It’s time to try Shincha. Literally, the season for this bright and aromatic first flush green tea runs through the end of June, after just about a month of availability in Japan. Like cherry blossoms and ramps, the tea’s ephemeral release sparks fervor among those who anticipate its arrival. The tea has a fresh, vegetal aroma and buttery texture that makes its characteristics stand out from popular Sencha, delicate Gyokuro and other green teas. So here’s the mind-bending part for tea lovers: They’re all made from the same plant, camellia sinensis. That includes matcha, the green tea powder now spreading through American homes and cafés like antioxidant magic dust.
Lucky for us, there are few people in the world more qualified to explain what makes these teas so different and compelling than Miyako Watanabe, tea master, matriarch and vice president of Kyoto’s 300-year-old, family-owned Ippodo Tea Co.
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She stopped by Food & Wine to host a tea ceremony and explain how the leaves of one plant can yield such diversity. Here, your Japanese green tea crib notes.