There are four main types of tea, white, green, oolong (wu long), and black tea. All of these four main classifications are cultivated from the same species of plant called, "Camellia sinensis", and can each branch out into literally thousands of varieties!
Green tea, which is the second type that goes through the least processing, is most common in both China and Japan. Each country along with each Province or region produces some very interesting varieties, each with their very own characteristics! There is never only one type of green tea. There are in fact hundreds! In this article, we will have a look at the two very popular Japanese green teas.
About Japanese Green Tea
Japanese green tea differs when compared to its Chinese cousins. The way it is grown, cultivated, processed, and even the way it tastes remains distinctively separate. Green tea in Japan is just as popular as coffee is in America, and the Japanese people are very fond of this beverage. Although many tons are produced each year, nearly two percent of that is ever exported. As you can imagine, the Japanese are big tea drinkers! Did you know that Japan is one of the largest smoking nations, yet has the least amount of lung cancer cases? Could it be that the free radical combating power of green tea is responsible?
The liquor produced by most Japanese greens are usually a bright yellowish green, with higher quality varieties yielding an even more brillant green. The taste is generally more on the vegetal side, and is not as mild as with most Chinese varieties. It is more sensitive to boiling water and can easily burn and go bitter, so careful preparation is needed when steeping. Most Japanese teas only take about two minutes to release all of their flavor.
Now let us have a look at the two most popular varieties...
Sencha, meaning "infused tea" or "roasted tea", is the most common variety processed in Japan. Even though it has one name, there are hundreds of sub varieties, some which can cost hundreds of dollars for just one pound! This tea can make one feel relaxed and calm when consumed due to its high levels of Theanine, a natural amino acid. The taste as mentioned above will be on the vegetal side, but once the palate adapts will offer a sort of sweetness. This tea is far from tasting bad, if it did, would most of Japan's population drink it?
Although one of Sencha's meanings is referred to as a "roasted tea", today it has become practice to steam the leaves before allowing them to be air-dried and finally pan fired. Once completed, small dark green leaves with a powerful fresh scent is revealed. Before the processing, most leaves are harvested in the month of April, since it is this flush that offers the highest quality. While it is being grown, Sencha is subjected to a lot of sunlight; unlike the next tea we will discover...
This variety of green is considered Japan's finest, and is closely related to Sencha. Also, if you thought Sencha can be expensive your wallet may become a bit more shy at some of the prices Gyokuro is sold for. It is not unheard of for folks to spend over a thousand dollars for a pound of the rarest tea!
Now unlike Sencha, Gyokuro (or jade dew), spends a portion of its life in the shade under special tarps that are designed to keep the leaves out of direct sunlight. This results in leaves that turn out even darker than Sencha, and produce a cup that is slighter sweeter and with more of a fuller body. Like all Japanese tea, Gyokuro requires a careful steeping temperature or else the flavor can be compromised. In fact, it is recommended that it steeps at a cooler level than Sencha. This may seem like a small nuance, but it is crucial for that perfect cup!
This tea has many sub varieties as well, and like Sencha, will be set at different prices according to the way it was processed, and even which tea farm it came from. But even an average-priced cup would please the taste buds! This green tea is fancied by many the world over.
Japan does process other varieties of tea, but it is Sencha and Gyokuro that are the two most popular. Others are, "Matcha", "Genmi Cha", and "Houjicha" (sometimes spelled "hojicha"), and while they may not cost as much as some of our top two contenders, will each produce a cup that is truly flavorsome and unique!
Discover Chinese Green Tea And Related Facts As Well