Sencha…

Is your tea marine-ey and vegital with a strong mineral note? Than your probably drinking sencha (or stale Chinese green tea). Does it have any small amount of depth or complexity to it at all? Then your probably drinking Gyokuro (or better stale Chinese green tea).

All the (findable) sencha in Japan is machine harvested, machine processed, and machine packed. They may as well advertise “never touched by human hands”. As you can imagine that doesn’t bode well for the quality. The fact that most of the plantations are beside roads and trimmed and picked with diesel powered machines doesn’t help either.  Labor and land is far to expensive in japan for the type of eco-gardens of semi-wild tea we enjoyed so much in Korea, or even the small family factory-farms of Taiwan and (some of) China. Tea fields here are perfectly rounded bushes of industrialized agriculture with every town selling to one or two factories. There must be someone out there with a small field hand processing his tea, but we haven’t found him!

Sencha, while not at all new to japan, is a new movement in tea with museums and “ceremonies” now sprouting up throughout japan. It seems that sencha came over to japan from china, obviously much later than powdered tea, and went through the same process of Japanese-ification that all foreign arts here go through.

Sencha uses modified wares from southern china, such as tiny NiLu, tiny teapots (sometimes), and silver or pewter cha tou`s with tiny cups, and they stole much of the pomp and circumstance from chanoyu with modifications; making the tatami rooms large and airy, lightening the mood with landscape calligraphy instead of poetry in the tokonoma, and edging more towards ikebana than cha-bana. Yet much of the ceremonial aspect, cup order, bowing, random cleaning techniques, seems to be modern additions and contrived to lend “something to watch” for the guests. I may be wrong, but I have doubts as too much of the modern practices historical accuracy.

So have I found any Japanese tea I like? Ya, matcha.

– Jason

What are you Tasting?

3 thoughts on “Sencha…

  1. Hello Jason,
    You seem to be a little upset? It’s true, the japanese tea agriculture is super modern, so I think I understand your general feeling. I really hope you will find a small farm-factory in Japan. I need to believe it’s possible. But on the other hand, some japanese green teas, even machine, or half-machine made are quite nice…
    Good Luck.
    Charlotte.

    • Dear Charlotte,

      Upset is not the right word…

      Its just hard to support farms that use pesticides and produce low quality tea,
      and even harder to enjoy it…

      I am sure good sencha exists,
      but, like Korea, it is very hard to find.

      I`m going to Uji tomorrow to make matcha!
      Maybe I`ll find good sencha on the way…

      All the Best,
      Jason

  2. I understand, and agree with you. It’s funny that western people usually think that japanese tea is great and absolutely “clean” (and are often very suspicious concerning chinese teas…)
    Very interesting to follow your trips.
    Thank you so much.
    Charlotte

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