Map of Sri Lanka.

Map of Sri Lanka.

A vendor posted on Twitter that they carried in their product line a sencha that was grown and processed in Sri Lanka. Needless to say, that raised a few eyebrows, especially among those carrying and selling sencha from Japan. Time to take a closer look.

First, what is “sencha”? Some sources say it simply means “common tea.” It’s a staple in many Japanese households, a favorite due to its tang, freshness, high uniformity of the leaves, and deep emerald hue. Once roasted as part of the preliminary processing, it is now steam treated, processed further, and finally pan-fried. So, can you get this type of tea with the same quality (or even higher) from leaves grown elsewhere? It seems so. But that’s not the only question here.

Why even bother? Apparently, there are still folks out there who are concerned with radiation in tea leaves from Japan. Whether that concern has merit or not I cannot address here, and it’s immaterial except to explain the mushrooming of Ceylon Sencha options now available. Those who are really into sencha and feel that radiation is still an issue need an alternative to the Japanese sencha. They are, in essence, creating a demand in the tea market. The producers seem to have heard them.

An online search for “Ceylon Sencha” turned up page after page of results. The typical description was:

Delicate, sencha-like green tea from Sri Lanka. Naturally sweet taste, best steeped for no more than 2 minutes at about 180 degrees F.

Reviews range from raves to revulsion. Not surprising. There are those who drink sencha as their daily cuppa green tea and accept a level of quality that may be a bit more ordinary. And then there are those for whom sencha is almost sacred, that the quality and flavor are almost more important to them than the grades their kids get in school, being promoted at work, or having their IRA actually grow in value. For them, this green tea being touted as “sencha” is high blasphemy. Thus it is with tea, no matter what type you are talking about. There are teas that get popular and then get “copied” to take advantage of that, and there are tea terms that get used in a more general way than some of us think they should be. (See my article on Silver Needles posted recently.)

Here, it seems to be the tea growers in Sri Lanka and the vendors who are both addressing a demand in the tea market, using “sencha” as the draw among green tea lovers. You, the tea drinker, will be the one to determine if they have been successful. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews out there, I would say they have been.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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