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.

Topics Covered

  • Aracha
  • Gyokuro
  • Hojicha
  • Konacha
  • Matcha
  • Me cha
  • Sencha
  • Tamaryokucha
TypeBuy
Cherry Blossom Tea18 Bleach-free tea bags of cherry blossom petal tea from Buddha Teas. 100% organic and GMO-free.
Sencha Tea100 Foil-wrapped authentic sencha tea bags from Maeda-en.
Matcha Green Tea50 tea-bags of authentic ceremonial quality matcha tea from Ito En. Contains zero calories and has caffeine.

Green tea varieties in Japan

There are fewer than twenty green tea varieties in Japan. Some are common and found nationwide, while others are region-specific. Here we will provide information on each of them.


Aracha

Aracha Green Tea Leaves
User:USAGI-WRP, Chakan aracha kesencha yabukita 2009, CC BY 3.0

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 companies.

Buyers then use different methods to sort, grade, size, and blend the aracha leaves to produce their particular brand of Japanese green tea. Pure aracha, when unblended, can be recognized by its very dark green color and robust taste.


Gyokuro

Gyokuro Tea
Rama, The-IMG 0015, CC BY-SA 2.0 FR

The word Gyokuro translates to ‘jade dew,’ and is one of the highest grades of tea in the world. 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. Learn how to brew it the right way at o-cha.com.


Hojicha

Hojicha tea leaves.
Francois Mathieu, Hojicha Dark Roast, CC BY-SA 4.0

Hojicha is popular 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 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

Konacha.
FCartegnie, Konacha, CC BY-SA 3.0

Konacha is 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 various Japanese dishes. It’s also one of the most common varieties served at sushi restaurants.


Matcha

Matcha green tea
Matcha green tea.

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 through 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.


Me Cha

Me Cha tea
FCartegnie, Me cha, CC BY-SA 3.0

Me Cha is a very high-quality sencha 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.


Sencha

Sencha leaves
Sencha green tea.

Many people are under the impression that matcha is the most commonly consumed tea in Japan, but that title goes to sencha because it makes up a staggering 80% of all tea produced and consumed within the borders of Japan.

Flavors vary from region to region and also depend 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.


Tamaryokucha

A small pile of Tamaryokucha leaves.
Fanny Schertzer, Tamaryokucha, CC BY-SA 3.0

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.


Related Content

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is an important cultural activity, which you can learn more about here.

Take a look at all of the other varieties available in Japan here.

Do you want to drink authentic Japanese brew in style? If so, take a look at these exquisitely beautiful tea sets from Japan.

Wagashi is a type of Japanese delicacy commonly consumed alongside tea. Learn more about it here.