Sencha Tea: An introduction to Sencha Tea
Sencha is the most common and popular type of green tea in Japan and makes up over 60% of all tea produced. Sencha tea is grown with full exposure to the sun. Unlike for example Gyokuro and Matcha that are shaded from the sun during the last month or so of growth. This fully sun-grown variety of Japanese green tea takes full advantage of the sun's energy to aid in its transformation. There are many cultivars and grades of Sencha, which leads to a large spectrum of taste, quality and pricing.
A variety of things impact the ultimate flavor of Sencha. These factors include the farm's geographical location, the quality of the raw leaves, and the final processing procedure utilized to generate the finished product. Because the first two variables vary so significantly, most tea is rated based on its final processing procedure. The length of the tea's steaming is used to classify the processing method, as most Japanese green tea is steamed. After picking the tea, it is steamed to prevent oxidation. The grades are Asamushi (steamed for the least amount of time), Chumushi, and Fukumushi (steamed for nearly twice as long as Asamushi). Using these three grading methods it is possible to choose what may suit your taste best before buying, or if you prefer variety then this can hopefully help in your selections.
ASAMUSHI SENCHA - In this historic technique of manufacturing, the tea leaves are steamed for the shortest amount of time possible; this rapid steaming method was invented many centuries ago, and Asamushi tea strictly adheres to the traditional manner tea steaming. Because the Asamushi method is more delicate, it is usually used for higher grades of raw tea. When brewed, it creates a light-golden green liquor with long needle-like leaves. The completed brew has a lovely aroma and a deep earthy flavor.
CHUMUSHI SENCHA - This is medium steamed Sencha, and it has been produced in this manner since the seventeenth century. The steaming period ranges between 60 and 100 seconds, yielding a delicious tea.
FUKAMUSHI SENCHA - The Modern Sencha tea is steamed for the longest period using the Fukumushi technique. When compared to the conventional Asamushi method, Fukumushi roughly doubles the amount of time it is steamed. It is a more recent way of preparing tea that is frequently employed for leaves that do not lend themselves to the Asamushi process. When compared to Asamushi teas, its look is more akin to a coarse powder. When the tea is brewed, this powder dissolves, resulting in a dark-green beverage. Fukamushi teas are less bitter and easy to brew. Similar to Matcha, because some of the powder dissolves in the tea, many of the nutrients remain in the tea after brewing. Many years of experience have gone into creating the Fukumushi method, and the results have come to be highly appreciated and very popular in the modern day.
Note: The color of the brew is not an indication of the depth or complexity of taste inherent in the final brewed tea. Asamushi has an exquisite taste, and many of the highest quality teas are processed using the Asamushi method, this does not mean that Chumushi and Fukamushi are not also excellent teas; they simply have a different taste profile.
CAFFEINE - Caffeine is a natural pesticide and allows the tea plants to grow strong even in difficult conditions - caffeine in the tea plant is naturally occurring and it has helped the tea plant spread and thrive in farms in many countries. The finished tea, once brewed does contain caffeine. The amount of caffeine varies by the particular type of sencha and the brewing time. An 8 oz (240ml) cup of sencha has between 15 and 70 milligrams of caffeine, whereas a cup of coffee contains 80 to 200 mg or more.
BREWING - Sencha tea can be consumed either hot or chilled. We actually have a line of sencha that is packaged expressly for brewing in cold water and drinking as iced tea. Iced sencha is a delightful summer drink served right from the refrigerator. Regular, hot brewed Sencha is typically brewed for 30 to 90 seconds in 180F (80C) water; the bigger the leaves, the longer the brewing time should be.