As you can imagine, the taste of green tea will be different based on when it is harvested and other factors such as how much sunlight it has been exposed to. In Japan, there are 3 harvests of green tea during each year. This article will explain the difference between each of the harvests and how each harvest yields different kinds of green tea. Green tea grows best in hot and humid climates. These climates allow the plant to grow well and also gives the leaves a lot of flavor. This is very important for the tea.
Tea harvested during the first harvested is seen as higher quality than tea harvested during the second or third harvests. Since the first flush has much higher umami and sweetness as it contains the highest amount of L-theanine (unique amino acid of tea) during the season. The price of this tea will also be more expensive. Tea harvested during this time is called “ichibancha” (一番茶), or “first tea”. It is also referred to as “shincha” (新茶), or “new tea”. Shincha and ichibancha are most often the same thing. The first flush happens in spring, but the actual date will be different depending on the region that the tea is being harvested in, as different areas have different climates. The general time for this harvest is late April to early May.
After the leaves have been picked for the first flush, buds start growing and after about 45 days the new leaves can be cultivated. These leaves are called “nibancha” (二番茶), or “second tea”. Leaves from this harvest are seen as lower quality than leaves cultivated during the first flush. This tea has a less refined taste than the tea harvested during ichibancha. Tea from ichibancha had time to grow slowly and absorb nutrients in the cool weather. However, tea from nibancha grows more quickly due to the weather and doesn’t have time to soak up the sun and get as many nutrients as the leaves from ichibancha. The general time for this harvest is mid-June to early July.
In some areas, third flush is possible. The third flush is called “sanbancha” (三番茶), “third tea” or “bancha”. It’s not always done, as in other areas it is only possible to harvest tea twice. This third flush is again lower quality than the harvest before them, and contains more catechin which is the source of astringent taste. The sweetness of the tea is lowered. However, bancha has another advantages over the first flush! You can find details in the bancha article.