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A complete guide to Japanese tea

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By cinnamonellie, grape Japan

Tea is an irreplaceable part of the Japanese Culture and comes in dozens of various types, so even if you are not a fan of the traditional green tea, I am sure you will find a blend to suit your palate.

Japanese tea not only has many benefits, but it also tastes amazing and as mentioned above, there are many different blends you can choose from.

Many of you would automatically think of green tea when you speak of Japanese tea, however in this guide, I will introduce a lot more types you might’ve heard of or not.

Some, like matcha, for example, is quite known worldwide, others, take bancha, for example, maybe not so.

Main Types of Japanese Green Tea

Let me start by saying that in Japan, green tea comes in several types and is known under the term of 緑茶 (ryokucha).

Sencha

In restaurants, you’ll most likely encounter 煎茶 (sencha). Sencha is probably the most consumed tea in Japan and has a high amount of vitamin C, clear yellowish-green color and a delicious, well-balanced flavor.

Compared to other teas, it is refreshing and easy to drink so it suits most of the people palate.

There are a lot of brands of sencha so the taste will differ, but I believe the Sayama Tea Blends (狭山茶/Sayama Cha) has the best tea leaves, producers.

Gyokuro

Gyokuro(玉露)has a refined taste and represents one of the highest quality blends between the Japanese Tea varieties. To enjoy its mellowness and its finest grade flavor, it is recommended to be consumed in small amounts.

As the taste is very unique and has a seaweed accent, it might not suit the taste buds of people from abroad, but once you get used to its refined taste, you will slowly grow to love it.

It should be consumed at a temperature of 55 degrees.

Matcha (抹茶)

Matcha ice cream, matcha chocolate, matcha cakes, and matcha frappe… I think many of you are more than familiar with matcha, however many people seem to confuse matcha with green tea.

Matcha is a green powder that dissolves in boiled water and results in the bitter, frothy green tea with an elegant, but the refreshing aroma and rich umami (highest quality flavor).

Matcha is more frequently used in Tea Ceremony (Sado・茶道) and not so much in daily life.

If you are a fan of wagashi (和菓子・Japanese sweets), then you will love the combination of matcha and sweets.

Bancha (番茶)

Bancha is not a well-known tea and it has a gold color given by the mature tea leaves it’s made of.

Its taste is quite delicate and has been very popular among the Japanese. I also find it very refreshing, so I’m sure you’ll love it, too.

Hojicha (ほうじ茶)

Hojicha is the result of roasted tea leaves and has a brownish color and a light flavor.

The warm shade of browns reminds me of autumn and its fragrance and taste are loved by all generations in Japan.

Konacha (粉茶)

Konacha is a type of tea usually served in sushi restaurants. Despite it being made out of small leaves and being very affordable as price, the tea is very strong and has a sharp flavor, one of the reasons why sushi restaurants choose this blend.

Genmaicha (玄米茶)

Genmaicha is a blend of sencha and brown rice with a unique taste given by its nutty accents.

I find it an interesting type of tea that has a bit of a toasted aftertaste.

Besides the types mentioned above, Japan also has Soba cha (そば茶; made of roasted buckwheat groats)and wakocha (和紅茶/Japanese Black tea).

Wakocha is becoming more and more popular recently and quite a few blends and brands are now available for sale.

Because the water is slightly different from other countries, the color resulted has more of a red tone compared to the European black teas that have darker shades, so it is cold “Ko”’(red) “Cha”(tea).

The tea itself has a nice flavor and a gentle aroma, so I am a fan of it. If you like black tea in general, I think you will also find it very well-balanced, but delicate and most important, tasty!

Even though it is black tea, you can somehow feel Japan’s tea influence, so the taste is rather unique and new.

It makes a good match with chocolate cake and is a great choice for your evening tea.

I hope that sharing my knowledge and research regarding Japanese tea blends helped you a bit more in understanding the tea culture in Japan and that now, having so many choices, you’ll succeed in finding your perfect cup of tea.

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© grape Japan

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3 Comments
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Shonen Knife sure loves green tea and they wrote a song celebrating it. then again, many of their songs are about food anyway.

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My palate has no affinity for Matcha. or green tea. To my mouth it all tastes like fresh lawn clippings smell.

I just can not stomach it at all. The good news from that is there is a little more available to those who do like it.

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I would love to hear Shonen Knife's song about tea. I live outside of Bangkok and in my home I had a double chashitsu built with a tea garden and waiting arbor and koi in the waterfall pond, as I often invite people to tea. I am certified in Ura Senke, but don't usually teach; though I do sometimes chose local Thais to teach. I've been enjoying "Japan Today" for a few years. In my teaching life in the American schools in Okinawa, Japan, Korea and Germany, I specialized in AP English Composition and so am a stickler for correct grammar, spelling, mechanics and usage. This comes in handy as in my retirement here I founded the Thai Textile Society Newsletter and write and publish articles there and in the Bangkok National Museum Volunteers Newsletter and the newsletter of the Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum; and I've often given public lectures and guided at the Siam Society and at the Bangkok National Museum.

It is the usage of the tea article author that I wish to help, regarding the correct usage of "unique". "Unique" means that there is only one ("uni") of a kind; therefore, unique has no comparative or superlative degrees because it is already superlative, as there is no other to compare it with. Thus, it is logically impossible to say or write "rather unique" or "very unique". Those are simply bad usages and make the author or speaker appear ignorant and uneducated. But the authors for "Japan Today" are highly knowledgeable and well educated.

Wishing all the best to everyone during this time of plague when we cannot gather to share tea in our tearooms or in the many tea salons and tea shops of Bangkok. Do visit the blog "Bangkok Tea Enthusiasts" which hosts writings on the tasting notes and qualities of various Asian teas, by a dear young Thai friend. And also visit my YouTube channel where you will find my videos on tea ceremony along with other Asian cultural topics.

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