What is Sencha?
Sencha is a Japanese term that refers to the tea grown in full sun. The tea is different from the other types of tea like gyokuro, genmaicha which represents tea grown under limited conditions of sunlight. Gyokuro is produced from tea leaves of the tea grown in shade for about 3 weeks and it is mostly used in Japanese tea ceremonies. However, sencha makes about 75% of the total Japanese tea production. Moreover, it is also considered to be the greatest, typical Japanese tea that appeals to all green tea fans world over. In addition, special production techniques are employed to ensure that the organic tea is of the best quality. This ensures that the tea retains the flavor and aroma of the dark green tea leaves used. Sencha tea is also said to contain antioxidants “catechins” and body relaxing elements. According to tea researchers, sencha has contributed to development of high aesthetic sensibilities in Japan.
Taste of Sencha Tea
Sencha is able to retain its balance of natural sweetness and astringency. Moreover, a fine, fresh quality is able to give a robust flavor while manifesting its organic nature without being bitter. However, the tea has to be correctly brewed for it to be a catchy drink. In addition, sencha leaves generally have a clear grassy and a sea-weed smell that distinguishes it from the Chinese green tea.
Sencha Production Process
After freshly picked leaves are taken to the factory, a number of processing steps take place. First, fanning and humidifying is done to avoid loss of quality and maintain the freshness of the tea leaves. This is because the process ensures that moisture is maintained and the heat given off is removed. The tea leaves are then steamed to stop the fermentation and the oxidizing action of the enzymes on the tea leaves. This helps to maintain the green color and also improve the odor. However, longer steaming of the leaves reduces fragrance and astringency. The steamed leaves are then cooled to preserve their bright color, flavor and aroma.
The cooled leaves are then pressed while being exposed to dry, hot air from a fan to enhance color, luster, aroma and flavor. This process helps in removing surface moisture and increasing the drying effect. The leaves then undergo first rolling process to reduce the internal moisture. This is by blowing dry, hot air over the leaves while also applying pressure. The next step is rolling and twisting, where the structure of the leaves is broken by pressing them in a bundle without applying heat. This ensures that the tea components are easily released when making tea. The leaves undergo the second and then the final rolling where they are able now to acquire their needle-like characteristic. Sencha leaves are further dried to reduce the moisture content from about 10-13% after final rolling to 5% to become crude tea.
The crude tea is still not considered a finished product yet despite going through the crude tea manufacturing processes.Therefore, it has to undergo secondary processing to be sold as a finished product. This ensures that it has adapted to the local customer tastes and can easily be stored. The processes involved in secondary processing include; sorting, pan drying, cutting, shaping, grading and electrical sensitivity.
How to make Sencha
To make Sencha, one should use a teaspoon of sencha for every 250-300 mils of water. The water used should be at around 80 degrees Celsius. The tea should then be allowed about 1-2 minutes to steep and not longer as this will make your brew bitter. This results in a sweet flavor and aroma as the tea leaves will not have lost their taste. Moreover, sencha tea should be stored well in an air-tight container to ensure that it remains fresh.
There is a number of Sencha recipes that you can try in your home:
1. Strawberry Sencha Fresca – Here the cold water is replaced by an “agua fresca” with cold sencha for a summer antioxidant.
2. Green Tea Vodka Recipe- This adds a complex peppery taste that makes it ideal in mixing into cocktails.
3. Lemon-Ginger Sencha Recipe- This can be made hot or cold and it is mainly used as a cold remedy.
4. Green Tea Smoothie- This recipe can work with all types of tea especially with strawberries but sencha tastes better.
5. Sencha Cake Recipe- This is made from powdered sencha for green tea in your cake.
6. Green Tea Rice Soup- This is a delicious, healthy soup that can be made from rice leftovers and sencha.