Part One: Shincha “New Tea”
It’s Golden Week in Japan – the longest holiday time of the year. The country is buzzing with people going everywhere, stores having mega sales, and of course, the tea fields humming with swarms of activity.
I was going to write about Shincha, literally “new tea”, but the weather has been very unusual this year, making harvesting times quite unpredictable, especially in Kyushu.
Normally we follow the cherry blossoms in April, which start to bloom first in the southern areas, like Kagoshima, and slowly turn the country pink as they move upward toward Hokkaido. But this year Tokyo bloomed first. No one could believe it! That means harvesting times all around the country are not on schedule. Usually we are sipping Shincha now. While some tea is becoming available, not much as of yet.
So next month I will bring you the Shincha report – the most sought-after tea of the season. It’s produced in very small quantities, and is a one-time opportunity because Shincha is the very first batch of tea produced in the season.
Don’t get confused with “ichibancha” (first harvest) and think all ichibancha is Shincha…it’s not. Just the first tea of the ichibancha harvest to be steamed, rolled and finished is awarded the Shincha title. It is usually asamushi or light steamed too so you can really taste the freshness of the crop.
Click here to reserve your Shincha: we are only offering it by PRE-ORDER as it is über fresh and we do not want to keep it in stock.
Part Two: The Three-step!
You know it’s nearly summer in Japan when the wind chimes are hung up. It’s also when a kaleidoscope of cold brew containers explode onto the scene!
Cold brew tea is as common to the Japanese as Pimms is to the English and Lemonade is to us Yanks. Everyone here has green tea cold brew in the fridge. It provides a never-ending constant stream of refreshment during the most challenging season weather-wise.
Some people say the best thing to cool you down in the heat is to have a hot cup of tea. My Indian friend swears by it. To me, that just seems wrong! I want to cool off, not raise my body temperature. Steam is already coming off of my head!
Cold brew is the way to go and here’s how you do it:
1) Add any kind of tea: 30g does a good job – I usually don’t measure, just dump it in
2) Add pure, cold water: a lot! Fill up your jug anywhere from 750ml – 2 liters
3) Stick it in the fridge and forget about it: 2 hours, 4 hours, overnight, it doesn’t matter!
*leave the leaves in or take them out – doesn’t matter!
How is this possible?! Doesn’t it get bitter?!!
No! And that’s why it’s so easy. The key is the water temperature. Don’t heat it at all. When you use cold water, the components release slowly into the brew. Hot water forces the extraction quickly which is why you have to remove the leaves after 30 seconds, 1 minute, etc.
Cold brewing gives you a refreshing, mellow tea. This is why everyone loves it and guzzles it during the summer. Using the highest quality leaves like Kabusecha or Gyokuro is the way to get the most distinct flavor profile, but you can use any tea. For Chinese tea fans, cold Jasmine Pearl is lovely! Lower-grade or cheaper tea produces a good brew but it’s nothing special. If you want extraordinary cold brew, use your best leaves for it. At Chiki Tea, we sip cold Gyokuro from May to September…though nothing beats icy Genmaicha with a basket of edamame.
I have nine ( I just just counted!) cold brew containers under my kitchen sink. I keep buying them in hopes of finding the perfect one. Most let me down because they are too small, the filter basket is too narrow, the lid doesn’t seal…you get the picture!
BUT thanks to our CFO who dazzled me with the biggest and best yet, I’ve finally found THE ONE! It’s BIG. It’s LIGHT! It fits in the door of a small fridge! The mesh basket is a dream to clean and it’s BIG too. The lid seals so tightly that it can be put on its side in the fridge – or jumbled into your blue IKEA mock picnic bag (tested!). It has a “hot” pour-over system that I’m ignoring but handy if you fancy it!
At the same exact time Mark found the above Cold Brewer, I was buying the Hario Wine Bottle glass and silicone one. The leaves freely float and the filter locks in place in the silicone lid. I resisted for ages because I didn’t fancy the colors – just dark red and olive. Then Master Kitagawa called to say he had their new vibrant range…orange, pink, blue… I nabbed the orange one but might have to go get the hot pink one too. It’s fabulous for entertaining as it pours just like a bottle of wine and even has the rubber cork.
I can’t wait to get my Shincha and try it cold brewed. YUM!
You can get the monster cold brew container here.