Part of a series: What Should It Taste Like?
Like most teas, several key factors can determine the outcome of tea processing. For sencha, two of those factors are shading and steaming. Kabuse tea, or tea from bushes shaded prior to harvest, is sometimes described as a category between sencha and gyokuro, and sometimes as a sub-category of sencha.
Secondly, the duration of steaming is often either futsumushi (aka asamushi) or fukamushi. Fukamushi is the deeper steaming. Occasionally you may come across a chumushi. A useful, thorough explanation of the differences in steaming terms can be found here.
Generally, sencha should have a few key flavor characteristics that may vary in intensity due to differences in production:
A few tea references have sought to capture the sencha flavor profile:
The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea used “lemony,” “cooked spinach” and “astringent.”
The Tea Drinkers Handbook employed words like “cooked spinach,” “zucchini,” “iodine” and “citrus.”
Tea: History,Terrior, Varieties noted characteristics of cooked spinach, sea grass, and iodine.
Just as important as the flavor and aroma characteristics are notes about intensity of flavors and textures, and duration of aftertaste. In fact, some people actually prefer somewhat higher degrees of astringency in their sencha.
The diagrams may help you visualize my records of higher scoring sencha characteristics along various spectra. Note that I use the spectra universally across teas, so these show sencha’s general place in relation to most other teas, whether they be green, wulong, etc.
The main flavor and aroma components of sencha include something along the lines of creamed spinach or steamed zucchini. Depending on processing technique, some will have creamy textures and butter-like aromas. For those that may have been shaded less, or steamed longer, I find the presence of metallic or flinty notes in the back of the palate. Aftertastes can be sweet, but not overpowered by harsh astringency.