Tea Culture

Observing Impermanence In Tea: Looking At The Skillful Use of Time When Making Tea

Time is important for tea. While flavor, texture, and overall experience of a tea are affected by so many variables, the picking time can make a big impact on the experience. People pick the emerging buds and leaves at different times of the year. People will often use the term flush to indicate the growth of new buds and leaves and seems to indicate not so much a specific picking but more the season when the tea was picked. That is, there can be multiple pickings for a single flush of tea. While the term “flush” is used to describe mostly teas that come from the Indian subcontinent, we can use this term as a general indicator for tea picking time periods.

Most teas are picked in the Spring season. The emergence of tea leaves during the Spring season is what is known as the first flush. The tea plants will go through my flushes throughout the year. Some teas are only picked during the first flush, then are left to complete their life cycle and gather nutrients through the year until the following Spring. The first tea that is picked at the beginning of the Spring season, at least in Japanese culture, is known as shincha. “Shin” means new, and “cha” means tea. Another important note is that first flush tea, especially that of early spring, grows when the weather is rather cool. Consequently, there are very few harmful insects and diseases and little to no need for pesticides.

Organic Sencha Yutaka-midori, first flush tea from Kagoshima.

There is the first flush picking of tea, which is probably the most valued tea by many, and then there is second flush tea. This tea is picked during the Summer time. This tea has most likely soaked up a lot of sunlight since the initial emergence of the Spring buds and leaves. Summer-picked tea leaves might have more bitterness and astringency because of the increased amount of sunlight they theoretically would have been absorbing throughout the year.

Our Houji-Genmaicha, which uses a mix of first flush and second flush tea.

When Autumn rolls around, what is known as the third flush of tea leaves emerge and are picked. Autumn picked tea can also be a bit bitter and astringent and, at least in the Japanese tea scene, these leaves are great for producing teas like houjicha. Most of the teas that we produce will be first flush teas, if not some combination of first and second flush leaf material. Some teas are also picked and produced in the winter, such as the Yunnan-specific ya bao tea.

We hope this non-comprehensive blog post gives you a good understanding of what tea flushes are. Follow our instagram and tikTok to see how we document this year of tea, especially our shincha that will be ready in the next month or so. Also, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email address in the designated box at the bottom of our website.