in mountainous regions, specifically in lush valleys surrounded by mountains. Our tea farms are located upstream in the mountains, so all of the brooks in and around our tea farms are quite clean, pure and untouched as they come straight out from the mountain rocks and earth. Mist is another geographical feature essential for growing high grade and quality tea. These brooks and the difference in temperatures between day and night work to create mist, which keeps the air and earth moist and perfect for growing green tea.

At last, the cherry blossoms here in Ujitawara in mountain ravines will be at their best in a few days.
We had severe weather this winter and relatively cold temperatures in March. Then at the end of March, the weather in Kyoto suddenly turned warm. Judging from the tea sprout growth and weather in the last few weeks, it is expected that this year's crops will be more generous and excellent flavor than recent years. It is about three weeks or more until the Shincha harvest.
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Around April 2:

Cherry blossom buds at our tea farm in the lush valley surrounded by mountains on April 2, 2011


This is cherry blossom season in Japan. In a few days, the beautiful pink blossoms will start to bloom at parks which are filled with so many cherry trees, as well as scattered throughout famous temples and shrines. Kyoto's cherry blossoms will be at their best next week (April 4-11). We took photos of the cherry trees at our tea farm. The cherry blossoms at our farm in the lush valley surrounded by mountains, where only birdsongs and the sound of a stream meet the ear, will start to bloom in a few or some days.

At this time, it is possible for the cold weather to return, but it rarely frosts. A frost in spring is devastating because it completely ruins any tea sprouts. Electric fans are strategically placed around the tea trees to stir the air during the month of April to avoid 'spring frost.' We must pay attention to the lowest temperature of each day until the end of April.

Like the cherry trees, the tea sprouts have been steadily growing day by day. It is about a month or more until the Shincha harvest.
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Around March 26:



Cherry blossom buds on March 26, 2011

Cherry blossom buds on March 27, 2010


In March the weather begun to warm up just a little and the sky has changed from winter's heavy and dark gray to spring's light and clear blue here in Ujitawara, Kyoto. Little birds have started whispering, insects have come out of hiding and started acting up, and the babbling of a brook melts your heart.

In Japan, it is said that spring really comes after the week of the equinox (March 20th). The cherry trees start to swell buds. Tea sprouts, too have now been starting to appear around March 20th. The cherry blossoms here in Ujitawara will bloom in 10 days or 2 weeks. This year, the cherry blossoms will bloom four or five days later than average because of the severe winter and cold weather in March.

Our tea trees were fed a generous amount of fertilizer last Autumn. Then they were fed fertilizer again at the end of February to the middle of March. The old tea leaves have become a deep burnished green color. This is proof that the tea trees are absorbing enough nutrients from the fertilizer. It takes a few weeks to a month after being fertilized for the tea trees to fully absorb and then begin utilizing the nutrients. If new buds grow before the tea tree has finished fully absorbing the nutrients, then the taste of the tea leaves becomes less smooth and mellow.

It is about one month or maybe a bit longer until the start of the Shincha harvest in Ujitawara in Kyoto. The months leading up to and surrounding the harvest are the busiest season for farmers.
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Video Pictures of Shincha News Flash!

Harvest of Hand Picked Gyokuro and Matcha (May 20)
Shincha Harvest at the Birthplace of Japanese Tea (May 9)
Cherry Blossoms are at The Best (Beginning of April)
Coming of Spring (End of March)
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Status of Shincha Teas

Shincha (the first tea of the year) is harvested starting at the beginning of May in Kyoto. We are planning to sell some limited edition Shincha items only available this Shincha harvest season. Celebrate our first tea harvest of the year with Hibiki-an's Shincha and enjoy the remarkable fresh flavor, which can only be experienced once every year! Please wait and see!
Limited edition Shincha items
All items below are limited edition of 1,000 packages each ONLY AVAILABLE this spring harvest season. We have arranged various types of Shincha, which will be specially finished to enjoy Shincha's refreshing aroma and flavor. For more information regarding each item, please click on the links below. We hope you will enjoy the refreshing aroma and smooth flavor of each Shincha item!
Shincha Traditional (80g/2.82oz): US$29.00 (Out of Stock)
These tea leaves are finished in the traditional Uji/Kyoto style. Therefore the astringent refreshing aroma and mellow flavor are prominent, and the harmony is excellent...
[New] Shincha AOTE (80g/2.82oz): US$27.00 (Out of Stock)
With Shincha AOTE, the astringent refreshing aroma and bitter taste is moderated, the tea color is greener, and the taste is mellower...
Shincha Fukamushi (80g/2.82oz): US$25.00 (Out of Stock)
Saemidori breed brings us pleasure in the springtime, to consider the unique flavor and early-ripening. Enjoy the sweet and smooth taste unique to this tea, as well as the fresh aroma...
Farmers' Shincha (160g/5.64oz): US$30.00 (Out of Stock)
Enjoy the natural taste and refreshing aroma of this "Aracha" Shincha at an affordable price. "Aracha" is unprocessed tea that Japanese farmers have been enjoying for centuries...
Shincha Gyokuro (80g/2.82oz): US$27.00 (Out of Stock)
With our Shincha Gyokuro you can enjoy both the refreshing aroma of Shincha and the mellow smooth taste of Gyokuro in one cup of tea. In the tea industry, it is called "Kabuse Cha"...
Shincha Matcha (30g/1.06oz) US$30.00 (Out of Stock)
Recently, Shincha Matcha is enjoyed mainly among teachers or masters of tea ceremony. They enjoy the fresh flavor of Shincha Matcha. And they feel delight of the spring season, inspired by the fresh flavor of Shincha Matcha...
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A Tip to Enjoy Shincha

Shincha's best features are its refreshing yet mellow aroma, and balance of sweet and bitter taste. There are two methods to brew each type of Shincha. One method is the same as the usual way to brew tea, and the other brews at a little higher temperature to bring out the sharper taste and more refreshing aroma of Shincha.

Brewing Process:

- Shincha or Shincha Fukamushi
Shincha is brewed using the same method as regular Sencha: 176F (80C) water for 1 min. Only for Shincha Fukamushi, please brew for shorter time, 40 to 45 sec. For sharper and more refreshing flavor, use higher temperature water (85C / 185F).

- Shincha Gyokuro
Shincha Gyokuro is brewed using the same method as regular Gyokuro: 158F (70C) water for 1 1/2 to 2 min. For sharper and more refreshing flavor, use higher temperature water 176F (80C) for 1 min. This is the same method for brewing Sencha, but is also perfect to bring out the flavor of Shincha Gyokuro.

- Shincha Matcha
Shincha Matcha is prepared with 176F (80C) temperature water, in the same way as usual Matcha. For sharper and more refreshing flavor of Shincha Matcha, use higher temperature water (194F - 212F / 90C - 100C).
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What is Shincha?

In Japan, we have the tradition of celebrating Shincha, the first tea of the year, also known as Ichibancha. Similar to the Beaujolais Nouveau of French wine, the name Shincha celebrates the first tea harvest of the year.

The tea trees were fertilized last autumn in order to enrich the soil and have absorbed and stored the nourishments through the winter. Soon, they are flooded with dazzling spring sunshine, and the tea trees come into sprouts at a stretch. Japanese green tea is usually harvested between two and five times each year from Spring to Autumn. But the first pick, Ichibancha, is by far the best.

In contrast to Gyokuro, which is enjoyed for the high-toned sweet taste and flavor, Sencha is enjoyed for the superb harmony of refreshing aroma, flavor, and bitter taste. It is said that Gyokuro and Matcha enriches the flavor over time, and so is best six months after harvest (- though today's some gyokuro lovers like fresh Gyokuro as well as enriched one). Sencha, on the other hand, has the most refreshing aroma immediately after being harvested. So it is Sencha, not Gyokuro and Matcha, that we enjoy when we have Shincha.

In the present day, people are able to enjoy fresh Shincha tea flavor and aroma throughout the year almost the same as real Shincha, because preservation techniques and technology have made remarkable progress. At least, this is true at Hibiki-an, because we take so much care to preserve the freshness of our green tea leaves. We can't say whether this is true of other companies. A long time ago, when the tradition of celebrating the first tea harvest with Shincha began, people did not have modern preservation techniques such as vacuum packing and refrigeration - so it was very exciting to be able to enjoy a fresh cup of Shincha. But even today, it is very enjoyable to experience the flavor and aroma of new Shincha tea leaves freshly harvested from the farm.

Although Shincha is harvested starting in the middle of April in Kagoshima, Shizuoka and a few other regions, in Uji in Kyoto, Shincha is harvested starting at the beginning of May.



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