Food

Japanese Tea: The Ultimate Guide

Tea, its cultivation and consumption, are crucial to Japan and its culture.

Such elegant ancient rituals as the Japanese tea ceremony and unique contemporary creations as green tea ice cream have created the impression that Japan and tea are nearly synonymous.

This is where our article comes in - to fill you in on the essential knowledge of Japanese Tea, such as the different types, ways to drink and other facts, from our interview with our resident Japanese Tea expert, Kazuhiro Koyama at UNI STAND.

History of Japanese Tea

Sen no Rikyu(千利休)

The world history of tea allegedly started in China. Starting from the Tang dynasty (618-907), tea has been served on social occasions. Tea had two functions; it acted as medication and also as something to just drink.

Tea came to Japan in the year  805, when Saicho(最澄), a monk, brought back and raised a tree of tea from the Tang dynasty. In the beginning, tea was served like Mat-Cha: tea leaves were hardened, dried and smashed into small pieces.

“Cha-no-Yu” and “Cha-dou”, Japanese Tea Ceremony represented by Sen no Rikyu (千利休), was established at around 1600. The production process of “Sen-Cha”, the most popular type of tea in  currently, was created around 1800s. Since around that time “Cha”(Tea) was an expensive item and mostly exported overseas; it was not popular among ordinary people. After the Meiji era, when the amount of exports increased, tea gradually became popular.

More informations about Japanese history on our article here!

Ingredients and production method

Generally, tea is defined as extracted liquid from plants such as herbs and wheat. “Japanese Tea” is generally referred to teas which use Theaceae “Camellia sinensis” grown in Japan and produced in Japan, however.

There are a variety of ways to produce tea. The most popular way is “Steaming”, used for “Zen-Cha”. Also, Stone grounding for “Mat-cha” and Kettle steaming, Chinese method, are another ways to produce teas.

“Mat-Cha”, “Zen-Cha”, “Oolong tea” and “Black Tea” are all made from same plant, “Camellia sinensis”.  In Japan those four kinds of teas use different types of Camellia sinensis nowadays. All of these versions are called “Japanese Tea” comprehensibly.

Type of Tea

Category of tea is defined by its status of fermentation by enzyme.

Unfermented tea

 “Mat-Cha”, “Sen-Cha” and “Kamairi-Cha”(kettle steamed). The most typical type of tea in Japan. Made from tea leaves whose enzyme is deactivated as soon as picked up.

Mat-Cha
(抹茶)

Powder type. “Ten-Cha”, ingredients, are ground by stone.

Sen-Cha
(煎茶)

Produced by steaming, kneading and drying. This process is traditional in Japan.

Kamairi-Cha
(釜炒り茶)

Processed by boiling in a Chinese kettle and drying.

Half fermented

“Oolong tea” and “Chinese tea”. Enzyme is activated half way.

Blue tea
(青茶)

has the bitterness of green Sen-Cha and is light blue.

Oolong tea
(烏龍茶)

slightly fermented, so has light blue and brown color.

Dark tea
(黒茶)

heavily fermented, so it has black color and great smell.

Fermented tea

“Black tea”. Very brown. Fermented completely by enzyme.

 Darjeelinghas a very unique smell, which is called Muscat flavor. 
 Assam

contains a lot of tannin. Has gentle but mellow smell.

Uva 

has mellow but provocatively strong smell. 

Changes in taste depending on different temperatures

The amount of tea leaves

The more leaves in it, the stronger smell and taste will get.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The temperature of hot tea

Hot water increases bittiness and smell. On the other hand cold water increases original taste of tea and sweetness.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s try Japanese Tea!

We hope this article was illuminating and helped you learn more about Japanese Tea. Armed with this knowledge, this will allow you to make the most of experiencing Japanese Tea.

We provide further information on recommended places to try Japanese Tea, so now is the time to enjoy life with Japanese Tea!