You will often hear Indian tea referred to as “First Flush,” “Second Flush” or “Autumn Tea,” or a Japanese tea referred to as “Shincha” or “Bancha.” All of these terms refer to the “flush,” or picking of the tea. Each growing region has its own condition and many cultures have their own nomenclature, but the basic principle is the same.
Generally speaking, this is how tea flushes work:
At the beginning of the growing season, tender new shoots grow from the stalk of the tea bush. These shoots have two leaves and a bud on the end. When these leaves and a bud are picked, they are called the “first flush.” They contain the most catechins (antioxidants), L-theanine (a stimulant) and caffeine of any of the pickings. They also tend to have a very delicate taste, a light infusion color and a short shelf-life.
Once the tea bush has grown its two leaves and a bud, it begins a short period of dormancy. During this time, it grows, but very little. The growth is trimmed to encourage new growth. (Some plantations will use this growth to make very low-grade tea, which will not list a flush and is typically for bags and/or impoverished local markets.) New leaves grow and are harvested. These leaves are the “second flush.”
Some areas have subsequent harvestable growths, some don’t. The nomenclature of flushes varies from region to region, but the terms “first flush” and “second flush” are very common. Indian and Japanese teas are most frequently named by flush. Below are the names, qualities, and growth time of flushes from India and Japan.
The tea harvesting season & its characteristic