April 17, 2021

Japanese tea; main types and preparations


Irene writes us: “As a result of confinement, and from the fact of spending so many hours at home and teleworking, I have become fond of Japanese green tea and I am discovering an exciting world with a great variety of types and ways of preparing them. Therefore, I would ask you to You put a bit of order explaining all, or at least the main denominations of Japanese green teas “.

How long do I leave the tea bag in the water to get the perfect infusion?

How long do I leave the tea bag in the water to get the perfect infusion?

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No doubt the Green Tea, which entered, like so many other things in Japan, from China, is today part of its cultural and gastronomic identity, with rites as celebrated and fundamental as the tea ceremony. But since it became Japanese, green tea has diversified into multiple forms of planting, harvesting, and brewing, all with important health benefits.

As Irene asks us, below we will expose the most widespread and recognized types of Japanese green tea, as well as its most famous and commercialized preparations in the West, always bearing in mind that the base of the tea is the same plant called Camelia sinensis and that the variations in this case depend on the mode of cultivation, time of harvest, part that is used, etc. .

By cultivation and harvesting

Sencha

The most common green tea, in which whole sprouts are used, which are steamed for 15-45 seconds before moving on to the rolling, drying and subsequent roasting phases to concentrate the flavor. It is a tea for daily use that is usually drunk hot in winter and cold in summer and accompanies meals or simply to hydrate.

Sincha

Sincha, or “new tea”, is the sencha tea of ​​the first harvest, the first sprout that comes out of the plant in spring and is therefore more tender and smooth and with less theine. It is highly appreciated as a seasonal tea.

Bancha

Bancha is the opposite, it is the tea that is collected between summer and autumn, the hottest months, and that precedes the arrival of the cold. It is a stronger and coarser tea, with a straw flavor and lower quality, since the leaf is already developed and has a greater amount of tannins.

Gyokuro

It is considered a very fine tea that is characterized by the fact that the bushes are covered for 20 days with a mesh so that the sun does not hit them directly and thus concentrate a greater amount of chlorophyll and other compounds of the green color. A variant is kabusecha tea, in which the coverage is made only for a week just before harvesting its buds.

Konacha

It is the discard tea, that is, the powder, small leaves and shoots that have been left over from the collection and selection of sencha and bancha tea. It is a low quality tea that is consumed as a bulk tea in cheap restaurants or to be used as a packet tea.

Matcha

It is the ritual tea of ​​the tea ceremony, although curiously it was the Chinese Zen monks who brought it to Japan, and currently it is not consumed in China. In the matcha the plants are also covered, but in this case almost completely in order to delay their growth and concentrate greenness and sugars.

Once the tea is harvested, the leaf is separated from the veins and crushed into powder; in this way the woody and tannic (bitter) taste is totally eliminated. Once crushed, instead of being infused, the tea is made by adding the powder directly to the hot water in the saucepan, where it is stirred with a ritual instrument, a kind of bamboo whisk.

Aracha

It is a tea in which, unlike matcha, the entire already developed leaf is used, veins included, and it is barely steamed, which gives it a more powerful and herbaceous flavor. It is a raw, strong and intense tea that is especially liked by rural people, which is why it is also known as “farmer’s tea”.

By preparation

Sakura

For this preparation of sencha tea, dried cherry leaves are used, as well as pieces of cherries, which give it a special and sweet aroma. Its color is between golden yellow and brown. It is typical to take it in spring, during the hanami (flowering of the Japanese cherry tree) but dried it can be taken in any season. Not to be confused with the sakura infusion, which is made with cherry blossom bud pickled in plum vinegar, also ritual.

Genmaicha

It is a tea mixed with toasted brown rice grains, which gives it a very characteristic flavor in which the softness of the tea contrasts with the power of the rice flavor. It is one of the most precious and expensive teas.

Kukicha

It is a curious tea, made with the tender stems of the plant instead of the leaves, which gives it a greenish straw color and a peculiar aroma, without being bitter. It is a low-theine tea, so it can be taken more frequently.

Houjicha

It is a preparation made mainly with bancha tea in which there is no steaming of the leaves, but they are roasted directly on charcoal after collecting them, which makes it a more similar tea to the Chinese. It is smooth and low in theine, so it is usually taken at night. A variation is tamaryokucha tea, which also undergoes pan roasting of the leaves.

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