Introduction: Brewing Sencha, a Japanese Green Tea

Picture of Brewing Sencha, a Japanese Green Tea

Brewing Sencha is an art that takes some experience to get right. In this Instructable I plan to give some tips that will make it easier and faster to learn.

Things you will need:
Loose leaf Sencha
Kyusu (Japanese teapot)
Tea cup
Measuring spoons
6oz hot water

Optional:
Culinary thermometer
Glass liquid measuring cup

Definitions
Rounded teaspoon- A teaspoon with a small mound above the lip of the measuring tool.
Teaspoon- Tea should be flat with the top of the measuring tool.
Steep- To soak the tea in hot water

Step 1: Selecting and Storing Your Tea

Picture of Selecting and Storing Your Tea

Sencha is a flavorful yet delicate tea that needs to be carefully stored to maintain freshness.  Here are some tips on storage and choosing fresh tea at a store that carries it in bulk.

Selection
Always ask to see and smell the tea before purchasing. Fresh sencha should have the following characteristics:
   - Intense, deep green color
   - Clean, fresh grassy scent
   - Unbroken, tightly rolled leaves

Storage
Sencha should be stored in an opaque airtight container in a cool, dry place. It should remain fresh for about one year after it was picked. A quality tea store should be able to tell you roughly when this took place for the tea you've purchased.

Your sencha will still be drinkable after one year but you'll find that its flavor has deteriorated noticeably. 

Step 2: Preparing the Hot Water

Picture of Preparing the Hot Water

There are many options available for preparing the hot water for tea. Purified water is preferred. Sencha has a very delicate flavor and unfiltered tap water will noticeably affect its taste.

You should always heat the water to boiling and then cool it to the proper temperature for your tea. This will reduce the chlorination of the water.

What you'll need
6 ounces (~175ml) of purified water per serving.

Water Boiler
Water boilers are convenient in that they're ready to dispense hot water on demand. Dispense 6oz of water directly into the Kyusu and proceeed to the next step.

Tips:
At first, pour water into a glass liquid measuring cup to get a feel for how long you need to dispense to get about 6oz of water. Resist the temptation to pour this water into the Kyusu- it will have cooled too much and your tea may not brew correctly.

Microwave
Place 6oz of water into a microwave safe cup and heat until it bubbles. 

Warning! Boiling water in a microwave can be dangerous. The water may become superheated and suddenly burst out of the cup when moved. Follow your microwave's manual to ensure that you're heating the water safely.

Step 3: Preheating the Kyusu and Cup

Picture of Preheating the Kyusu and Cup

It's important to preheat your kyusu and cup. This achieves two things:
  - Cools the water to the proper brewing temperature
  - Keeps the tea warm after it's been poured

The process is simple.
 1. Pour hot water into the kyusu.
 2. Carefully pour the water from the kyusu into the cup.
 3. After a few seconds, pour the water back into the kyusu.

Check that the water is at the correct temperature before proceeding to the next step. You may want to use a culinary thermometer if you're not sure. Most sencha is brewed at 150°F - 175°F (65°C - 80°C). The bag you purchased your tea in should include a recommended water temperature.

Step 4: Measuring the Tea

Picture of Measuring the Tea

Your sencha should come with a per-serving measurement. Most sencha will require one rounded teaspoon of tea leaves. Scoop the tea lightly into the measuring spoon(s) so as to not break or crush the leaves. Never try to compact the leaves into the spoon(s).

Step 5: Brewing Your Sencha

Picture of Brewing Your Sencha

Pour the leaves into the kyusu and quickly replace the lid. Let it steep untouched during brewing- too much movement may impart a bitter flavor.

Time
Sencha should be brewed for much less time than many other teas. Your tea should include a recommended time. As a general rule, most sencha should be brewed for 1 - 2 minutes.

Step 6: Pouring the Tea

Picture of Pouring the Tea

Pick up your kyusu by the handle such that your thumb holds the lid in place. Tilt it to carefully pour the tea into your cup.

Shake kyusu over the cup to get the last few drops of tea. Extra water will degrade the tea if you wish to do a second infusion (re-steep the same tea leaves).

Now pick up the kyusu with your left hand. Hit the side opposite of the spout against your open right palm to dislodge the leaves from the mesh around the spout. This will further separate the leaves from any remaining water to keep them fresh.

Step 7: Enjoy!

Picture of Enjoy!

Congratulations! You've brewed a cup of sencha. Sip it slowly and enjoy the flavor.

Proceed to the next step if you'd like to re-steep your tea or to step 9 for some cleanup tips.

Troubleshooting
Too bitter: Reduce the brew time in 15 second increments.
Too weak: Increase the brew time in increments of 15 seconds. You may also try using less water or more tea.
Too strong: Use more water or less tea.

Step 8: Re-steeping the Tea

Picture of Re-steeping the Tea

If you'd like more tea from the same leaves, it's possible to do a second infusion. Allow 6oz (~175ml) of water to cool to your tea's brewing temperature and let it steep for 30 seconds.

It's also possible to do a third infusion. Use hotter water (nearly boiling) and let the tea steep for the same amount of time you used for the first infusion.

Step 9: Cleanup

Picture of Cleanup

Shake as many leaves as possible from the kyusu into the garbage. Scoop as many of the remaining leaves as you can out with a paper towel. Next, rinse the kyusu under very hot running tap water. Set it aside with the lid at an angle to let it dry.

Never clean your kyusu with soap. It will absorb its taste and impart it on future tea infusions. If you wish, you may make a paste with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a small amount of hot water. 

Comments

Cgreg1113 (author)2012-10-30

Awesome instructable! I was actually planning to make an instructable just like yours, (on how to brew sencha) but you explain it much better than I could.
You have a beautiful kyusu. Is it from Den's tea? Also, where did you get the sencha that is in the pictures?

amd2006 (author)Cgreg11132012-10-30

Thank you! My kyusu is indeed from Den's. It's the "Teapot Kokoro" but it would appear that they no longer sell it.

The tea in the pictures is Mellow Monk Top Leaf. It's my favorite! My bag is from last year's harvest though, I'll be buying more soon.

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