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Tea 201 - Why Japanese Greens Are Unique

Japanese Matcha
Japanese Matcha

Japanese Tea.  Usually this means green tea of some kind but why is it so special?  Honestly, it is because the Japanese have come up with several different ways to process their little Camellia sinensis plant.

Like typical green tea, it is the least oxidized of all of the teas.  Japanese green teas are also steamed so that they can maintain their bright green color.  Then they’re prepared several different ways.

Sencha is the most popular green tea in Japan.  It is harvested in the early season.  It is created by grinding the tea leaves.  It represents about 80 percent of the tea produced in Japan.

Gyokuro is a high grade of green tea that is grown in the shade.  In fact, it is actually grown in the shade for at least twenty days.  There is actually a different type of green tea that is grown in the shade known as kabusecha.  This type of tea differs from Gyokuro only because it is shaded for approximately a week.

Matcha is the well known green tea powder.  The leaves are steamed, dried and then ground into powder.  This is the tea that mostly used in traditional Japanese Tea ceremonies.  Today matcha is also used to flavor and dye foods like mocha, soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of Wagashi (Japanese confectionery).

Hojicha is made by roasting the green tea leaves unlike most Japanese green teas that are steamed.  The tea leaves are fired at a high temperature which alters the leaf color from green to reddish brown.

Genmaicha is a blend of green tea leaves and popped rice.  It is also known as popcorn tea because a few grains of the rice pop during the roasting process.  This type of tea was normally drunk by poor Japanese farmers because the rice acted as a filler for and reduced the price of the tea.

Bancha is a tea made from the leaves picked in the late summer.  That’s about all the difference between Bancha and Sencha.

What about you, dear readers? Have you tried the different Japanese green teas?  If so, what do you think? Which ones are your favorites?