It’s probably safe to say that you’ve heard plenty about green tea providing many health benefits. From helping to lose weight to soothing a sore throat, green tea is very healthy. With so much focus on green tea’s health benefits, it can be easy to overlook the fact that there are many different flavors and types of Japanese green tea to enjoy, as well.
A comprehensive list of green tea types would be rather long, as China and other countries cultivate their own types of green tea. Of the many types of green tea available from Japan, seven types stand out as the most popular. Most of these can easily be found in Asian supermarkets, or even online at Amazon.
It is also important to note that all of the following types of Japanese green tea actually come from the same plant — camellia sinensis. However, the location where the tea plant is grown, climate conditions, how the leaves are cultivated, harvested and dried, and other factors all play a part in the appearance and taste of the final product.
The most common of all the green teas produced in Japan, sencha green tea comes in many different varieties. The sencha tea leaves are exposed to direct sunlight, and then processed by steaming and rolling the leaves. This produces a fairly basic type of green tea, considered to be an “everyday” tea, like the Lipton tea brand is in America.
A more premium variety of sencha, called fukamushi sencha, can be produced by steaming the tea leaves for a longer period of time. This serves to produce a stronger taste, and the process also helps the many active components of the tea to be better absorbed into the body.
This type of green tea is made primarily by grinding up the leaves of a green tea variety called tencha. These tea plants are grown in the shade, and then ground into a fine powder that delivers a rich herbal flavor when added to hot water. Matcha powder is also used to make candy and confections, cakes and savory dishes. Matcha is also used in several Japanese ceremonies.
A premium tea in Japan, the gyokuro plants are first exposed to sunlight, and then moved to a shady area or covered shortly before harvesting. The tea is smooth and light, with a rich flavor and an enticing aroma similar to nori.
A green tea with a lot of character, genmaicha boasts a unique flavor. Sencha tea leaves are mixed with roasted brown rice grains. During the roasting process, many of the rice grains may pop, appearing as small pieces of “popcorn” in the tea. The bold, savory flavor added by the rice makes this tea very comforting.
The green tea delivers a light, savory taste and aroma, produced by roasting sencha tea leaves. Roasting the tea leaves serves to produce a green tea that is not as bitter and also not as high in caffeine, making it a good tea for children and the elderly.
Shincha refers not necessarily to a variety of tea, but rather when it is picked. In this case, it is the first tea picked in the season. Because the leaves are picked while they are still very fresh, they are packed with nutrients and the tea is very refreshing. There is also less caffeine, reducing the bitterness of the tea and enabling you to enjoy a full-bodied flavor.
The opposite of shincha, bancha is tea that has been harvested very late in the season. The flavor is weaker, but the tea is stronger.