May 15, 2006

Sencha: The "Common" Japanese Green Tea

Sencha.jpgSencha means common in Japanese. It's also their most common green tea. Which doesn't mean that it's not a good tea. The japanese are a very refined people when it comes to what they eat and drink. They take great care in buying (Sencha isn't cheap...), storing and brewing their tea. The local climate permits tea cultivation and tea has been a part of japanese culture at least since the ninth century when it was imported from China so most of Japan's production is consumed locally with little available for export. As such, Sencha, in our parts of the world, is something of a premium tea.

The process for making Sencha is a simple three-step affair: picking, steaming (to conserve flavor) and drying. This gives Sencha it's main characteristics which are a "grassy" aroma and something of a brittle "twiggy" dark green appearance. Once brewed, it delivers a pale yellow-green liquor. A typical first-time drinker in the West will often remark that it tastes like "hay" and it's true that Sencha is something of an acquired taste. But drink Sencha with some nice Sashimi and a bowl of steamed rice (as the japanese do) and you will quickly learn to appreciate this refreshing tea.

November 14, 2005

Long Jing, the Dragonwell tea

longjing.jpgLong Jing, which translates as dragonwell, is one of China's most celebrated green teas. It is grown in the mountainous regions of Lion's Peak of Hangzhou, Zheijiang province. Like other famous teas (notably Darjeeling), the notion of "flush"(time of picking i.e. spring, summer or autumn) applies to this wonderful tea. First flush Long Jing, which is picked once a year by hand when the leaves and buds are at their smallest and most fragrant stage, is immediately roasted and has a characteristic shape of leaves folded flat along their length. This is a premium tea and highly prized as such in China. It is difficult to find in export as it's mostly consumed by the local market and it isn't cheap. Long Jing is very delicate and fresh tasting, has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and a lasting buttery finish. It's a very healthy tea with a high vitamin C content and many of the anti-oxydants that are usually present in green tea. It is good for any moment of the day except maybe evening where it might a little too stimulating and so prevent sleep. This tea doesn't store very well (green teas are best drunk fresh). Green teas can be stored for 1 year in a dry, air- and light-tight container.