Types of Japanese Green Tea
Japanese green tea is a non-fermented tea, processed with steaming method. They are many different kinds of green tea, categorized by its growing, post-processing method and part. Similar to Matcha, each type of green tea has low grade and high grade tea. In this article we will not talk about the grading.
There are 2 different techniques in growing tea tree and produce different type of green tea.
- Ooshita-en (Covered Farm) : About 3 weeks before harvest season, tea farm are covered to avoid direct sunlight. This technique reduces the Catechins (astringency) and increases the L-Theanine (umami sweetness) in the tea leaves. Green teas grown with this technique are Gyokuro, Kabusecha, Karigane, Matcha.
- Roten-en (Non-covered Farm) : Not covered. More astringency are developed in tea leaves. Green teas grown under Roten-en are Sencha, Bancha, Genmaicha, Houjicha.
Here are some of the most common green teas can be found in the market:
Konacha is powder-like tea made from the specks and tiny tea leaves of Gyokuro or Sencha tea leaves. Konacha is byproduct from processing of Gyokuro or Sencha. Normally low grade Konacha will be used for low cost teabag production, and widely used in Japanese restaurants.
After all the younger tea leaves are harvested for Gyokuro and Sencha production. The remaining tea leaves will be used to produce Bancha. Bancha has higher astringency and stronger grassy taste.
Kukicha, Karigane or Boucha
Kukicha, or known as Karigane in Kyoto, also known as Boucha. Kukicha is made from the stems and twigs. Karigane usually means higher grade of Kukicha beause it's made from stems or twigs from Gyokuro or high-grade Sencha.
Kukicha has higher sweetness because the L-Theanine is produced in the stems then spread to the tea leaves. It has a special flavour, different from the tea leaves.
Genmaicha is a blend between Genmai (roasted brown rice) and tea leaves. Low grade Genmaicha use Bancha, while higher grade use Sencha or Gyokuro to blend with Genmai. Genmaicha has a nutty roasted flavour, also a unique aroma of roasted brown rice.
Guricha or Tamaryokucha
Guricha (curly-tea) is a curved shape tea leaves which skip the final kneading process.
Houjicha is Sencha or Bancha being roasted at 200C to produce a smoky flavour. The roasting process also reduce the caffeine. That's why Houjicha has low caffeine which make it suitable as all-time tea drink.
Similar to Houjicha, but it's made from the stems. Bouhoujicha is served as high grade tea because of its unique sweetness from the stem.
Asamushi Sencha is known as light-steamd Sencha. The steaming process will reduce the astringency of tea leaves, but over steaming will break the tea leaves. Asamushi is a short-steaming tea, which maintain most of the astringency, also maintain good shape of tea leaves.
Sencha is the most popular green tea in Japan. It has refreshing astringency with reasonable good sweetness because it's produced from younger tea leaves.
Fukamushi Sencha is known as deep-steamed Sencha. The longer steaming process reduce the astringency of Sencha, but it also breaks the tea leaves, making it looks like low quality tea leaves but actually it's high quality tea.
Similar to Gyokuro, Kabusecha went through the shade-grown process which will increase the sweetness and reduce the astrigency. But Kabusecha is only shade-grown for half of the period compare to Gyokuro. Kabusecha has flavour between Sencha and Gyokuro, for those who wish to have lower refreshing astringency of Sencha, and higher umami, Kabusecha is something you may like.
20 days before harvest, tea leaves are shade-grown to get highest level of L-Theanine (umami) and low level of astringency (bitterness). Gyokuro is the highest grade tea in Japanese green tea. The highest grade of Gyokuro is produced from hanpicked tea leaves, which is very limited and very good in term of taste, aroma and colour.
Matcha is similar to Gyokuro, but the post processing is different than Gyokuro. Therefore Matcha also has high umami flavour and mellow aroma.
Mecha is also known as bud tea. It's made from the bud of tea plants. Mecha has strong flavour and aroma because of the extract of the plant is stored in the bud. For Sencha, the bud contains high Catechins. While for Gyokuro, you can expect high L-Thenine too.