As I write this, the northeastern region of the United States has just finished being assaulted by one of those “storm of the century” type events. It’s called Nemo (did we just start naming winter storms or haven’t I been paying attention?) and it made life rather trying in that part of the world for a few days. Which should seem rather far removed here in balmy Tucson and yet as I look out my front window at the mountains on this unseasonably cold day the snow line has descended alarmingly low.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that most of us here in the northern hemisphere are probably ready for spring. But of course for tea lovers spring has a totally different connotation than for most, as it marks the onset of the first harvest in many tea-growing countries, with fresh batches of the stuff making its way from field to factory to seller and finally to our cups.
As we’ve noted before in these pages, the first Japanese teas of the year are always among the most coveted of them all and when we say Japanese tea we almost always mean green tea, the number one type of tea grown there by a very wide margin. The first tea harvested each year is referred to as shincha, a word which is said to mean something along the lines of “new tea.”
The first shincha shipments (say that one three times fast) are events that are looked upon with great anticipation by certain members of the tea community – at one forum I saw a post from someone who had named their cat…you guessed it. Though it’s still early February as I write this, one of the first shincha emails I’ve seen thus far hit my inbox a few days ago with the merchant already trying to drum up interest in these first teas of the season.
None of which is a particularly new concept, mind you. As far back as 1867, in A Japanese and English Dictionary, by J. C. Hepburn, we find an entry for none other than Shin-cha, which is defined simply as “New tea, or this year’s tea.”
© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.