There are many different types of tea from all over the world, but surprisingly most of the variants come from the same plant – Camellia sinensis.
The leaves are processed differently to create different tastes from each variant. For example; British tea is fermented whereas Japanese green tea is not. Japanese tea leaves are steamed and roasted to stop the fermentation process.
However; even though the finishing process for Japanese tea is similar, there are many different varieties, each with their own name. The name of the tea actually refers to the grade or quality of the tea which has a few defining factors, such as; the time of the year when the tea is harvested and the amount of sunlight the leaves are subjected to.
Let's have a look at the Japanese names for the grades:
Gyokuro is the highest grade and the most expensive. When the plant is reaching maturity, it is grown under shade for up to three weeks. Shading the plant at this stage increases the sweetness of the final product.
Sencha is one of the more common grades of tea and is probably one of the most well-known. It is picked during the first round of the harvest it is steam-pressed for a slightly bitter taste. Sencha does not undergo the shading process.
Bancha is categorised as a lower grade of tea. The leaves are obtained during the later rounds of harvesting. The stem of the plant is also used for this tea. It still has a surprisingly good taste.
Hojicha is Sencha or Bancha grades of tea that is roasted over charcoal at a high temperature to stop the fermentation process. It has a rich toasty flavour which also works great as a green tea latte.
Probably one of the least known green teas; Kuki cha (also known as Bocha) is m
Matcha is probably the most well-known Japanese green tea around the world due to it being used in the famous Japanese Tea Ceremonies. It is also used for the many types of green tea flavoured confectionery that have quickly become popular all over the world due to their unique green colour. The plant goes through the shaded growth period like Gyokuro and is also harvested during the first round. It is then dried out and milled into a fine powder.
There are some Japanese teas that are not made from the tea plant, favouring other ingredients:
Mugicha is made by infusing roasted barley with water. It is usually served cold during the long hot, humid summer days. As it doesn't use the tea plant, this tea is caffeine free.
2. Ume Kombucha
Ume Kombucha is made by mixing powdered dried seaweed with plum. It has a salty sour taste. You may find this tea being served in Japanese hotels.
Now that you understand the grades of Japanese teas, be sure to check out our tea section on our website.