Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Eactly What IS a Flush Anyway?

You go shopping for loose teas.  Somebody mentions that this is a first flush green, or that is a second flush oolong.  Have you ever wondered what exactly that means?

A flush refers to the new growth on a tea plant.  It is more specifically the first two leaves and the bud (this is a leaf bud, and has nothing to do with the flowers) on the end of each branch.  If the bushes are harvested regularly, they can produce around seven flushes a season.

However, the taste can be very different, depending on what time of year the flush was produced.  First flush teas tend to have a lighter, greener, more grassy taste, while later flushes become progressively more full-bodied and astringent.

First and second flushes are most desirable.  In India, these come in March and June, respectively.  This is followed by tea produced in the rainy season, (hence the Monsoon flush), and finally the autumnal flush.

In Japan, tea producers use a different naming system.  Sencha, which means, "New Tea," is the name for the first flush of the season.  Bancha ("Coarse Tea") is harvested afterwards (at a time corresponding to a second flush).  This harvest takes older leaves (not just a flush), and produces a more vegetable-tasting, almost "woody" tea.   The next harvest of new flushes is labeled Second Sencha.  A harvester can expect three senchas in a season.

White tea is made, not from a flush of tea, but from the single leaf bud, which makes for an extremely light color and taste.

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