How to brew a perfect cup of shincha (new green tea)

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My mother always says that she is not a particularly good cook, though I beg to differ. But she proudly admits to having the skill to brew a perfect cup of tea. The tea that she makes with shincha - green tea made only from new, young tea leaves - has a delicately sweet flavor that seems to blossom in one's mouth, with no bitterness at all. Since she is here now for a month long visit from Japan, I thought that I'd finally pry out her secret to making such delicious green tea. And so...here it is.

  • Make sure that you have good shincha, which has a true delicate sweetness.
  • Use an earthenware or ceramic pot. Make only one or two cups worth at a time if you can.
  • Use charcoal-filtered water if you can (though regular tap water produces good results too, unless it's overly chlorinated.- Maki's notes.)
  • Bring the tea water to a rolling boil, then let it cool down to about 90°C/194°F. (Note: 100°C is the boiling point for water, so you want the temperature to be just below boiling.)
  • Pour some of the hot water into the waiting teapot to warm it up. Warm up the tea cups at the same time, then throw away the water.
  • Use 1 1/2 teaspoons of tea leaves per 2 cups, and put in the warmed up pot.
  • Put in enough hot water (2 cups worth), then let steep for about 3 minutes, no more.
  • Use a tea strainer to gently pour out the tea.
  • Sip slowly and enjoy.

You might be skeptical, thinking "you need boiling water for a good cup of tea!". That's what I thought too, until I tried this method. It really does produce a most superior green tea. Boiling water seems to work better in bringing out the oils in more robust teas though.

Note: Gyokuro is a type of tea that is most often sold as shincha and is widely available.

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