Here are the types of Japanese green tea you should know about before you try Japanese green tea!
The amazing array of green tea available in Japan is unparalleled in the world. Different types of Japanese green tea can be found in traditional tea ceremonies as well as every day life, from the bright and grassy notes of sencha to the sweet and savory matcha found in green tea desserts.
The type of green tea you choose is based on what you are looking for in terms of aroma, taste, and overall experience. Whether you are a tea connoisseur, or simply looking for a new flavor to enjoy, this guide will provide a comprehensive overview of the different types of Japanese green tea and help you find a variety that suits your flavor preferences.
What is Japanese green tea?
Japanese green tea has a refined, mellow flavor and a long-standing history in Japan, making it a staple of Japanese culture. There are upto 20 different types of Japanese green tea.
The leaves of each tea comes from the same shrub, Camellia sinensis, but the way they’re processed gives each of them their own unique flavor.
The main difference between these types of Japanese green tea comes from the leaves’ age and the processes they go through before and after harvesting.
All three types of tea have been enjoyed for centuries in Japan and remain popular today, making it a ubiquitous drink in Japan and throughout the world.
Types Of Japanese Green Tea
Aracha (raw tea) is an unfinished green tea. It uses all parts of the tea plant in its product. Because of its natural state, this is the most aromatic and darkly infused green tea I tried.
It holds many health benefits because of that reason too. There are 4 types of catechins producing astringent components that we find in tea leaves.
All of them work for reduction of cholesterol and fats absorbed into the body, they are Epicatechin, Epigallocatechin, Epicatechin gallate, Epigallocatechin gallate
It’s sold by major markets to wholesalers that separate individual parts of the plant to make green tea blends. Therefore, making it rare and difficult for us consumers to find, but it’s worth a try.
Key features of Aracha Tea
- Aromatic and darkly infused green tea.
- Reduces cholesterol and body fats.
- Difficult for consumers to find.
Bancha (ordinary tea) is the second most common green tea found here in Japan. It is well known for being a lower grade tea than Sencha.
The lower shoots of the plants which are of lower quality are used for Bancha. For those reasons, this is one of the cheapest green teas available here.
Not only is it good for hydration, but also to alkalize body’s fluids and tissues, helping to prevent diseases and reducing pain in muscles post-exercise by maintaining your acidity levels.
It was also less bitter than other green teas, making it one of my personal favourites.
Key Features of Bancha Tea
- 2nd most common tea in Japan.
- Lower quality than sencha.
- Good for hydration and to alkalize bodily fluids to maintain acidity levels.
Most of the time the leaves used to make funmatsucha (powdered tea) aren’t high quality. Because of that, it doesn’t cost much to purchase a cup of one of these teas.
What gives this tea an edge over other teas is that the powdered nature makes it easy for us to brew. We can just stir the powder into a cup of hot water and, voila! You have your cup of green tea.
By drinking this, you have a greater intake of compounds found in tea. Fibre isn’t water soluble so it’s not present in non-powdered teas. This also means that you consume the green tea leaves instead of discarding them like we do with other green teas.
Key Features of Funmatsu Cha Tea
- Able to purchase for a cheap price.
- Powdered nature makes it easy to prepare.
- Actually being able to consume green tea leaves.
Genmaicha (brown rice tea) is called that, essentially because it is a mix of roasted rice and green tea.
Even though this blend consists of a 1:1 ratio of rice and green tea , we consider this as green tea too, probably because it goes a long way in our Japanese culture.
When it is steeped, the tea we receive from it has a light yellow hue. Since it has its differences with other green teas, the brewing method is different – at least 3 to 5 mins depending on preference of flavour.
Some health benefits of this tea is:
- Balancing blood sugar
- Improves dental health
- Helps with relaxation and concentration
- Regulates thyroids and removes toxins
- Lowering risk of cancer and heart disease
The nutty flavour of the rice and the astringency of green tea created a perfect balance and is a lovely flavour on the palette.
Key Features of Genmaicha Tea:
- 1 : 1 ratio of roasted rice and green tea.
- Prepared tea is light yellow in colour.
- Takes 3 – 5 mins to brew.
Hojicha (roasted tea) has a reddish brown colour and a roasted earthy fragrance. It was invented in Kyoto in the 1920’s and is very famous there for that reason.
At one glance, it looks like an ordinary black tea because of its colour. Unlike black tea, hojicha is not oxidised and is made from different forms of green tea.
Some of them are: bancha, sencha and kukicha. This tea is made by roasting at around 200 celsius and then quickly cooled.
Health benefits of drinking hojicha are :
- Fight colds and strengthen immune system
- Boosts metabolism and helps with digestion
- Alleviate and prevent swelling pain from arthritis.
This roasting process reduces the level of caffeine and catechin(the main source of astringency), giving it a unique smoky flavour and making it a better option for children and elders to drink.
Key Features of Hojicha Tea
- Reddish brown coloured and has a roasted earthy flavour.
- Invented in Kyoto.
- Made by roasting and then cooling, hence giving it a black colour.
- Lower levels of caffeine and catechin makes it suitable for elders and children.
The kamairicha tea possesses a unique quality of being ‘pan fried’ instead of steamed, unlike many of our other Japanese teas.
This method of pan frying green tea is influenced by the Chinese, and because of that, it is quite rare to find in Japan. It has a mild roasted flavour and aroma.
It benefits a longer life span by improving the heart functions, strengthening the immune system and stopping cell mutations.
There are 2 types of Kamairicha Green Tea:
1. Kamairi Tamaryokucha (curly at the end)
2. Kamanobicha (familiar needle shape).
The 2 kinds can be differentiated by the shape. However, pan fried tea amounts to only about 5% of Japan’s total tea production, and out of the 2, Kamairi Tamaryokucha is the far more common option.
Key Features of Kamairicha Tea
- Pan fried instead of steamed.
- Influenced by chinese, hence rare in Japan.
- Has a mild roasted flavour and aroma.
- There are 2 types of kamairicha.
Konacha (powder tea) is made of small bits of leaves which are filtered out during the filtering process of green tea leaves like gyokuro and sencha. Although it translates as powder tea, it isn’t a fine powder like matcha or funmatsucha.
This tea has an intense green colour and a strong taste. Because its components are so small it is supposed to be brewed for a very short time to avoid a taste that’s too strong.
It is often served in sushi restaurants labelled as ‘agari’. It is a tea that helps our economy since it’s basically leftovers, but because it comes from premium teas like sencha and gyokuro, it is not inferior to any other green tea healthwise.
Key Features in Konacha Tea
- Consists of small filtered particles of green tea leaves.
- Intense green colour and strong taste.
- Is an economical tea.
Blends of matcha are given poetic names known as chamei (“tea names”). Some proven ways on how matcha can improve our health is :
Health Benefits of Matcha Tea
- Helps protect the liver
- Boosts functioning of the brain
- Helps you lose weight
- Prevents cardiac diseases and cancer
Apart from that, matcha is also used as an ingredient in food for the green tea flavour and colour.
Key Features Matcha Tea
- Finely powdered high quality green tea.
- Used in japanese tea ceremonies.
- Used as an ingredient in food for flavour and colour.
There are two types of Matcha powder: Ceremonial matcha and culinary matcha.
What is Ceremonial Matcha
Ceremonial matcha is a type of Japanese green tea that has been used as part of traditional tea ceremonies for centuries. It is made from ground-up tea leaves and is usually a bright, vivid green colour. It is said to be of the highest quality, and often one of the most sought-after types of Japanese green tea.
What’s so special about ceremonial matcha? Its unique flavour and appearance are the result of a unique harvesting and production process. Fresh leaves are carefully tended, hand-picked and only the youngest, finest leaves are used.
They are then steamed, dried and the stems and veins are carefully removed. The leaves are then laid out and slowly stone ground into a fine powder, resulting in a wonderfully smooth, creamy finish.
This ceremonial tea is often used for meditation, thanks to its calming qualities. The caffeine and l-theanine content of the tea helps to focus the mind and leave you feeling alert and energized without the feeling of jitteriness often associated with coffee.
It has also been linked to a number of health benefits, including improved heart health, a decrease in stress, improved memory, and more.
Ceremonial matcha is a incredibly special type of Japanese green tea – one that is sipped and savored, rather than quickly gulped. For many, it is a pleasure to be shared and enjoyed, and it has been a part of culture and ritual in Japan for centuries.
What is Culinary Matcha
Culinary Matcha is an incredibly unique type of Japanese green tea that is one of the most popular – and delicious – forms of green tea out there. Unlike other green teas, Culinary Matcha is made with ground whole green tea leaves and has an intense umami flavor that is sure to tantalize the taste buds of tea drinkers everywhere!
This type of Japanese green tea has a vibrant, almost neon green color and can be enjoyed in a variety of forms – from a simple hot, steaming cup to a variety of baked goods ranging from ceremonial tea cakes to savory pancakes.
It is excellent for both sweet and savory recipes, so you definitely won’t be bored when it comes to experimenting with Culinary Matcha in the kitchen!
The flavor of Culinary Matcha is strong and nutty, and depending on the quality of the tea, can be a little bitter. If you’re looking to add a little pizzazz to a meal, Culinary Matcha is the way to go.
It mixes well with other flavors, from salty and sweet to sour and tangy, so experimentation is key when it comes to finding recipes that work for you.
To make the most of your Culinary Matcha experience, it is best enjoyed when freshly prepared and served. Keep in mind that high-quality Culinary Matcha requires care and knowledge when preparing to make sure the flavor and color don’t get lost in the cooking process.
Kukicha, otherwise known as “twig tea” or “bōcha”, is a variety of Japanese green tea made from the stems, stalks, and twigs of Camellia sinensis plants. It is a favourite amongst those who enjoy subtle, nutty flavours and earthy, mellow aromas.
Kukicha has a long history, originally developed by Japanese Zen monks who looked for a tea that could accompany them on their long meditative journeys.
Kukicha is a low caffeine tea, which makes it a perfect drink for those looking for a balanced yet refreshing tea to calm their bodies and minds.
It is also a great tea to drink throughout the day, as it doesn’t contain the high levels of caffeine that other tea varieties do. Its delicate, light colour reflects that of its taste and aroma, making it a very gentle and mild tea.
This unique variety of tea has a unique look to it as well. The tea is made of short stems, floppy leaves, and delicate twigs; it has a vaguely woody and earthy feel to it. It visually resembles its flavour; the light brown colour gives it a vibe of warmth and calm.
Kukicha is the perfect tea for both tea enthusiasts and novices alike, since its mild and steady flavour it’s sure to appeal to all kinds of tea drinkers.
Many involved in Zen meditation and mindfulness practices find it to be an indispensable drink as well as an indispensable tool to reach a more serene and relaxed state of being.
Gyokuro is a type of Japanese green tea often referred to as the ‘King of Teas’. It is known for its high quality and unique flavor.
Gyokuro is cultivated in Japan’s shade-covered tea gardens, where the tea bushes are protected from direct sunlight and the tea leaves are allowed to slowly develop their flavor.
This results in a light-colored and lush tea with a naturally sweet taste and a gentle, yet distinct umami flavor.
The dry Gyokuro leaves have a light, bright green color and a strong aroma, while the color of the brewedtea liquor appears to range from light green to yellow.
The taste is clean and mellow, with a subtle and lingering sweetness. When compared to other Japanese green teas, Gyokuro is smoother and more intense.
Gyokuro has the highest concentration of antioxidants among all the teas, making it a great choice for those wanting to improve their health by drinking tea. The unique cultivation technique practiced in the shade-covered tea gardens has a special effect on its flavor. The tea farmers’ expertise and experience contribute to the Gyokuro’s exceptional quality which every tea connoisseur should experience.
Kabusecha is one of the many types of Japanese green tea. It is considered to be a specialty tea among all of the different kinds. Kabusecha is semi-shaded green tea, meaning that it is partially grown in the shade.
This type of tea is specifically allowed to mature for an extra week or two before harvesting. This extra maturation period causes some of the tea’s flavors to be more intense than other types.
Kabusecha is known to have delicate and mellow notes that are slightly grassy. The aroma is also slightly sugary, but not overly so, combining both sweetness and earthiness.
Because of its unique growing process, Kabusecha also has more of a white appearance than a traditional green tea, although it still is full of all of the health benefits and antioxidants that green tea is known for.
Kabusecha could be seen as the “middle brother” between sencha and gyokuro. When it comes to choosing the type of tea, Kabusecha offers a great balance between the two extremes – it isn’t overly sweet or grassy, it falls smack-dab in the middle with its deliciousness. So, if you’re looking for a more subtle flavor, Kabusecha is the perfect choice.
Mecha tea (bud tea) has been given this name because it is sourced from the tea buds. The mecha is loaded with nutrients, even more than other Japanese green tea since it is from the young leaves (buds) of the tree.
Some key health benefits are :
- Immune system booster – keeps your body young and strong
- Cancer prevention
- Improves brain function
- Improves dental health
- Beautifies skin
These buds are separated from high quality green teas like gyokuro and sencha. However, the price of it is much less in comparison to other high quality green teas.
So in case you’re looking for a good quality tea to buy for a reasonable price, mecha tea is your tea. This is also a green tea of high aroma and flavour, which can cause a bitter taste if it’s steeped for too long.
This concentrated green tea flavour in mecha comes from the fact that the buds of the plant carry the most amount of flavour.
Key Features of Mecha Tea
- Sourced from tea buds hence loaded with nutrients and extremely flavourful.
- Comes from high quality green tea but is cheaper than them.
- High aroma and flavour.
Last but not least, sencha tea (decocted tea) is the most popular kind of green tea in Japan.
As a matter of fact, more that 80% of the processed green tea results in producing sencha tea. Just like every other green tea we went through above, sencha has its fair share of multiple health benefits too!
The brewed tea has a balanced flavour of sweetness and astringency and a refreshing aroma. The upper parts of the shoots are used for the production of sencha and because of that it comes under a higher quality of green tea.
The most important part of the production process is steaming it right after plucking them to prevent it from being oxidised. They are then steamed and rolled into a familiar needle shape.
A plus point of this action is that the juices from the leaves are released,
intensifying the flavour of the tea.
Being the most common tea in Japan, I personally think you should definitely try it at least once in your lifetime.
Infact, everytime my friends from across the world pay me a visit, I take them for a cup of sencha tea. And they absolutely love it
Key Features of Sencha Tea
- Most popular green tea in Japan.
- Balanced flavour of sweetness and astringency.
- High quality because it consists of upper parts of the plant.
- Has a familiar needle shape.
History of Japanese Green Tea
The history of Japanese green tea traces all the way back to the 9th century. The prominent Buddhist monk, Eichū, is credited with the first harvesting, cultivation, and consumption of the then-unnamed tea. The practice quickly caught on throughout the country, eventually leading to the development of a variety of green tea types throughout the centuries.
By the 12th century, Japan was experiencing a tea boom. Green tea production soared and slowly overtook black tea in popularity.
Chrysanthemum tea was said to have been created in the 13th century, while Genmaicha (a blend of green tea and roasted brown rice) was introduced in the 16th century.
It wasn’t until the 17th century, however, that the Japanese green tea we know and love today was given a name: matcha.
Matcha was popularized by the monk Murata Juko, whose teachings spread the use of high-quality ceremonial matcha throughout the country.
Matcha was soon a staple in the tea ceremonies of the upper class, and continues to be a favorite of tea drinkers throughout Japan.
During the 18th century, sencha was created as a commoner’s tea. Its popularity quickly spread and it remains one of the most widely enjoyed teas in the country.
Unique blends like hojicha and kamairicha were also developed during this time to give people an alternative to the intense flavor of matcha.
Today, Japan produces an incredible amount of green tea for its citizens and for export.
From the ceremonial matcha tea enjoyed during special occasions to the everyday sencha sipped on the go, Japanese green tea has gone through much development and refinement over the centuries.
How is Japanese green tea different from other teas?
Japanese green tea is a unique type of tea with a distinct flavor and texture unlike any other. The main difference is that it is steamed rather than pan-fired or roasted like other teas.
This technique preserves more of the antioxidants and flavours in the tea leaves, resulting in a drink that’s known for its umami flavor.
Japanese green tea can also be quite complex when compared to other teas as there are many different varieties, each with its own distinct aroma and taste.
One of the other key differences between Japanese green tea and other teas is its lack of astringency. This is due to something called theanine, an amino acid found in the leaves of green tea.
Theanine has a mild sweet taste and it accounts for a large part of the flavor in Japanese green teas. This results in a much smoother and mellow taste than other types such as oolong and black tea.
Japanese green tea can also be prepared in a number of unique ways that help bring out the unique flavors and health benefits. One of the most popular methods is cold-brewing, which is said to result in a tastier and smoother drink than if simply boiled. It’s also possible to purchase pre-made versions of Japanese green teas such as matcha, genmaicha and gyokuro.
Japanese green tea is a wonderfully unique type of tea with its own distinct flavor that stands out compared to other types. Its high antioxidant levels, lack of astringency, and exquisite taste are all reasons why it has become so popular among tea lovers. With so many varieties to choose from, it’s easy to find the perfect tea for any occasion.
Japanese Green Tea Terms To Know!
Ichibancha, Nibancha, and Sanbancha are three unique types of Japanese green tea. Each have distinct flavors, scents, and characteristics.
Ichibancha, also known as “first picking”, is the freshest and highest quality green tea. It is harvested only once a year, in early April, and harvested from the top of the plant. Ichibancha is known for its deep green color and grassy flavor. It is full-bodied and well balanced, with a fresh and highly floral aroma.
Nibancha, also known as “second picking”, is harvested around June and July. It is harvested from lower leaves on the plant, and contains less caffeine content than Ichibancha. Nibancha is more mellow with a hint of sweetness and grassy notes. The color of the brewed tea is a light yellowish-green.
Sanbancha, or “third picking”, is harvested in late July or early August. Sanbancha has the lowest caffeine content of the three varieties. Its flavor is light and mellow, with grassy notes and hints of sweetness. Its brewed color is a light yellow.
Each type of green tea has its own unique flavor and aroma, but all three varieties of Japanese green tea are considered to be of the highest quality and are highly sought after. No matter what type of green tea you choose, it is sure to be a delicious and enjoyable drink!
Is Japanese green tea the same as Chinese green tea?
While Japanese green tea and Chinese teas share certain similarities, they are also quite distinct.
For starters, Japanese green tea is made using steamed leaves, which have a bright green color, as opposed to Chinese green tea, which is made using pan-fired leaves that have a darker green color.
The differences in how the teas are made also result in different flavor profiles and aromas. Another key difference is the caffeine content; Chinese green tea tends to have more caffeine than its Japanese counterpart.
When it comes to production and preparation, Japanese green tea tends to be much more labor-intensive than Chinese green tea. This is because the tea leaves are harvested earlier and must be steamed and dried in order to preserve the flavor.
On the other hand, Chinese green tea is usually pan-fired, which is a much quicker process, and it tends to create a stronger flavor than Japanese green tea.
The two teas are also very different in terms of flavor. Japanese green tea has a light, delicate flavor that is often described as grassy. Chinese green tea has a much more robust flavor that can range from mildly sweet to bold and intensely smoky.
Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide which type of green tea they prefer. Knowing the differences between Japanese and Chinese green tea could help one make an informed decision, so it’s important to be aware of both types.
In conclusion, Japanese green tea is an ancient and richly varied form of tea, that is a source of joy and a treat to many. Every variety has its own flavor, from the light, grassy flavor of Sencha to the more robust and earthy flavor of Gyokuro.
With the different choices in tea, the possibilities for enjoyment and health benefits are endless. It can be used for morning breakfast tea sets, afternoon tea ceremonies, or merely enjoyed with friends during social gatherings.
Whether drinking it plain or experimenting with new flavors, tea is something that is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face.
Overall, the ever-growing list of my green tea hunts proved to be an amazing experience and it did not disappoint.
I hope it inspires you to try a new green tea flavour and I hope you would love it as much as I did.