What is Japanese Tea

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What is Japanese tea?

Japanese tea is probably the most familiar drink in daily lives for in Japan. Depending on the harvest area of the tea, there are a variety of teas such as “sencha”, “hojicha”, and “Kamairicha”, etc. These are all made from the same tea leaves however with different manufacturing processes.

Types of japanese tea

You may also wonder why they have different names when they are made with the same tea leaves. This is because the different names are associated with the different parts of Japan the tea is made in. In Hokkaido and Tohoku, “hojicha” is used to refer to tea. In Shizuoka, you will probably hear “sencha”. In Kyushu, you will probably find a Chinese style Japanese green tea called “Kamairicha”. Various types of tea are enjoyed all over Japan.

Why start the day with tea?

Drinking tea is a great way to start the day with a refreshing feeling. In Japan, it is common to drink tea to socialise or gather with family. This is typically done to end the day with a peaceful atmosphere. 

Japanese sencha loose leaf tea

Origin of Japanese Tea

The most popular theory about the origin of Japanese tea is that it was brought over from China. However, there are some people who believe that tea has been growing wild in Japan for a long time. The most asked question is where Japanese tea originated from?  The culture of tea began in nara and Heian periods of Japan, 700 to 1000 AD. The culture of tea drinking started in Japan in the Nara and Heian periods, around 700 to 1000 AD.

Japanese tea started to be recognised as a health benefit in the Kamakura period around 1200 AD. There is saying “if you drink tea, you will live a long and healthy life.” This began the lifestyle of drinking tea daily accompanied with every meal. Nowadays, tea is consumed to relieve sickness and after effect of alcohol. Tea became accompanied with (禅)Zen and established itself as a unique culture called the tea ceremony. By the Edo period (1603–1868), Japanese tea became a common drink all over the country in Japan, as it is today.

Originally tea leaves were brought over from China to Japan. China has had a long history of tea for thousands of years. There are over 1000 tea varieties produced in China.  According to a Chinese myth, the god of agriculture was resting in the shade of a tree to drink hot water when a tea leaf accidentally fell into the water and the hot water with tea was filled with a wonderful aroma and taste. That’s how the tea came to be drunk. 

Today, Japanese tea has become a popular beverage all over the world. In 2021, export statistics recorded an export value of 20.4 billion yen despite having being hit with COVID-19. Germany came in second, with 2 billion yen, which was still a 73.9% growth compared to 2020. A large percentage of exports were in powdered products, with matcha and other powdered teas totaling 65.3% of all exports. It is used in many cases as an ingredient in confectionery, health foods, and nutritional foods known as superfoods.It is believe since the growing interest of health and wellbeing, the discovery of tea has become a high demand and generated a lot of interest. 

Delicious ways to enjoy Japanese tea

Tea is the most popular drink in the world. In Japan, sencha is the most preferred and consumed tea. It is the most produced tea lead in Japan. Here is an introduction to the necessary tea equipment to enjoy Sencha.

Sencha requires a bit of skill to brew. Of course, it’s good to drink it casually without any complications. However, just knowing a few brewing techniques will add fun and depth to your enjoyment, and enrich your time enjoying tea! So, what kind of tea equipment is available in Japan?

When you think of typical Japanese tea equipment, you probably think of Matcha tea bowls, but this time, let’s take a look at the more familiar Sencha tea equipment and how to brew it.

KYUSU (Japanese teapot) is the most recommended tool for the delicious taste of Sencha. Simply, a KYUSU is all you needed. You don’t need anything else. You have a cup, right? A mug, a teacup, anything is fine. However, it is recommended that the inside of the cup be white if possible. You can see the green colour beautifully when it is brewed.

Japanese Sencha loose leaf

It is not recommended to use freshly boiled hot water. It will produce a lot of astringency, cloudy tea brewing liquid, and reduce the aroma of Sencha that you want to enjoy.

Tea can be enjoyed not only for its taste but also for its aroma and appearance. To get the most out of Sencha, pay careful attention to the temperature of the hot water and even the brewing time to enjoy the best flavor of Sencha.

The recommended temperature range is about 80 degrees Celsius. If it is difficult to make 80-degree Celsius, first fill a ceramic cup such as a mug with freshly boiled 100-degree Celsius hot water. Then wait for 10 seconds. This will lower the temperature by about 10 degrees. Then, pour the water into another ceramic cup and wait for 10 seconds again, and the temperature will drop another 10 degrees. The water is now 80 degrees Celsius. In about 30 seconds, the 100 degree water will drop to 80 degrees easily.

It is said that the right amount of tea leaves is about 3g of tea leaves to 90㎖ of hot water. In general, this is fine. There are also different types of Sencha, such as deep-steamed Sencha and light-steamed Sencha. It is recommended to use a higher temperature for deep-steamed (fukamushi) and a lower temperature for light-steamed (asamushi).

I use a little more tea leaves, about 5 grams at a time, and I drink the same leaves three times. It’s a good idea to adjust the temperature and time of brewing to get the best taste.

Japanese sencha green tea poured into a cup

Next is the type of water, which you may not be familiar with. Water contains mainly calcium ions and magnesium ions. The number that expresses the amount of calcium and magnesium dissolved in water is called “hardness”. Water with high calcium and magnesium content is called hard water (硬水). Conversely, water with less of those ingredients is called soft water (軟水).

According to the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO), water with a hardness of 0–60mg/1000㎖ or less is called “soft water”, 60–120mg/1000㎖ or less is called “moderately soft water”, 120–180mg/1000㎖ or less is called “hard water”, and 180mg/1000㎖ or more is called “very hard water”.

The hardness of water differs depending on the region. Japan has basically soft water. The United States is a large country, so the hardness of the water differs in each area and stats. New York, San Francisco, and Houston are areas with soft water, just like Japan. In Europe, there are many hard water areas.

The type of water recommended for brewing Sencha is soft water (軟水). The first type of bottled mineral water recommended for Sencha is natural water from Japan. However, I think this is too expensive for overseas.

Among the mineral waters that you can generally find in supermarkets, I recommend Volvic. It goes well with Sencha and makes a delicious brew.

What I do not recommend for brewing Sencha is evian. This mineral water is very high in calcium and magnesium. It will be good for your health.

Japanese tea farm

Sencha tea also has a disinfecting effect, so when I was a child I was often told to gargle with tea. It makes a very astringent tea. It seems to wash out the inside of your mouth. If you are worried about bad breath, gargling with Sencha seems to be a good idea.

If you know the right amount of tea leaves, temperature range, and even the type of water, all you need to know is the brewing time. In general, the proper brewing time for commercially available Sencha is about 80 to 100 seconds. For special teas, such as GYOKURO or hand-made tea (TEMOMICHA), the brewing time may vary. I am sure you will now be able to drink delicious Sencha. One last point of advice is how to pour the tea. Make sure you pour every last drop. The last drop is called the golden drip. The most flavor of the tea is contained in the last drop. Please try this to enjoy your tea without any leaks.