Japanese Green Tea
Green tea is super popular today, which is not surprising considering its great taste and healthy benefits. There are so many different ways to enjoy green tea with all its varieties, but what makes green tea what we know and love? Well, it’s a funny story. Apparently, the origin story of green tea began in China roughly 5000 years ago. As the story goes, the Chinese Emperor Shennong asked his servant to boil some water for him to purify it. During the process of boiling it, some tea leaves fell into the water. Unbeknownst to the servant, the Emperor was served tea. Without noticing he took a sip of the water and like most people who have discovered tea for the first time, he was hooked.
So, what is green tea, where does it comes from and what are all the different varieties? Green tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant just like black, white, and oolong tea, but it does not undergo the same processing. The leaves for green tea are steamed or pan-fried to prevent oxidation and fermentation. Black teas in contrast are fully oxidized and fermented while oolong is partially fermented.
Green tea, like many other teas, can have different variations depending on the specific growing conditions, soil, processing, and harvesting time frames. When the tea leaves are not fermented and undergo the process of steaming, the leaves and buds are able to maintain a high level of the naturally occurring polyphenols found within. These polyphenols are what give green tea its healthy benefits.
The Variations of Green Tea
While green tea was discovered and grown originally in China, it eventually made its way throughout other parts of Asia. The Buddhist monks are known for bringing tea leaves over from China to Japan and for introducing systems for planting throughout Korea.
Pretty much all of the tea produced commercially in Japan is high-grade green tea. Japanese green teas have a rich, deep green color and look like thin needle-like blades of grass. Japanese teas, for the most part, are steamed, which not only gives them their unique color quality, it also produces a sweeter, vegetal flavor. This is what makes Japanese green teas so special.
Japanese Green Tea
Sencha – This is the most popular tea in Japan. It is made by infusing the whole tea leaves in hot water. Unlike other Japanese green teas, sencha is grown in sunlight as opposed to being shaded.
The natural, raw-looking leaves of this organic green tea match its natural, earthy flavor. It’s sweet with notes of wildflowers and toasted nuts. The leaves, not only can be steeped multiple times but the tea leaves can also be eaten. Enjoy this natural and organic green tea tradition today.
These sencha leaves are tightly compressed and slowly unfurl as the tea steeps, releasing a smooth and broth-like aroma leaving you with a vegetal umami flavor. While this tea is vegetal, it doesn’t leave you with a grassy aftertaste. It’s sweeter and lighter, perfect for first-time sencha drinkers.
This infusion of steamed Japanese sencha, goji berries, lemongrass, pomegranate, and cornflower blossoms hits your senses the second you open the bag. This green tea is tangy and sweet with its citrus and berry flavors balanced perfectly with the vegetal sweetness of sencha.
Gyokuro – This Japanese green tea is grown in the shade rather than the full sun. Gyokuro is shaded for about 3 to 4 weeks which increases the caffeine level and reduces the overall astringency of the tea.
The nuanced flavors and sweet aftertaste make this green tea so unique. The umami flavor really shines in this brothy and earthy green tea. The ideal brew can be achieved at much lower temperatures, so make sure your water is at a low simmer when steeping.
Genmaicha – This tea is a Japanese green tea combined with toasted puffs of rice.
This organic Japanese green tea is mellow and grainy and the toasted and popped rice gives off the sweet and savory aroma of popcorn and golden grains. The green tea leaves of this infusion are known as bancha which are the same as sencha only harvested later in the season.
This tea is a combination of two great green teas mixed with toasted rice. This organic mix of genmaicha and high-grade matcha offers a buttery, smooth cup of natural earthy flavors. Just a simple light dusting of quality matcha kicks this tea up a notch.
Matcha Green Tea – Matcha is pretty much a gyokuro tea that has been finely ground down into a powder. Unlike gyokuro, which is enjoyed by infusing in water, matcha is mixed into the water so that the entire tea leaf is consumed.