japanese-tea-culture

Green Tea

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煎茶 Sencha

Sencha is the mascot of all green teas, and is most commonly enjoyed. Tea is made by processing fresh tea leaves harvested from tea plantations. The fresh tea leaves alter from the moment they are plucked due to oxidisation, however green tea is referred to as ‘unfermented tea’ as the oxidisation process is prevented by via heat treatment when the leaves are at their freshest. This is referred to as ‘crude tea production’ with the general process being heat treatment of fresh leaves, trimming the leaves and regulating the ideal moisture content for storage. Sencha is tea that follows this general process of steaming and trimming.

玉露 Gyokuro

Gyokuro is made when 2 to 3 sprouts start to shoot, these are laid out and covered by reed or straw for around 20 days to be protected from sunlight. Lately cheesecloth and man-made fiber is also used. By limiting the amount of light exposure, amino acid (theanine) controls the catechin level and leads to a flavour that is not too astringent and very rich in umami. Gyokuro is known for it’s seaweed-like aroma. There is another cover cropped green tea called Kabusecha, however unlike Gyokuro this particular tea is only put through the covering process for around one week.

玄米茶 Genmaicha

Genmaicha follows a process of the brown rice being submerged in water and steamed, then roasted; and then being mixed with equal parts of Bancha or Sencha. The fragrance of the roasted rice is contrasted with the fresh flavour of the green tea. As the amount of green tea is reduced, caffeine content is lower and therefore this particular tea is great for children and elderly people.

ほうじ茶 Houjicha

Houjicha is made by frying green tea varieties such as Sencha, Bancha or Kikucha till they are a golden brown colour. This gives the tea a very fragrant quality. Houjicha also refers to large leaves and stems left over from Sencha and Bancha production which have been roasted. The roasting machine needs to reach temperatures of around 200 degrees to bring out the fragrance, and the tea is cooled immediately. Roasting eliminates the caffeine content (this phenomenon results because solid is changed directly to gas) so Houjicha can be enjoyed as a light and sharp but fragrant taste.

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