When brewed, this tea has a greenish golden color, a refreshing aroma and a good balance between astringency and sweetness.
How is sencha made?
All types of tea come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The difference between different teas lies in the cultivation and further processing. Sencha is made from green tea leaves that are cultivated in direct sunlight (as opposed to matcha and gyokuro), and are harvested in the first or second flush (tea leaves of the first harvest have the best quality).
The leaves of the upper shoots (which are younger) are used because they are of higher quality than those of the lower shoots.
Once the tea leaves have been picked, they are steamed to prevent oxidation. This process lasts less than a minute but is the most important step and is the main difference between Japanese and Chinese green tea (which is pan-fried instead of steamed).
Next, the leaves are dried and rolled. When rolled, the leaves attain the familiar needle shape and as a bonus the juices inside the leaves are released by this action, so that the taste is intensified.
I’ve added a video where the steaming, drying and rolling is made at a sencha processing plant:
How to brew sencha
For best results, use a Japanese teapot (kyusu: 急須). Note that the teapot is not to be heated directly. Use a tea kettle instead and heat the water just before the boiling point. Pour the water from the tea kettle into the number of cups that you will serve. This way the water’s temperature drops and you get a good measure of liquid for your servings. Each cup should have 60 ml of water.
Next, add the sencha to the teapot. A general rule of thumb is to use one teaspoon of sencha (4 grams) per cup. Pour the water from each cup into the teapot and let brew for 1 minute. The temperature for brewing sencha should be around 70 ºC (158 ºF), 80 ºC (176ºF) is also fine.
The final step is to serve the tea in each cup. Don’t fill each cup one after another, try to fill each cup little by little so that the tea is evenly distributed. The remaining tea in the teapot is more concentrated. Pour until the last drop.
The following video is in Japanese, but you can follow the steps easily: