Varieties of Teas
Sencha is the most common and well-known variety of green tea.
The basic process is to steam the tea leaves and roll to produce crude tea; there are key differentiations among the techniques to process Sencha tea leaves, and here is a rough summary of the major Japanese sencha designations:Fukamushi Sencha 深蒸煎茶
Fukamushi means "steamed for a long time."
It is a green tea that has been steamed approximately twice as long as regular Sencha, usually called Fukamushi Sencha or Fukamushi Ryokucha.
Since the leaves have been thoroughly exposed to the steam's heat, they become powdery and the tea takes on a stronger taste and darker green color. It does not have a "grassy" odor or astringency.Gyokuro: Considered top-end of Sencha
Gyokuro is a type of green tea grown using covered culture, the tea bushes are covered with cloth or reed screen (covered culture) approximately 20 days prior to picking.
By limiting the amount of light that reaches the new shoots while they are growing, the generation of catechins from amino acids (theanine) is suppressed, resulting in lower astringency and a rich flavour; its aroma is often compared to "nori" seaweed.
Kabusecha かぶせ茶Similar to Gyokuro, Kabusecha is another type of green tea grown using covered culture, however, Kabusecha is covered for a shorter period than Gyokuro.
For approximately one week prior to picking, Kabusecha bushes have reed screen or cloth placed over them to block out most sunlight. This enables new leaf shoots to grow without sunlight, giving the tea a darker green colour, full-bodied flavour and lower astringency than Sencha.
This tea is mainly used as the ingredient for Matcha. Similar to Gyokuro, the raw leaves used for Tencha are grown according to the covered culture method. After steaming, the leaves are dried without being rolled. After removing stalks and leaf veins, the tea leaf flecks become Tencha. Generally, the period for which Tencha that is stoneground and eventually becomes what we call Matcha.
Tencha that is stoneground is called Matcha.
Dark Matcha (Koicha) is used in Japan's traditional tea ceremony and was previously made from the leaves of very old tea bushes - over 100 years old.
Matcha is also used extensively in the making of traditional Japanese confections and various dishes.
Genmaicha derives its name from the Japanese word for "brown rice," which is rice that still retains the bran covering of the rice grain. The soaked and steamed brown rice is roasted and popped, and is mixed with Sencha or other tea.
One may enjoy the combination of the savoriness of roasted brown rice and the refreshing flavor of Sencha. Since brown rice is mixed in, Genmaicha has a low caffeine content.
Hojicha is made by roasting Sencha or other types of green tea, which gives it a distinctive roasted aroma.
The tea leaves are roasted in a roasting pan at a temperature of approximately 200C degrees and then immediately cooled. Through roasting, Hojicha becomes less bitter.
Shincha is the "new tea" or first picking of the season. Picking begins in temperate regions and gradually moves northward.
Shincha and Ichibancha are essentially the same tea, with the difference being in name only.
During the winter, tea bushes store up nutrients essential to the growth of both spring shoots and new leaves, which are lush and packed with nutrients. These new leaves become Shincha.
The 88th day after the first day of spring according to the traditional calendar (February 4) is called "Hachijuhachi-ya." In Japan, a traditional belief since old times is that if one drinks tea picked on this day one will enjoy the year in sound health and good spirits.
Shincha's key characteristic is its refreshing and invigorating scent of new leaves. Another feature of Shincha is its low catechin and caffeine content, making it less bitter and astringent compared with Nibancha or Sanbancha. Shincha tends to have a higher content of amino acids (theanine), which give it full-bodied flavor and sweetness.
Ichibancha, Nibancha, Sanbancha
Ichibancha is the first picking of new leaf shoots of the year.
After that, tea is called Nibancha and Sanbancha based on the order in which it is picked.
Ichibancha is sometimes called Shincha. Ichibancha is used more extensively than the later harvested Nibancha and Sanbancha.
Shincha includes the meaning of "first picking of the year" (Hatsumono) and is also called "in-season" tea.
In some tea-growing regions, there is also "Shutobancha" picked in early fall, with no Sanbancha being picked.