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Shincha vs New Tea

There is a lot of confusion around Shincha and Japanese new tea. Compared to other tea-grower countries, Japanese tea is produced differently, making the tea vocabulary and importance of expressions completely different. If you are interested in knowing more of the first Japanese teas of the year, keep reading for better understanding of Shincha and New Tea.


Japanese green tea harvest starts during spring. The newly harvested leaves are processed and turned into several different types of tea. From the beginning of harvest shincha, literally meaning "new tea" appears on the markets, but this word can mean one of two things: Shincha, as in the seasonal first tea of the year, or new tea, the new harvest of the teas available year round.


Shincha is a special tea made from the very first picking of tealeaves in spring, when the tea picking season starts in Japan. Right after picking starts, they quickly process the first leaves. Shincha is not steamed as long and at as high a temperature as other teas, thus contain more moisture

Though Shincha is quite popular and sought-after these days, it is more about marketing than taste; it is a statement, “The new tea season is here!”, and it is a huge competition for companies to release their Shincha as soon as possible. This hurry and the different processing of the leaves result in a raw, astringent, fresh tasting tea that is only sold for 1-2 months after the tea picking starts and looses most its taste in about half a year.


New Tea

Shincha is not to be confused with the new harvest of Japanese tea, also called “New tea”. Shincha is a seasonal blend of tea made in a special way, while new teas are the usual blends of teas in the companies’ range made from the fresh harvest of the year. These new teas are processed as usual, therefore take a longer time to make.

Traditionally these teas would become available from September to Tsubokiri (“Breaking of the seal”) in November, since the taste blends better by then, but because of market demand, there is pressure on the producers to release these teas as soon as possible and most of them become available much sooner.

The highest-grade teas still come out around September, because they are made for the most prestigeous tea competition of Japan, the All-Japan Competitive Tea Exhibition that is held then. This competition is a closed event only available for professionals participating in the competition. The tea producers make their competing teas so it will be ready for this event and don’t present them before the competition.

It is important to mention, that most Japanese teas are blends, meaning the tea masters create the same taste each year. To reach the desired taste, they sometimes even mix tea from a previous year into the blends. Because of this method of reaching the same taste each year, the time of harvest does not hold much meaning for these teas. This is the reason Japanese teas do not have the year of harvest indicated, most companies don’t even make it public to retailers when they start selling the new tea. 

Dates for releasing the new tea

Giving a date for when teas become available is very difficult, since - as it is in every agricultural field - there are many factors that have an effect on the growth of the tea leaves and the date of release, such as weather or location. Tea picking starts sooner in south-western parts of the country, in Kyushu.

It is possible to delay the growth (such as covering the tea field), but no one can rush nature.

Also, the time different types of teas need vary. Some teas become available a few weeks after the tea picking starts, but others are released later.

There are companies that mark the tea packaging when they start using the newly picked teas, e.g. Hokoen puts gold stickers on them saying that it is the new harvest of the year.

The new tea season in Uji starts with the Ujicha festival. The festival is the official opening of the tea picking season and is a very important event with many fun and cultural events for tea enthusiasts, families and even professionals; important persons of the tea world, such as company leaders and blenders also are present.


NEW TEA in 2020

In 2020, the Ujicha Festival was not held due to the COVID19 pandemic. Because of the virus and the weather conditions, the tea harvest started a bit later than usual, but the new tea of the year is becoming available gradually.

Sencha: from end of May through June

Gyokuro: from end of June till mid-July

Matcha: from end of June through July

Some types, especially the higher grade teas are released much later (September, October), following the traditional times of blending (e.g. Ohmi Premium Sencha Chaju, Gyokuro Chitose no Homare).

Please note, that these are only approximate dates, they might be sooner or later in other years if the weather conditions differ.


Shincha at Sazen Tea

Shincha tea blends, both matcha and sencha, are available at our webstore during the Shincha season. After the tea makers present their Shincha, we taste them and pick the few we deem to have the best, richest flavours and present them to our customers all around the world.

The new teas made from leaves picked in the new season are also available when the producers switch to the new tea.

Enjoy the Shincha selection of Sazen Tea

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