The first green tea, the very first harvest. Shincha, Shin Japanese for new and Cha Japanese for tea. Literally: the new tea. The new green tea tastes extremely fresh and lively, is richly complex and particularly healthy. Shincha was once a rarity reserved only for the Japanese emperor (Tenno) and the nobility. Today, the first Shincha and it‘s harvest are events that the whole of Japan expects and celebrates.
The celebrations and the cult surrounding the first Shincha in Japan are roughly comparable to the first young wine in Germany, the Primeur in France, the Vino Joven in Spain, the Novello in Italy or the Heurigen in Austria.
To this day, Shincha celebrations in cultivation areas follow century old traditions. Every tea merchant who manages to hold on to some product, serves the fresh tea. And yes, even special pop-up tea bars are opened with the sole intent to serve young Shincha. On multi-day folk festivals and markets in almost every major Japanese city, everyone is eager to present and drink the young green tea. The best Shincha selected and awarded.
The first Shincha: Highly Anticipated
The first-harvest and arrival date of this seasonal green tea is set in advance. The subtropical islands in the very south of Japan have a climatic and natural advantage. On the Pacific islands of Tanegashima and Yakushima, the Shincha harvest begins at the end of March due to the mild and higher temperatures. That is roughly 66 nights after the beginning of Japanese spring, the 4th of February.
In fact, the “New Tea” is harvested faster than the traditionally described 88 nights after the Japanese Lunar New Year, required for the green tea first ripening.