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- Sun grown: Slightly lower levels of amino acids and chlorophyll, higher level of certain polyphenols, lighter in color, more vegetal, slightly more astringent.
- Shade grown: Higher levels of chlorophyll and amino acids in the leaves, lower polyphenol levels, a darker, more vivid emerald green color, less astringency, a more mellow flavor.
Shading was started by Uji tea producers in the 1860’s at the end of the Edo period, but by whom is not now known. The tea plants are covered with a black plastic mesh (referred to as tana) for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before harvesting.
The processing differs from the Chinese method in that the leaves are generally steamed instead of pan-fired. This gives them a more vegetal, leafy, or even kelpy flavor. The exception is hojicha/houjicha, which is roasted and similar in flavor to black tea (fully oxidized).
Grading is by the quality and parts of the plant used plus the method of processing them. However, not all Japanese teas fit this system, just as not all teas from other tea growing countries fit the Orange Pekoe grading system.
The tea plucking names:
- “ichibancha” (the first-picked tea) – not all is shincha
- “nibancha” (the second-picked tea)
- “sanbancha” (the third-picked tea)
- “yonbancha” (the fourth-picked tea)
A summary of differences in the various major Japanese tea groups:
Growing the teas:
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