May 2017 - Shincha from Okinawa
This month we selected a Shincha (新茶) from the prefecture of Okinawa (沖縄).
Shincha (新茶) 2017, the new tea leaves of the year have been released from Okinawa (沖縄), the southern island of Japan! Shincha is generally harvested from the 88th day following the spring equinox (February 4th) of the lunar calendar in Japan, and it falls on May 2nd this year. However, due to its geographical location, Okinawa’s case is different. The harvest started from the middle of March in 2017. This is the earliest harvest of tea in Japan.
Okinawa is a group of islands, known for its year-round warm weather… except in this location, a hamlet named "Kunigamison Oku (国頭村奥)", where green tea is produced. It is located at the bottom of hills in the north of Okinawa. The temperature between day and night is significantly different and there’s often dense fog. Moreover, an acid soil helps making good green tea. On the other hand most of Okinawa is surrounded by corals, which makes the soil alkaline. These positive elements help grow good tea.
However, many Japanese people don’t know that green tea is produced in Okinawa, because it’s only 0.07% of the green tea production of all Japan. That’s why it is rare and precious to taste this tea. On the other hand, it has a production history of 80 years.
The tea is classified as a subtropical plant and more than 70% of tea are produced in subtropical areas, like India, the north of China, Sri Lanka, Kenya or Indonesia. So Okinawa being located in the same zone is actually reasonable and ideal for making tea.
The Okuchagyo association consists of 10 tea producers (there are only 200 inhabitants here). This tea has an herbal scent, an agreeable bitterness and a good sweetness. The tea grown in bright sunlight also has a lot of catechin, said to help burning body fat.
Treasure of nature and flightless bird
80% of the surface of the village “Kunigamison (国頭村)” is dominated by the forest and untouched nature reigns there; a beautiful beach, a clear stream coming from the mountain, a lush wood and a magnificent view from the cliff, etc. Many people who love nature come here for ecotourism. There’s also a bird whose name is “Yanbarukuina" or Okinawa Rail and listed as endangered. The bird has wings, but cannot fly, like the more well-known kiwi. Why can't they fly? In isolated islands, there’s no mammal predators, such as cats, dogs or rats… But of course, we -human beings- brought them to the islands. This endangered bird lives only in this forest, which protects it and it has been discovered only very recently in 1981.
The amount of tea leaves should be adapted according to the desired taste: it should be around 2 tablespoons (9 grams) of Shincha for 180ml (6.0oz) of spring water.
The first infusion should last 60 seconds in water at 70-80ºC (160-180ºF). The second infusion should be done for 20 seconds at 90ºC (190ºF). The third infusion should be done very briefly in boiling water.
If you have questions about Japanese teas, please do not hesitate to contact us!