Sencha Green Tea
One of the most popular green teas in Japan, sencha’s quality, value and flavor are contingent on where it’s grown, who grows it, and what time of year it is harvested. The most prized sencha (aka first flush sencha) comes from the spring harvest in April or May, when the tea plants begin to bloom after sitting dormant over the winter. Spring harvested sencha is known for its light, almost transparent jade color (with a tinge of yellowish chartreuse at the edges) and refreshingly bright flavor.
Sencha’s vivacious flavor and freshness are not only a direct result of its harvest time, but also the way in which it is processed. Unlike Chinese green teas, which are pan-fried and dried, Japanese sencha is steamed, rolled and dried, then left in refrigeration.
With a delicate, toasted aroma, first flush sencha has notes of fresh, green grass, oceanic umami and a sugar snap pea sweetness. Lower quality sencha tastes less fresh and light on the palate. It can be richer, and more tannic and astringent, with a hint of grass and vegetal notes on the finish. Easy to brew (especially in tea bags), sencha is easy to pre-batch and, according to Mangan, “naturally produces high levels of vitamin C, which acts as a preservative and keeps the teas fresh for up to five days in refrigeration.”
Brands to Buy: We recommend Ippodo's sencha teas (their Hosen is a good place for beginners to start) or Kettl’s Sencha Jou, a vibrant, spring-harvested tea from the Fukuoka prefecture. For something more extravagant and rare, try In Pursuit of Teas Sencha Okuyutaka, a briny, umami rich small batch tea from the Shizuoka prefecture in Japan.
How to Brew It: When using loose leaf sencha tea, use equal parts tea and water (one gram of water to one gram of loose tea). Your water temperature ideally should be on the lower end of the spectrum—anywhere from 170 degrees to 176 degrees Fahrenheit—with a brew time of one to one-and-a-half minutes. The hotter the temperature, the more astringent and bitter the tea will be. For cold brewing, Mangan recommends using three tea bags for every two liters of water. For optimal flavor, allow the tea to steep for up to 36 hours in your refrigerator.
How to Spike It: For a refreshing, non-alcoholic sipper, simply mix cold brewed tea with half an ounce of fresh lemon juice and three-quarters of an ounce of simple syrup. To make a boozy tiki-inspired Long Island Ice Tea variation, add two ounces of rhum agricole, three-quarters of an ounce of absinthe and three-quarters of an ounce of simple syrup to a highball glass with ice. Top with cold brew sencha and stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge.