Tea leaves are harvested at different times, and the season affects the quality and taste of the tea.

Ichibancha or Shincha is the highest quality tea, harvested in late April to early May. Nibancha, harvested in mid to late May, has a stronger taste. Sanbancha, harvested in late May to early June, has a milder taste. And Yonbancha, harvested in late August to early September, has a deeper and richer taste.

These are the characteristics of tea picked in each season, and each type of tea has a unique taste.

What is "Shincha"?

Shincha, also known as "first picked tea" or Ichibancha, is considered the highest-quality tea and is traded at the highest price.

It is typically picked on Hachiju-Hachiya, the 88th day counting from Risshun, the first day of spring. This tea has a fresh fragrance and taste like newly-plucked green leaves.

Shincha is also a popular gift item due to its reputation as a lucky charm that can keep you healthy for a year. Enjoy the best quality tea and the good fortune it brings with Shincha.

What are “Ichibancha” and "Nibancha” ?

Japanese green tea is picked four times a year, and each period has a different name.

  • Ichibancha (first picked tea) - from late April to the end of May
  • Nibancha (second picked tea) - from mid June to early July
  • Sanbancha (third picked tea) - from late July to early August
  • Yonbancha or Autumn/winter Bancha (fourth picked tea) - from late September to Early October

The tea picked at a different time from those 4 times is called Bancha.

Characteristics of "Ichibancha"

Ichibancha, also known as Shincha, is considered the highest quality tea of the year and is traded at a premium price. Its superior taste is attributed to a lower level of catechin, which causes astringency, and a higher concentration of amino acids, which contributes to its sweetness and umami flavor. This tea variety also boasts a fresh and refreshing fragrance, akin to sprouts.

The reason why Ichibancha is regarded as the most delicious tea is due to its slow growth. Unlike other teas which are picked about a month after sprouting, Ichibancha grows slowly and stores nutrients for about six months after the last plucking in the previous year. This process results in a tea packed with umami and fragrance.

It's worth noting that "Ichibancha" is used to distinguish tea picked in other seasons such as Nibancha (second picked tea) and Sanbancha (third picked tea). On the other hand, "Shincha" refers to tea picked for the first time of the year.  

Characteristics of "Nibancha"

Nibancha is a type of Japanese green tea that is picked around 40 days after Ichibancha is picked. This tea is grown during long hours of sunlight, which results in a high concentration of catechin produced by the action of light. Due to this, some people may find Nibancha more bitter than Ichibancha, but it is believed to be good for antibacterial and prevention of lifestyle-related diseases.

Characteristics of "Sanbancha" and "Yonbancha"

Sanbancha and Yonbancha are two types of tea that are picked before they are fully grown, resulting in lower taste and nutrition compared to Ichibancha. These teas grow during long hours of sunlight, like Nibancha, which makes them rich in catechin and gives them a bitter taste.

Some farms choose to leave Sanbancha to grow and pick it at the time of Yonbancha, while others only pick Sanbancha and leave Yonbancha to continue growing. Sanbancha is often used as raw materials for processing, such as PET bottle processing and Hojicha (roasted green tea), after it has been harvested. 

Characteristics of autumn-winter Bancha

Autumn-winter Bancha is a type of tea that is grown with utmost care and harvested from autumn to winter, excluding Sanbancha. This tea has a refreshing taste and contains less caffeine, making it an ideal choice for those who wish to avoid caffeine. 

Characteristics of Bancha

Bancha is a type of green tea that is made from old or hard leaves that are picked at a later time than usual. This tea is often considered to be of inferior quality due to the nature of the leaves used. Bancha can include leaves that have grown too long or become hard, leaves that were picked late and left over, leaves that were picked in the next harvest time, or even leaves that were selected because they were too big in the finishing process of Sencha, which is a type of steeped green tea. Stems and leaves that have been cut for training can also be included in Bancha.

Despite its reputation, Bancha is actually quite refreshing and has little bitterness. It also has a high degree of transparency in its leached color. Because of these qualities, Bancha is often used as a raw material in the production of PET bottles.

January 08, 2023