PROJECT New Tea

May 18, 2023 | Cooking Club

PROJECT New Tea is about brewing and enjoying NEW TEA (shin cha 新茶)…

Please try YOUR hand at preparing new tea (available online and in specialty shops around the world).

And when you do, share your kitchen activity with us: post to KCCC. Please include photos and a brief description.  And, if you have any questions, post them to the FB group, too.

Looking forward to seeing YOUR new tea project…

The arrival of shin cha each spring is eagerly anticipated  by tea connoisseurs around the world.  Hachiju hachi ya, literally the 88th night 八十八夜 traditionally marks the start of the tea harvest in Japan. Calculated by the ancient lunar calendar hachiju hachi ya corresponds to early May on the Gregorian calendar.

From the first plucking on the 88th night, through subsequent ones throughout the summer and early autumn, young buds, tender leaves and flavorful twigs are handpicked and processed.

Most of the commercial green tea crop in Japan is grown in Shizuoka, southwest of Tokyo, though Uji (near Kyoto) and Ureshino (on the island of Kyushu) are also famous for their tea plantations.

Have you ever wondered why teas come in such a range of colors and flavors? All teas are actually processed from the same plant, related to the camellia flower (Camellia sinensis). A naturally occurring enzyme in the tea leaf normally leads to fermentation and the characteristic color and flavor of what I will call black tea (though the name in Japanese, kōcha  紅茶  means “red” tea).

What makes green tea, green? The leaves are not allowed to ferment. The enzyme is de-activated by applying heat. In Japan, this is usually accomplished through steaming; in China and other parts of Asia, pan-roasting is the common method.

Brewing FLAVORFUL green tea

Attentiveness to water temperature is key to making the most of the flavor and aroma potential locked within shin cha leaves and stems.

The ideal temperature for extracting umami seibun (flavor-enhancing glutamatic acid) is about 70 degrees Celsius (158 Fahrenheit). Higher temperatures (above 80 degrees C/176 F) will activate tannic acid that releases bitterness and astringency.

The simplest way to brew flavorful tea without special equipment is to first bring water to a boil (100C or 212F). Pour the boiling water directly into the cups from which the tea will be drunk; typically in Japan small cups (holding about 100-120ml/about 4 fluid ounces) are favored. Allow the water to stand in the cups, uncovered, for 1 minute. This will warm the cups, cool the water and measure the amount of water needed to fill those cups with tea. Guidance on the ratio of tea to water and other details of brewing can be downloaded here: GREEN TEA brewing details.

Visit the Kitchen Culture blog post to learn about Japanese TEAPOTS for brewing and serving green tea.

Download a copy of my May 2023 newsletter about Japanese GREEN TEA and making cold-brew for hot weather.

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