Sencha is the most popular style of tea in Japan, accounting for 80% of tea consumed there. Sencha is known for its nice green color and notes of grass and seaweed. The factors which influence how sencha tastes are season, processing, cultivar and terroir.
The first tea leaves harvested in early spring are made into a special sencha called Shincha (new tea). Tea leaves harvested later in the spring and summer are made into Sencha. Tea plants producing leaves for sencha are grown in full sun, unlike other types of Japanese tea (for example, gyokuro and matcha) which are shade grown for part of their growing season.
In Japan tea leaves are typically steamed when producing green tea. The steaming process stops the tea leaves from oxidizing (the process for producing black and oolong teas) and locks in the fresh, green color and taste. Steaming brings out a sweetness and natural umami flavor in sencha.
Usually a sencha tea is a blend of leaves from different tea fields and sometimes cultivars. The majority of sencha is from the Yabukita cultivar. Tea producers often prefer to use a blend of tea leaves from different farms so that they can keep a consistent tasting product from year to year. If the tea leaves from one farm vary in flavor in a particular year, it's less noticable when blended with other tea leaves. A blend of tea leaves can also result in a more complex tea with a variety of notes from the different cultivars.
Single cultivar senchas are not blends, but rather tea leaves from the same cultivar. You can often smell or taste stronger notes due to the fact that it's a single cultivar, not a blend.
This spring we're featuring a single cultivar, single estate sencha made from the Sae Akari cultivar (translates to Clear Light) and grown on a 100 year old tea farm in Shizuoka. Learn more about this sencha and purchase Sae Akari Sencha Reserve here.