Sencha is by far the most popular tea in Japan, representing about 80% of the tea produced in the country. The flavor depends on the season and the area where it is produced, with the first flush of the year considered the most delicious. A quality tea will have a greenish golden color.
One of the most appealing aspects of snecha is the ability to change flavor by altering the temperature of the water, with a higher water temperature producing a more astringent tea and a cooler temperature resulting in a more mellow flavor.
Where to buy
You can buy this tea in any specialty tea shop or through a number of online vendors. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Sencha Tea
The preparation instructions given here are for loose leaf teas. For tea bags, you can generally just follow the instructions given on the box.
Like most green teas, this one should be steeped in cooler water than black or oolong teas. A temperature of 80°C (176°F) is a good starting point. For these instructions, I’m going give the traditional Japanese preparation method which assumes you are using a simple stove-top kettle.
Heating water to the desired temperature becomes much simpler if you use a water boiler/warmer or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting. Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
Sencha is best brewed using a traditional Japanese teapot, like a kyusu
or a cast iron tetsubin.
You can use any teapot and still get a perfectly good cup, though
- Pour enough boiling water into the empty teapot to fill everyone’s cup. The teapot should NOT contain any teas leaves at this point.
- Pour the water into each cup, filling it to the desired level (usually about 80% to 90% full). This will cool the water from boiling temperature to the desired 80°C(176°F).
- Put about one large teaspoon of tea leaves into the empty teapot for each cup of tea. The teapot I am using comes with an infuser, but if yours doesn’t, you can put the leaves directly in the pot.
- Pour the water in the teacups back into the teapot.
- Let the tea steep for one minute.
- Pour a small amount of tea into the first cup, then pour the same amount into every other cup. Continue filling the cups a little at a time, making sure that each cup contains the same amount of the weaker first pours and the stronger last drops. DO NOT fill one cup completely and then move on to the next cup.
- Continue pouring until the teapot is completely empty. You want the leaves to be as dry as possible to ensure a quality second infusion
- For the second infusion, you do not need to add any fresh leaves. Pour boiling water from your kettle directly into the cups, wait about 30 seconds, then pour the water onto the leaves in the teapot. This will ensure a higher water temperature than you used for the first infusion.
- Let the tea steep 20 to 30 seconds, then pour the brew into the cups, alternating cups as before. Distribute all the liquid, leaving the leaves as dry as possible.
- For the third infusion, repeat the instructions for the second, but steep for one to three minutes, depending on the quality of the tea you are using.
- Whether you want a fourth infusion will also depend on the quality of your tea. Try it once and see how it tastes.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
If the tea is too mild, increase the water temperature; if it is too bitter, reduce the temperature.
Basically, you’ll want to keep experimenting until you come up with the perfect brew for your particular taste.
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. They have some decent teas, but their selection of higher quality teas is generally lacking, especially when it comes to loose leaf versions.
Personally, I prefer to buy from specialty tea shops online. I generally get this sencha from Art of Tea. It’s a high quality tea for a reasonable price and, in my opinion, the best bargain I’ve seen online. They also offer a cheaper and non-organic alternative to their premium organic sencha.