Types of Green Tea
The most common tea in Japan is green tea (ryokucha) . But what is green tea? There are many types of green as shown.
“Sencha Japan’s hallmark tea, born in Uji, Kyoto”
Dominating over 70% of Japanese tea consumption, sencha (green-leaf tea) is the hallmark tea of Japan. It is created through a process of picking, steaming, kneading, and drying tea leaves that have been grown in natural sunlight. The first-grade tea picked from late April through early May is a top quality product boasting an exquisite taste and fragrance. Fukamushi-cha (deep-steamed green tea) is popular for it’s milder taste, the bitterness having been subdued by a longer steaming process.
Sencha is a tea which has a bracing aroma with sweet and astringent taste. Aftertaste is very refreshing compared to Gyokuro and Matcha. It is the most favored tea in Japan with a wide variety.
Higher grade tea tends to have a better balance in its astringency and its sweet flavor of condensed glutamates. Sencha dramatically changes its taste by the water temperature poured to brew.
“A rich sweetness – the hallmark of high quality tea”
Gyokuro is processed in the same way as Sencha, but there is a big difference in how it is grown. During a fixed period before the leaves are picked, the tea plant is covered, usually with a reed-blind, and grown without exposure to direct sunlight for a minimum of twenty days. Cutting off direct sunlight causes an increase in theanine, responsible for sweetness, and a decrease in catechin, responsible for bitterness, giving the tea a rich, sweeter taste. The highest grade of Gyokuro is grown with much time and effort and kneaded by hand. Tea that is shaded for less than twenty days is known as “kabusecha”.
Gyokuro is the best qualified tea produced with special technic which minimizes bitterness and pulls out sweetness from tea leaves. The components of the flavor are so massive that some people describe the taste similar to a Japanese soup stock.
Now, let’s study some Japanese words! In Kanji (Chinese characters), Gyokuro is written as “玉露”. “玉” is “a gem” and “露” means “a dewdrop”. Steeping slowly in a small amount of hot water will enable you to enjoy the re-steeped tea up to its third brew.
In Japan, Gyokuro is mainly purchased as a gift or a drink to serve someone special. But please master the correct way of brewing to fulfill your pleasant daily life.
“The tea of tea ceremonies – synonymous with subdued refinement”
Matcha is grown in the shade just like gyokuro, but after the leaves are steamed, rather than being kneaded, the dried “tencha” is ground into a powder on a grindstone. Besides being used in ritual tea ceremonies, the powder is also a common ingredient in sweets. Matcha is mainly produced in Uji, Kyoto. Matcha has everything you could want in a tea with its combination of sweetness, savoriness, and bitterness. Since the leaves are consumed as well, it is also a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and other nutrients found in tea leaves.
– Matcha does not melt but it blends in. Please find a way to prevent clumps. Matcha is a tea powder which is made from stone-ground tea leaves. It has a mellow rich flavor that comes from all kinds of good nutrients in the tea leaves. The taste is often described as bitter, but taking Matcha is the best way to enjoy the sweetness of tea plant when it is whisked correctly.
“No.1 in fragrance – the king of Japanese flavored teas”
Hojicha (roasted green tea) is created using the leaves of teas such as bancha, kukicha, and low-grade teas. After the final stage of production, the leaves are roasted at high temperature to bring out the fragrance. Hojicha has a brown color, is low in caffeine and catechin, and has no bitter taste. It has a fragrant and refreshing flavor.
Roasted in a high temperature, Sencha will be decaffeinated and at the same time, toasty flavor which is specific to Hojicha will be absorbed. Because it is low in caffeine, Hojicha is preferable for children and elder people to drink. And that may be why it is loved by so many people as a daily drinking tea by simple brewing steps compared to Sencha or Gyokuro.
“A blend of bancha or sencha and roasted brown rice”
Brown rice that has been soaked and steamed is then roasted and added to bancha or sencha in approximately equal parts to make this tea. Enjoy a combination of the fragrance of the roasted rice and the crisp taste of the bancha or sencha. Genmaicha has a low caffeine content, so it is also great for children and seniors.
“Perfect for everyday – a refreshing treat after a meal”
Bancha is an inexpensive tea made in the same way as sencha, but using larger, harder leaves left over from sencha-picking as well as leaves and stems exempted from the sencha production process. It has a light, refreshing taste that doesn’t grow tiring.
Since so many different types of leaves are used, it is also interesting to note the variations in taste depending on where it was produced. Bancha translates as “evening tea,” since it is produced from later tea crops, but it is also sometimes written with characters meaning “course tea.” Its reasonable pricing is one of the reasons it is so popular.
Mecha (Bud tea)
“Its name doesn’t refer to tea buds!”
After the final stages of sencha production, the leaves are strained through a mesh sieve, and the small, round grains that fall through are called “mecha,” or “bud tea”. Mecha is a highly fragrant tea with a very pleasant savory taste. It takes a while for the taste to come out on the first infusion, but from the second infusion on, the rich taste can be enjoyed many times over.
Kukicha (Twig tea)
“Made from stems, rather than leaves…?”
Kukicha (twig tea) is made only from stems and leaf-stalks and has a crisp taste. Kukicha made from gyokuro stems is a high-quality tea known as “karigane” or “shira-ore.”
Kamairi-cha (Kettle-roasted tea)
While most Japanese tea leaves are steamed, kamairi-cha is instead roasted in a kettle in the same way as Chinese green tea. This method is said to have come to Japan around the 15th Century, giving it an even longer history than steamed sencha.