Sencha (煎茶) is the most popular type of Japanese ryokucha (緑茶, green tea).
Among the types of Japanese green tea prepared by infusion, sencha is distinguished from such specific types as gyokuro in that it is shaded for a shorter time or not at all, or bancha which is the same tea but harvested later in the season. Sencha represents about 80 percent of the tea produced in Japan.
The ideal colour of the sencha beverage is a greenish golden colour. Depending upon the temperature of the water in which it is decocted, the flavour will be different, adding to the appeal of sencha. With relatively more temperate water, it is relatively mellow; with hot water, it is more astringent.
The tea production process by which sencha and other Japanese ryokucha are created differs from Chinese green teas, which are usually pan-fired. Japanese green tea is first steamed for between 15 and 20 seconds to stop enzymatic activity in the leaves. Then, the leaves are rolled, shaped, and dried. This step creates the customary thin cylindrical shape of the tea. Finally, the leaves are sorted and divided into differing quality groups.
Some specific types of sencha are:
- Kabuse Sencha or Kabusecha (かぶせ茶), covered sencha
- Asamushi (浅蒸し), lightly steamed sencha
- Chumushi (中蒸し), middle steamed (30-90s)
- Fukamushi or fukamushicha (深蒸し), deeply steamed sencha – 1–2 minutes
- Shincha (新茶) or Ichibancha (一番茶), first-picked sencha of the year