Japanese Teas After Matcha

The vast majority of tea consumed in Japan is, and historically has been, green tea. But there are many different options that fall under the “green” category, varying based on qualities like the time of harvest, how much sun the leaves have seen, how the tea is processed, and what parts of the plant are used in the final product.

SENCHA: The most commonly consumed tea in Japan, sencha consists of green tea leaves that have been grown in full sunlight. Meaning simmered tea, sencha is delicate, mild, and slightly floral. It should be brewed for 2 minutes in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

GYOKURO: This high-end tea is made from first-flush green tea leaves grown partially in the shade. Sweet and mild, it should be brewed for about 3 minutes in relatively cool water (120 to 140° F).

BANCHA: This lower grade of sencha is harvested later in the year, and can include some stems in with the leaves. Its flavor is more robust and astringent than delicate sencha. It should be brewed for 1 to 3 minutes in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

HOJICHA: A reddish-brown tea made by roasting bancha in a clay pot over charcoal (most Japanese teas are steamed), hojicha is a roasty, nutty, mellow tea, low in caffeine, typically served during or after an evening meal. It should be brewed for about 1 minute in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

GENMAICHA: Genmaicha refers to any combination of dried green tea and toasted genmai rice grains, the latter of which provides the beverage with a nutty depth to offset the tea’s natural astringency. It can be made with sencha, bancha, or gyokuro tea and sold premixed or created on your own at home. Brew it for 1 minute in water at a steep simmer (185° F).

KUKICHA: Also known as twig tea, this blend of tea leaves, stems, and twigs is available as both a green tea and in roasted, oxidized form. Creamy and mild, it should be brewed for 3 minutes in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

MUGICHA: Not technically a tea at all, mugicha is made from roasted barley. This caffeine-free beverage is traditionally served cold as a summer drink in Japan; outside of Japan, it’s popular as a coffee substitute. Brewing conditions needn’t be as fussy for mugicha as for green teas, but plan to steep it for about 2 minutes in simmering water (160 to 170° F).

Sources: Kyotofu

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