Japanese Green Tea
Green tea is the most consumed beverage in Japan and has a thousand-year history with the country. It was initially only enjoyed by the religious and elite classes of Japanese society, but as tea cultivation became more commonplace, more of the general population started drinking it too. It eventually became deeply ingrained within their culture, as one can see in the tea ceremony.
Today, Japanese green tea is enjoyed by millions around the world, thanks to its plethora of incredible health benefits.
- Green tea varieties in Japan
- Me cha
Green tea varieties in Japan
There are fewer than twenty green tea varieties in Japan. Some are common and found nationwide, while other are region specific. Here we will provide information on each of them.
Aracha, also known as ‘unrefined’ or ‘crude tea,’ is grown by small scale farmers who harvest the entire leaf – complete with leaf blades, hair, stem, and other particles. The processing method involves steaming, rolling, and drying the leaves before being sold off to wholesale brokers and tea companies.
Buyers then use different methods to sort, grade, size, and blend the aracha leaves to produce their own particular brand of Japanese green tea. Pure aracha, when unblended, can be recognized by its very dark green color and robust taste.
The word Gyokuro translates to ‘jade dew,’ and is one of the highest grades of tea in the world. As a matter of fact, it’s considered to be the apex of Japanese green tea, and its price reflects that. The naturally sweet-tasting gyokuro contains high amounts of caffeine and amino acid because the leaves are shaded 20 days before harvest. Drinking it regularly will also boost your immune system and minimize the risk of cancer.
Also, gyokuro follows a different brewing method than other types of green tea. Learn how to brew it at the right way at o-cha.com.
Hojicha is a popular health tea among the young and elderly alike thanks to its mildness, plethora of health benefits, and low caffeine content. At first glance, it looks like a black tea, but it’s actually a composition of different blended green teas. The hojicha brewing process was developed in Kyoto during the 1920s, and it involves heating the leaves to a scorching 200 ºC, followed by a rapid cooling process. This particular brewing method ensures a mild taste because it drastically lowers the caffeine and catechin levels – both, which contribute significantly to a bitter and astringent taste.
Konacha are small leftover leaves left behind from the filtering process used in the production of sencha and gyokuro. It can, therefore, be referred to as an economical high quality Japanese green tea. Konacha is known for its dark green color, sharp taste and is often a popular ingredient in a variety of Japanese dishes. It’s also one of the most common teas served at sushi restaurants.
Matcha is probably the most well known Japanese tea and consists of high-quality tencha leaves that are shaded for one month before harvest. Upon harvesting, the leaves are steamed and dried out before being flattened and having the stems and veins removed. They are then powdered by means of a lengthy milling process. Interestingly, it takes approximately one hour to produce a mere 40 grams of matcha powder.
It’s renowned for its immense health benefits thanks to its richness in vitamins and L-theanine. It also naturally contains caffeine.
Read more about matcha.
Me Cha Tea
Me Cha is a very high-quality sencha tea variety. The actual name me cha translates to ‘buds and tips’ because the leaves are harvested while they are still in their infancy stages. You are most likely to come across me cha in sushi restaurants across Japan because its bitter aftertaste is ideal for cleansing your palate.
Many people are under the impression that matcha is the most commonly consumed tea in Japan, but that title actually goes to sencha. As a matter of fact, sencha makes up a staggering 80% of all tea produced and consumed within the borders of Japan.
Flavors vary from region to region and also depends on the season. The very first harvest of the year is known as shincha (‘new tea’) and is regarded by many as the best tasting. Water temperature also plays a role in the taste. For example, the hotter the water, the drier and more astringent the taste becomes while the colder the water, the more mellow it tastes.
Another variety of sencha is kabusecha. What sets kabusecha apart is that it’s grown in the shade to naturally increase amino acid production resulting in a distinctive mild taste.
Read more about sencha.
Tamaryokucha, which translates to ‘coiled tea’, has a beautiful golden color and is grown on Kyushu island. This high grade Japanese green tea has a refreshing berry and citrus aroma and tastes similar to almonds and berries. Tamaryokucha is mostly unknown outside of Japan and is rarely enjoyed outside of Kyushu island. Some choose to pan fry the leaves as a processing method, but most people prefer steaming because it’s better for preserving the antioxidants and vitamins.
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