Japan is known for its steaming method of fixing Green tea leaves. Therefore, most of Japan’s Green teas are steam fixed in order to stop the oxidation of the leaves after picking. The steaming of the leaves is for rather short periods of time. There are a few different methods of steaming, but none of them usually last longer than two minutes, with the shortest steam being for as little as twenty seconds. The time differences are mostly due to the differences in leave size and thickness. It’s all about fixing the leaves in order to stop oxidation, so once that goal is reached, the steaming is no longer required.
Sencha is probably the most popular Japanese Green tea. Sencha is a needle thin green tea with fresh, grassy flavors.
A lesser well known variant of Sencha is Kabusecha. Kabusecha is produced from the leaves of a tea plant that has been shaded for 7 to 14 days before harvest. This shading preserves the amino acids in the leaves and stops them from reacting with the sunlight to produce Polyphenols. This gives the tea a stronger Umami flavor.
Gyokuro is another shade grown Green tea from Japan. However, the plants used to produce this tea are shaded for a week longer than those of Kabusecha. This is a total of three weeks! This shading greatly increases the Chlorophyll levels in the tea, and greatly increases the level of amino acids that are prevented from reacting with the sunlight to turn into Polyphenols. The result of this process is a extremely strong Umami flavor that can be brewed so that the liquor has a brothy thickness.
Shincha is the first harvest after the plant’s dormant period. Shincha is only lightly steam dried, so the leaves are more fresh , and, because of this, prone to faster rates of passive oxidation. This tea should be enjoyed shortly after it has been processed.
Matcha & Tencha. Tencha are the leaves to be ground into Matcha. The plants used to produce these teas are shaded for three weeks, 21 days, before they are harvested. The leaves are processed whole until their veins and stems are removed, saving only the dry leafy parts of the leaves. The Tencha leaf flakes are then stone ground by slow moving grinders into Matcha powder. The flavor of liquor made with Tencha is deep and similar to Gyokuro, while the Matcha is thick and rich.
Bancha is a lower grade Green tea that is picked toward the end of the harvest season.
Kukicha is a Green tea made with the stems of the tea plant and tends to be more bitter than leaf teas, but is abundant in vitamins and minerals.
If you’re a fan of Japanese Green tea, tell us what you’d like to try and we’ll look into sourcing it! Have a favorite flavor profile? Let us know below!
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