types of Japanese tea

Perfect Guide 12 Types of Japanese Tea:Matcha,Sencha,Gyokuro & more

What is Japanese Tea?

When most people think of Japanese tea, they think of matcha, sencha, gyokuro, and the like. However, there are many varieties of Japanese tea, such as genmaicha, hojicha, and bancha, each with a different flavor and aroma that can be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways.

What are The Types of Japanese Tea?

japanese tea producing area

Japanese green tea is basically classified as "unfermented tea," meaning that there is no fermentation process after picking. Instead, different types of tea are produced through processes such as steaming, rubbing, roasting, drying, and grinding. Oolong tea, Pu'er tea, and Jasmine tea, which are well-known as teas, are produced in China, so they are different from Japanese tea.

What is Matcha? (抹茶)

Matcha tea

Matcha is a type of green tea, also used in matcha lattes and ice cream. It is made by grinding tencha (Japanese powdered green tea) using a millstone or fine grinder. Unlike other green teas, matcha is not an extract but powdered tea leaves that are taken directly into the body, so it is attractive because it also provides nutrients such as catechins and vitamin C, as well as water-insoluble ingredients. The key to selecting matcha is to choose a beautiful bright green color and a strong aroma that is unique to matcha. It has a lot of flavor and little bitterness, making it easy to drink and enjoy.

What is Tencha? (てん茶)

Tencha is tea that has been dried without rubbing in the preliminary stage of becoming matcha. After the tea leaves are steamed, they are dried without being rubbed, and the stems and veins are removed. The tea garden is covered with straw to shade the leaves from the sun, which increases the amount of chlorophyll in the tea and gives it a soft, bright green color. It also reduces astringency and increases sweetness and flavor. Fresh leaves plucked from undercover tea gardens are steamed to stop oxidation. The fresh leaves are not rubbed, but are cooled while the wind blows the steamed leaves up to remove the dew from the steam, and the leaves are loosened from their overlapping layers to prepare them for drying. The tea leaves are then dried at high temperatures in a brick drying oven to produce "rough tea leaves." The stems and veins are removed from the rough tea leaves, and the tea leaves are shaped to a size that is easy to grind with a stone mortar to produce tencha.

What is Sencha? (煎茶)

jaoanese sencha
Sencha tea

Sencha is a type of green tea. After plucking, the tea leaves are steamed to stop oxidation, then rubbed and dried in several stages. Unlike covered cultivation, such as matcha and gyokuro, sencha is produced in open-air cultivation, where it is exposed to plenty of sunlight. When tea is grown without sunlight, photosynthesis transforms theanine, the flavor component of tea, into catechins, the source of astringency. Tea grown in open fields has a moderate astringency and a refreshing taste characteristic of tea. The tea leaves are shaped as they are dried and eventually become needle-like and twisted. The best way to brew delicious sencha is the temperature of the water. Instead of pouring boiling water directly into the teapot, allow the water to cool down to allow the unique flavor of sencha to be more fully appreciated.

What is Deep Steamed Sencha? (深煎り蒸し茶)

Fukamushi Sencha is made by steaming tea leaves for approximately twice as long as normal Sencha. If you look at the leaves of Fukamushi Sencha before brewing, you will notice that each leaf is finer and smaller than a regular Sencha. The characteristic of deep steamed sencha is that it can be quickly brewed in a shorter time than regular sencha. Another important feature is that because the tea leaves are finer, nutrients such as dietary fiber, protein, and vitamin E, which are not fully dissolved in the tea liquid, can be taken directly into the body. It is also said to have a less astringent and richer flavor.

What is Gyokuro? (玉露)

Gyokuro is a Japanese tea that is cultivated by covering it for a certain period of time (approximately 20 days) to block out the sunlight, and is considered a high-end product. Because of the time and effort required to cultivate it, it is rare because it is grown only in a limited number of regions in Japan (Uji in Kyoto, Yame in Fukuoka, and Okabe in Shizuoka). Gyokuro is characterized by a strong, full-bodied flavor, and conversely has little astringency or bitterness. This is because Gyokuro is grown under cover and is not exposed to sunlight, so theanine, a flavor component, remains in the tea leaves without being transformed into catechins. Gyokuro also contains a lot of caffeine, but because theanine has the effect of suppressing the caffeine effect, it is said to be less likely to be strongly present. When brewing gyokuro, also pay attention to the temperature of the water; it is recommended to brew it slowly at a low temperature of about 60°C (140°F).


What is Kabusecha? (かぶせ茶)

Kabusecha is a Japanese tea grown by covering the tea leaves with a cloth or other covering before plucking. Unlike gyokuro, which is cultivated under a covering, kabusecha is cultivated under a covering for a certain period of time before harvesting. Characteristically, it is located between gyokuro and sencha, and its quality can vary depending on whether it is covered for a longer period of time (tastes more like gyokuro) or shorter (tastes more like sencha). The color of the tea leaves is also right in the middle, resulting in a bright green color with a slight bluish tinge. The delicious brewing temperature can also be adjusted to experience a variety of enjoyment. To taste the umami and sweetness, brew slowly at a low water temperature, and to taste the bitterness and astringency, brew quickly at a high water temperature. This is a unique way to enjoy Kabusecha.

What is Barley Tea? (麦茶)


It is a tea made by infusing roasted barley. Barley tea, which contains no caffeine or tannin and has a savory aroma of barley, is mainly drunk cold in the summer. Recent studies have shown that it is also expected to have health benefits such as gastric mucous membrane protection, blood flow improvement, and antioxidant effects. The appeal of barley tea is that it can be easily prepared in tea bags. There are multiple ways to make it, including boiling, hot water, and water, but one way to enjoy it is to vary it in consideration of the time and effort required and the way it tastes. In Japan, barley tea is often drunk chilled, mainly in the summer, but hot types of barley tea can also be enjoyed for its aroma and calming effect.

What is Hojicha? (ほうじ茶)


A type of green tea in which the tea leaves are roasted over a fire (called roasting the tea leaves) until they have a fragrant aroma (until they turn reddish brown). The color will be bright brown. Because it is roasted at a high temperature, it contains less tannin, the component of bitterness and astringency, and less caffeine than sencha. It also contains less caffeine than sencha, and has less amino acids, which give it its flavor and sweetness, than other types of green tea, so you can enjoy its refreshing taste. It is recommended to drink after a fatty meal or when relaxing before bedtime. To enjoy the aroma of hojicha, brew it quickly with hot water.

What is Genmaicha? (玄米茶)


It is made by roasting white rice that has been steamed after soaking in water until it becomes a foxy color and mixing it together with tea leaves such as Bancha or Sencha in equal proportions. Generally, the ratio is the same, but it can be freely adjusted, so one of the ways to enjoy making genmaicha is to make genmaicha to your liking. The addition of rice also reduces the ratio of tea leaves, which reduces the caffeine content, making it a good choice for children and the elderly. Since the characteristic of Genmaicha is to enjoy the fragrant aroma of brown rice, the brewing method is to use hot water and short brewing time quickly. You can enjoy its rich aroma and refreshing taste.

What is Bancha? (番茶)


Bancha is made from tea leaves, old leaves, stems, etc., which have grown into hardened sprouts, or from tea leaves plucked between tea seasons (ichibancha, nibancha, sanbancha, etc.). This term refers to those that fall outside of the standard Japanese teas. Unlike sencha, which is made from tender sprouts, this tea is made from leaves grown from tea picked late in the season. It has a refreshing taste and its ingredients are less stimulating, making it a popular tea for everyday use. There are two types of Bancha: Autumn-Winter Bancha, which is made by plucking Sanbancha in the fall and winter, and Sannen Bancha, which is made by letting the plucked and roasted Bancha mature for three years and then roasting it further. Sannen-bancha is particularly low in caffeine (almost none) and is said to be less stimulating and healthier for the body.

What is Stem Tea (Stick Tea)? (棒茶)


It is a stick-shaped tea about 3 to 5 mm long, made from the stem part of the tea plant, slightly below the leafy part. Since photosynthesis takes place mainly in the leaves, stem tea made from the stem part is characterized by sweetness and flavor, not astringency. There are also multiple ways to call a tea depending on its production method. For example, sencha-stem tea is made from the stems of tea leaves used to make sencha, gyokuro-stem tea is made from the stems of tea leaves used to make gyokuro, and stem hojicha is made by roasting the stem tea at the end. You can taste the goodness of stem tea by brewing it slowly with hot water at a slightly high temperature of 80-90℃ and taking about one and a half minutes to brew.

What is Kama-Iri Green Tea? (釜炒り緑茶)

kama-iri green tea
Stir-fry tea leaves in a kettle tre 3 tre 3

Kama-iri green tea is made by roasting tea leaves in a kiln instead of the steaming process in the tea manufacturing process. Kama-iri-cha accounts for only about 0.02% of Japanese tea production, and is said to be a rare and seldom seen tea produced only in some areas of Kyushu region in Japan. Most Japanese teas are steamed at high temperature to stop fermentation, but Kama-iri green tea is roasted in a kettle to stop fermentation and is characterized by a savory aroma called "Kama-ko". In contrast to sencha, which is made by rubbing tea leaves to form needles, kama-iri green tea is dried by stirring tea leaves in a kettle, resulting in tea leaves that have a gradient shape. Kama-iri green tea is brewed at a slightly higher temperature than sencha and brewed slowly for 3 to 4 minutes to enjoy the kama-iri aroma.

What is Black Bean Tea? (黒豆茶)

kuromame tea
black bean tea (kuromamecha)

Black bean tea is a tea made from black beans. Tea is originally made from tea leaves, but "Kuromame-cha" is made by grinding or boiling black beans. Black soybeans are also used to make nimame, a traditional Japanese dish, and the anthocyanins contained in black soybeans have antioxidant properties, so health benefits such as beautiful skin and anti-aging effects can be expected. There are two types of black bean tea: a tea bag type that can be easily consumed, and a type that can be enjoyed by roasting black beans yourself to make homemade black bean tea. In homemade black bean tea, you can eat the black beans as they are after use, so you can enjoy it to the end.

What are Shincha(新茶), Ichibancha(一番茶), and Nibancha(二番茶)? 

Differences in flavor depending on the time of year when the tea is harvested. Shincha refers to tea made by picking the first sprouts of the year. It is also called "ichiban-cha". "Shincha" is also called "Hatsumonotsu" (first harvest of the year) and "Seasonal" (in season). Picking begins in warm regions such as Kagoshima and gradually moves northward like the cherry-blossom front.

After the first tea is harvested, the teas that follow are called Niban-cha and San-ban-cha, with the names differing according to the order in which they are harvested. Shincha has less astringency and bitterness and more umami, which gives it a fresh aroma like young leaves. To enjoy its fresh aroma and moderate astringency, it is said that it is best to brew it quickly with slightly hot water. On the other hand, if you let the water cool down to about 70 degrees Celsius and then brew it slowly, you will get a flavor with a lot of umami.

Summary: Many Types of Japanese Tea and a Wide Range of Ways to Enjoy!

We have introduced 12 types of Japanese tea. It is interesting to note that the flavor changes depending on the ingredients, picking method, steaming, drying, and so on. There are a wide range of ways to use Japanese tea in daily life, such as when you combine it with meals, when you want to relax, or when you entertain guests. We hope you enjoy a relaxing moment with Japanese tea in your daily life!