"Shincha" are the first harvested tea leaves of the season, usually picked from the end of May to June of each year. The tender new leaves produce a tea quite different than tea from leaves harvested at other times of the year (each tea plant provides 3 or 4 harvests). A favorite of tea drinkers, shincha is considered the most delicious tea of the season because of its delicate sweetness, fresh aroma and full-bodied flavor. It is also, surprisingly, high in nutrients, having stored nutrition in the leaves throughout the winter.
Fresh unplucked shincha leaves are a beautiful bright green-yellow. After being gently steamed and dried, they take on a richer, darker green. If you try a few leaves, you'll be pleasantly taken aback at the amount of flavor they have! Shincha can be used in sweets, both Japanese-style, such as "matcha" and "uiro" steamed cakes, and Western-style, such as cookies and puddings. It is even included in the dough for a certain type of soba called "chasoba"! However it is used, shincha imparts its fine, fresh aroma and wonderful grassy flavor to other ingredients.
Of course, the most common way to enjoy shincha is to infuse it and drink it as tea. But you can't just dump the leaves into your pot and pour in hot water! In order to draw out the full flavor of the leaves, care must be taken as to how it is prepared; namely, the temperature of the water must be just right to get the perfect gold-green color and unforgettable scent and taste of shincha.
Shincha is only available for a limited time each year, and may be purchased from tea specialty shops, various on-line vendors, supermarkets etc. Or, if you are in Japan, visit Shizuoka prefecture, one of the famous regions for green tea.
For more information about Shizuoka, visit here.
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