Friday, May 6, 2011

2011 Zencha Fuji The Ultimate Shincha

Shincha – what a great thing to find in mailbox. The first picking of fresh green tea in Japan started just a while ago and is still in progress, yet we are already able to try some of the earliest birds.

So far this year, I've ordered my Shincha from Zencha – “Fuji The Ultimate” originates in Shizuoka, was hand-picked at the end of April and processed as Fukamushi-cha (deep-steamed tea). Though I've previously mentioned favoring Asamushi over Fukamushi teas, I can't deny their sharp, fruity green taste is possibly one of the best ways to really enjoy the taste of liquid spring.

The package is opened and ultimately fills the room with vividly sweet, fresh smell, typically much stronger than that of Asamushi teas and almost aggressive – however, this aroma keeps its nobleness, being very fine and, literally, green. It belongs to small leaves comprised mainly of short needles and a bit of tea-dust; their color is almost jade-green and seems slightly lighter than in normal Sencha – a frequent sight for Shincha. In terms of Fukamushi teas, they seem very attractive and well-made.

These leaves are placed into the preheated kyusu teapot and their smell immediately intensifies, underlining the fresh, sharp sweetness.

The first infusion is prepared with a bit hotter water than I usually use for Sencha (though still not really high in temperature) and shorter brewing time – this should get more of the typical refreshing taste I enjoy so much in these fresh teas. As a result, its color is vivid-green and just a bit opaque. The taste is very similar to smell – fresh and strong, lively green and sharp, yet very refined – it starts as a sweet, green sensation on tongue, full of milky and fruity tones, especially of young green apples and grapes and ends in pleasant, sweet and smooth aftertaste, long and cool.

The second infusion is brewed only for a few seconds and already results in almost non-transparent, opaque green brew, quite different from its predecessor in terms of taste, which is now significantly sharper, spicier and heavier. Still, the fruity, refreshing tones are preserved and so is the soft sweetness in aftertaste, now even longer and more intensive.

The third infusion is still very opaque and vividly green in color, though already a bit milder and rounder in taste. In this brew, the fruity, sweet freshness returns as a dominant tone, making the overall feeling of this infusion much smoother. The aftertaste is shorter and lighter, showing some new woodsy tones.

In terms of color, the last infusion is similar to the first, being just a bit opaque and even lighter in color. The taste is now drier, more woodsy and lacks the fruity notes as well as any milkiness, though it still possess the cool, refreshing body.

One more thing to say – a personal wish of mine. Please, do buy this year's Shincha, do buy this year's Japanese tea. I am aware of what happened and of the fact that many people decided not to buy them this year – not considering the fact that while the power-plant is located in the northern part of Japan, most of the tea-producing prefectures are located in the south, hundreds of kilometers away. The country's economy has already been damaged a lot by the disaster – if we moreover stop purchasing Japanese products, we won't be of any help in its recovery.

I am not a nuclear physicist and may not understand the whole accident properly – instead, I want to say that I believe I understand Japanese mentality at least a bit. And it's exactly their perfectionism and seriousness that makes me say this and get rid of any fear that they would let any harmful product on the market. So please, keep shopping for Japanese teas – judging from this Shincha, it seems like there really is a lot to look forward to about this harvest.


  1. Thank you Michal for this review.
    I can not wait to taste the 2011 shincha !
    I totally agree with your personal final words...I WILL BUY japanese tea this year.


  2. Hi Michal,

    Lionel said what I would like to say. There is something special about shincha and I look forward to try 2011 -hopefuly soon.


  3. I forgot to add :

    "I WILL BUY japanese tea this year..."

    ...and drink it in Petr's teapot and teacup...

  4. ha ha ha...hope you will enjoy both. I am also going for some new Jap.experinces- not afraid at all.


  5. Lionel, Petr,

    glad to hear that from both of you :-)

    Have a great day!

  6. Hi Michal,
    unfortunately I don't feel safe to buy Shincha from Shizuoka. Premium sellers just withdrew all shincha from Shizuoka just because to stay on the safe side.
    Here can be seen all tests of radionuclides made by Japanese government:
    A pretty useful page as a reference.

    As you can see practically al Shizuokan teas have radiation detected in triple numbers.

    So my point is: why get tea fron Shizuoka while I can get tea from Uji or from Yame for example, that are free on radiations?

  7. Alex,
    as you have probably noticed on the Zencha website, this specific tea has been analysed (moreover, with quite strict limits of detection, as you can see in the report) and no radiation was detected. Concerning other Shizuoka teas from Zencha, you can read my opinion in the response to your comment on the post about Fuji Superior.
    Then - if we talk about Shizuoka teas in general and your question - why to buy it, if we can get teas from other regions - of course, this depends on a personal decision of every tea-drinker. Some can choose to buy teas only from certain, let's say "more southern" regions, some may as well choose not to drink Japanese tea at all. Personally, I cannot identify myself with either of these opinions. The Japanese themselves are very serious in this manner and the limits for radiation tests in food are very strict - in this way, products which account only the slightest change from normal are immediately banned from the market. There are, however, a few important things to mention about tea. I've talked to friends who know much more about radiation and nuclear physics than I do and most of them are very skeptic about these food regulations, as they told me - in most cases, natural radiation of most things is much higher than the numbers detected by these testings. Just an example - the natural radiation you get from eating a normal banana is much higher than what do these teas have, not to mention things like the radiation you receive from person sleeping next to you and many other daily actions. We do not even seem to realize that all of these actions are, as we say, "radioactive" - just because radiation this low doesn't have any effect at all on our life or health.
    Another thing is the fact, that tea, especially in its dry form, is a concentrated product. Drying is one of its main processing steps and, by doing this, the overall weight of the final product is lower as most of the water is gone - therefore, it's natural that all substances in it, whether positive or negative, must have much higher concentration in the processed leaves as well. Moreover, when we brew tea, only a small amount of these substances is actually extracted into water - about 1/10. The amount measured in dry leaves (which is already low, even though it may be higher than standard) therefore reduces even more, much more, actually.

    What I want to say is not that I'm trying to persuade you to change your opinion - I just want to describe things the way I see them, after discussing this subject with many people that have something to say about it. But, in the end, it still is your free choice to decide what to buy and what not to. As for me, I've already decided to keep supporting the farmers and producers of Shizuoka as much as possible - by buying and drinking their teas. Moreover, as I have mentioned in this post, I do believe in Japanese mentality and their seriousness. They wouldn't knowingly sell or export any dangerous product. And, there is also another thing - as far as I know, the EU is also testing most of these products that come to its market and probably won't let imports of those which aren't safe.
    One more thing - I also think that all tea-producing regions of Japan have their own unique character of tea. For me, it would be a bit boring to drink tea from only one or two of them, when I know there is much more than just that, even though a lot of people may be a bit mistrustful about these products without even having enough information.
    With all the information I have so far - even though, as I've said, the measured amounts of certain substances may be higher than standard - I still want to continue drinking teas from Shizuoka. And, with all respect to your opinion, I doubt anything will change mine, as for now.

  8. Hi Michal,
    of course we have different opinion and that's the beauty of it. I won't change yours radically, and probably you won't change mine but opinion are just these.
    I agree with you that the more teas are available, the more fun we have drinking them. It's like a journey.
    Fortunately EU reg. is as strict as Japan's about radionuclide tests so what doesn't pass in Japan probably will be blocked also in EU. I'm confident about that.